Dan Aykroyd is one smooth-talking S.O.B.
Besides doing more with his life than any six people you know personally — were you aware that he's been in more than 70 movies, including Dragnet, one of the most underrated detective movies of all time? — he's also a co-founder of the House of Blues franchise. This is how we came to speak with him last year, when HOB opened its local venue in the Houston Pavilions (1204 Caroline).
A lot of times, whenever you ask a venue owner to describe their place's appeal, they invariably offer up these cryptic responses that they seem to think are clever but are really just frustrating.
The Foundation Room/House of Blues
"Well, people'll just have to stop by to see for themselves," they usually say. Not so with Joe Friday.
Ask him why Houstonians should enjoy House of Blues, and Aykroyd goes through a list of reasons, citing things like how even though it's a franchise it still feels informal enough not to be entirely commercial (true).
Ask him if he thinks it in any way takes talent and revenue away from similar-sized local venues that lack HOB's corporate backing, and he smoothly spins a yarn about how the exact opposite is true (maybe, maybe not).
Even on autopilot, Aykroyd is completely charming. It's disarming. It's like he's the coolest kid in school, and he knows it, only he doesn't act like a toad about it. After about three minutes of talking to him, you're sitting there with your fingers crossed hoping he asks you to the prom.
Fortunately, most of that charm has been grafted into House of Blues' third-floor VIP alcove, The Foundation Room.
Normally a members-only club complete with a five-star menu, the elegantly detailed Foundation Room is intended to mimic an Indian palace. Quite literally, it's decorated top to bottom with ornate woodwork and rugs and little Hindu statues.
It's like the decorations are decorated. You can't help but be impressed.
"There aren't too many places in Houston of this caliber," says home-health entrepreneur Andretta Gibson on a recent Wednesday evening in The Foundation Room. "Look at the detail. So much money went into building this place. I've been to the one in New Orleans, and while it may be more fun, this one is definitely more classy."
"I've been to a lot of bars and lounges in Houston," agrees real-estate investor John Smith. "This is definitely in my top three, maybe No. 1 for the dining option. Houston is just now getting accustomed to members-only services."
Even the most basic Foundation Room membership packages come in at more than a couple grand a year, which is exactly why you should thank Jagi Katial as soon as you see him.
Katial is the proprietor of Pegstar Concerts, a company now working in conjunction with House of Blues to present an event dubbed "Loose," an audio nerd's golden nugget offered by the mighty hand(s)of renowned music brainiac DJ TimMurrah.
Each Wednesday, technically beginning around 9 p.m. (but actually around 10:30 p.m.), The Foundation Room opens its doors — elevators, whatever — to the public for a mellow evening of drink specials and musicology lessons.
Initially it may seem like the type of event strictly designed for music elitists. For example, the second Wednesday of each month only features music released during one specific year.
"It's the opposite of how easy it is to just listen to music," Katial explains. "This is like cooking a fine dinner. There's a lot of homework done beforehand."
The first installment of this series features music from the year 1984, inspired by George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, a playlist of Fuck Buttons, Claude VonStroke, La Roux, Trentemøller and more, intended to highlight the parallel themes of dystopia and oligarchy between the novel and today.
Heavy shit to consider when putting together a playlist for people to get drunk to. But Loose isn't smarmy or elitist at all — it's enjoyably smart, and as unpretentious as the name implies.
The crowd is almost an even split between young Poison Girl hipsters and their older, more professional counterparts. Everyone seems to mesh together pretty well, though, which is somewhat weird. We'd naturally assumed these two groups would get along like the first- and second-generation cliques at our family get-togethers: lots of cursing and mocking and an occasional punch to someone's guts.
Don't be kept away by the whole "downtown" thing, either. Parking is free and easy on weeknights, anyway; if you must, HOB's valets will stash your ride for $10. And the location makes it easy to get in and out without getting all turned around.
Just be sure you holler "Free Bird!"at Murrah while he's mixing. He thinks that's hilarious.
K-Rino is one of the elder statesmen of Houston's hip-hop culture, a fireball MC with a nutso talent for wordplay and conceptual thinking. In our continuing countdown on the Press's Rocks Off music blog, his Time Traveler was selected as the 23rd best Houston rap album ever made. Sunday, he will be celebrating the release of his 600th (or something like that) album, Solitary Confinement, at Jet Lounge (1515 Pease). Rest assured, the $10 admission fee you'll pay to get in will be absolutely worth it. Matter of fact, it might be good karma for you to walk in there and hand him another $10 just on principle. Show begins at 11 p.m. Justice Allah of The 144 Elite, Rapper K and Sniper of Re-Up Entertainment are also on the bill.
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