Gin and Vamoose
This is the story of two special, high-profile parties that happened on the exact same night. It was last Tuesday, a brisk evening. On one side of town, there was a crowded affair with free food and alcohol as well as delicious musical entertainment. On the other side, there was an event that was just as crowded but didn't end with many satisfied customers.
Let's start off with party number one. The Tanqueray Soul Suite is a glorified mixer/press junket that sends the revered gin company and several co-conspirators traveling from town to town, spotlighting brand-new artists while slamming green-apple martinis down the throats of thirsty locals. This was the invite-only Suite's second stop in Houston, and this time they opted to hold the party at the Post Rice Lofts Crystal Ballroom (909 Texas) instead of a nightclub. It was a smooth move. The ballroom was a nice open space where people -- predominantly black -- mingled, networked and got sloshed on free martinis and exquisite soul food (baked oysters with cheese and bacon on top and fried, powdered sugar-covered doughballs).
This year, Tanqueray is trotting the neo-soul group Floetry around the country. Floetry is a two-girl erotic R&B team, not too different from Les Nubians or Jazzyfatnastees. (Okay, so you don't know who those gals are either -- damn you, black radio!) Unlike those duos, Floetry hails from London and jumped over to Philly to compose their utterly amazing, recently released debut, Floetic, an album of intensely beautiful mid-tempo ditties and quiet-storm ballads. (As one friend noted, this album features at least five "babymakers," songs best listened to with a loved one.)
First, the Soul Suite folks introduced vocalist Marsha Ambrosius (the "songstress") and MC Natalie Stewart (the "floacist") to reporters in the media room. Don't forget to ask them about the Soul Suite, the reps noted, handing out "talking point" sheets to help them remember. An hour and a half later, after DJ Beverly Bond worked all the liquor, boudin balls and gumbo out of the crowd's system with some engaging music (she played LL Cool J's "Luv You Better" twice!), none other than Doug E. Fresh brought Floetry to the stage. Backed up by a four-piece band, including a brother on a very freaky trumpet, the Floetry ladies turned the son-bitch out, for lack of a better description, with a memorable 45-minute performance. Stewart commanded the room with her hip-hop savvy, but Ambrosius wasn't slouching with her engrossing vocals. And everybody was feeling it. One white guy at the front, who seemed to know all of the songs by heart, was enjoying the evening so much he kept falling over a tiny black girl in front of him. All to get closer to Floetry
Great music, great refreshments and nary a single drunken brawl between two sistas over a man they just saw across the room. Everyone was pleased.
Now let us turn our attention across town to the brand-new Club 713 (3722 South Gessner). Formerly known as Club Oasis, Club 713 was all atwitter with talk that Mystikal was going to perform that night. The dozen rap radio stations in Houston were hyping the event up all to hell, and everybody was ready for the gonzo Louisiana MC to shoot off some verses.
Brothas and sistas, homies and hoodrats filled the parking lot. The ten-buck cover was a bit steep for a spot with a barbecue pit right next to the front door, but since the club's new management has pulled out the stops decking out the place, you could give them the benefit of the doubt. In fact, it's almost surprising that this place once housed the grungy, never-looked-quite-finished Club Oasis. Club 713 has a hardwood dance floor, walls flanked with green neon lights, and a stage that could present a battle of the bands, a freestyle contest and a DJ challenge all at the same time. Yes, it's that big.
The night was drawing to a close, and people were starting to get restless. Where was Mystikal? Local aspiring performers milled about hoping to get close to the fire-breathing MC. Perhaps he would whisk them away from the monotony of this town and ask them to go on tour as his opening act. At the very least, they might be able to press a demo into his hand. Oh, please take us away, Mystikal -- we swear, we won't talk too much on the tour bus.
Finally, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived. Mystikal walked through the door and into a crush of worshiping fans. They wanted to hear the man spit some of his patented poetry, especially "Shake Ya Ass." But after walking around and greeting his Houston fan base, he finally leaped up on stage -- and rapped not a line. As one spectator reported, "He walked on stage, waved to everybody and didn't stop walking."
Apparently, Mystikal was just there to press the flesh. After he left the stage, he made his way upstairs to the VIP lounge (where a person had to shill out $20 just to get next to the man), hung out for ten minutes and split. Just why the rowdy rapper refused to pummel his audience with his verbal artillery is unknown. (The two main rumors are that he was sick that night and that he just wasn't supposed to perform in the first place.) But the one thing people could agree on was that they got hosed.
And just what is the moral to this story? Well, the next time you're torn between two celebrity-fueled get-togethers on the same night, go to the one with the more obscure performers. You may not know who they are, but they'll likely show up and turn out a great show, not make a beeline to the VIP section, sip a couple of flutes of Moët and skedaddle.
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