Hey, have you seen that new Britney Spears video yet? Chances are you haven't. The once-omnipresent music video art form is becoming scarce. Anyone who has seen MTV these days knows that you're as apt to spot a video there as you are to come across a black dude in the stands at an Aeros game.
But there is hope for those who still like to catch the latest clip from their favorite artist -- without having to stay up till three or four in the morning to view it. The catch is, you have to go to Montrose to check 'em out. That's where a couple of new spots have opened up for people looking for a video and a place to perch.
Blue Zone (1318 Westheimer) is a new club on the premises that once housed the spectacle that was Rascals. Not much has changed since the club opened up a couple of months ago: Folks can dance up a storm on the bottom floor, while others can boogie or chill upstairs. But management has souped up the second floor and turned it into a "video lounge," where videos play on a large wall-screen and several monitors around the place (even in the bathrooms!).
As Rascals was before it, so Blue Zone is a club that caters to the gay community. But as Blue Zone general manager Tom Williamson points out, this club is for anyone who's tired of the trendy-nightclub hubbub. "Actually, this is something different than going into a club that's kinda dark and the only alternatives are dancing and drinking," says Williamson, who hastens to add that those alternatives are still to be had at the Zone. "But you can sit up here, look at the skyline, watch the videos if you want to and listen to the music."
Since the videos come direct from DVDs that are played on the club's multimedia system, patrons shouldn't hesitate to make a request. "If we have it, we'll bring out the DVD and put it on," says Williamson, who also confirms Nightfly's hunch that "Lady Marmalade" is the biggest request right now.
Response for the lounge has been so positive, the owners are looking to install five more monitors, including a couple at the bar. "That way, if people wanna watch the Comets game, with the closed caption on, we can turn one of those monitors on for them," says Armstrong.
Meteor (2306 Genesee), the other new Montrose video bar, opened in May. Lawyers-turned-lounge proprietors Frank Luctia and Andy Santos were looking to open a neighborhood martini lounge for their gay brethren. But they needed a hook, and videos filled the bill. "You have to have some form of entertainment," says Luctia. "And so your options are limited. You can either do music over speakers or music videos or live music." Since Meteor's limited bar space rendered live music impractical, and they wanted to be a cut above merely piping in the tunage, they plugged in the video monitors. "Our concept for the bar all along has been to deliver a good entertainment value," says Luctia. "It does not cost significantly more to deliver video with the music."
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Both Meteor and Blue Zone seem to be taking a cue from other Montrose clubs, both past and present, that have mixed music videos with the usual watering-hole mingling. The original video bar template is the still-up-and-running J.R.'s Bar and Grill (804 Pacific), which with its adjoining boozer, the Santa Fe Bar & Patio (808 Pacific), entertains Montrose residents with videos on 40-some-odd monitors. Charles Armstrong, who owns both J.R.'s and Santa Fe, thinks the videos show that ol' Montrose work ethic of proprietors going all out to entertain their patronage. "I think it's business owners committing themselves to that standard of technology," says Armstrong, whose latest nightlife venture, South Beach (810 Pacific), literally rose from the ashes of the burned-down video-dance club Heaven.
Spots like these prove that people, gay or straight, still dig music videos. Doug Barnes, J.R.'s nighttime video/vinyl DJ since 1984, believes that the still-resonant appreciation for exotic, unique or just plain entertaining music videos is what keeps a place like J.R.'s going after all these years. "A lot of videos we play you never see on MTV or VH1," says Barnes. Gee, so that would be, like, every music video in existence!
"All the Way Live," from the fine folks at Gotta Move Productionz, is the Big-Ass Party of the Week. Going down this Saturday, October 20, at the International Ballroom (14035 South Main), the show will be significant because all the headlining acts on the bill are what we in the know refer to as "live PA" performers. You see, instead of DJs doing their thing on two turntables, these acts will have keyboards, percussion, beat machines and other equipment at their disposal. Among the performers will be such well-known PA names as Jega (making his Lone Star debut), Space Girl, Punisher, Ron-E and Jake Childs. But if you still crave the work of a crafty turntablist, various spinners -- Austin favorites Twist-1 and Kathy Russell and local pros Audio 3, Cosmic Cat and Sista Stroke -- will also be playing. For more info, call 713-867-9028 or visit www.allthe waylive.com or www.gmpusg.com.