The Eldorado Ballroom, the boxy Deco warehouse on the corner of Elgin and Dowling, will once again be filled with the sounds of soul thanks to Aurora PIcture Show and film curator Peter Lucas, who are presenting Soul Nite Saturday at 7 p.m. The ballroom, the epicenter of Houston's black musical community from the 1940s to the 1970s, birthed the careers of Lightnin' Hopkins and Johnny Guitar Watson and was the place to be for residents of the Third Ward and Houston's black community. Count Basie and B.B King performed there too. The ballroom closed in the 1970s and was home to a few fledgling businesses until 1999 when it was donated to Project Row Houses. In 2003, PRH hosted the first major event at the Eldorado in 30 years, a fundraising gala that earned more than $75,000 for the preservation of the venue.
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Former Houston resident Peter Lucas now lives in Seattle and works as a curator for the Northwest Film Forum. Most of his work deals with art films and more serious works, but a passion for music led to him starting a personal collection of live performance videos - everything from punk to country. The videos to be screened Saturday night are part of that collection. "I sort of combining my two loves - music and film," Lucas says. "During the songs, they always cut away to the interviews, so I started collecting performance films. I also don't show anything that's lip-synced." His first started doing musical screenings in Seattle and got a huge response. This is the second Soul Nite; Lucas came to The Orange Show last spring. "People loved it. They were clapping and dancing in the aisles," he said. "No matter the turnout they're always a fantastic time. It's high quality video and high quality audio, it's cranked up, and there's beer. It's kind of the best vibe ever." Lucas said the demographic of previous Soul Nite audience has always been diverse. People of all ages come with the intention of having a good time. He's also excited about having the screening at the Eldorado. "I wish there was a comprehensive list of who played there because I'm sure some of the artists we're gonna show have played there. That place is historic. They used to have a sign on the wall, I wish I could remember what it said, something about 'having a good time'" The venue billed itself as the "Home of the Happy Feet." Lucas wouldn't tell Rocks Off which artists he was featuring other than to say Texans Barbara Lynn and Freddie King will make onscreen appearances. All of the films are from the mid to late 1960s. "I try not to go into detail because part of the magic is just showing up and seeing who pops up on screen. It's an amazing time capsule for fashion. The two things to take notes on are the dance moves and the clothes." Lucas is trying to put together a new screening of country and zydeco music for Houston, but he said it's going to be hard to top Soul Nite. "This soul stuff is 100 percent unbridled passion." The screening starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for non-members are free for Aurora members.