Moving On Up
It was Saturday night, and it looked like the White Shirt Fashion Fling Weekend was starting to unravel. The first half of the two-night fiesta, designed by Houston-based promoters Reginald Rhodes and Sedrick Brass to celebrate the duo's one-year anniversary as media promotions group I10 Media, had gone off without a hitch at Club Sempers (2727 Crossview). But they couldn't continue the party as planned at Echelon Live (2606 Fannin) because somebody sabotaged the air-conditioning system by lodging a foreign object into one of the vents. You'd think Reg and Sed would have been screwed, the capper to their anniversary celebration thwarted by a devious evildoer.
But without hesitation, these experienced party planners struck a deal with nearby Midtown nightspot Jade (2204 Louisiana). After spending a couple of hours outside Echelon alerting patrons to the sudden change of plans, Rhodes and Brass were milling around Jade taking party pics for their Web site and mingling with the people, many of whom had already forgotten that this throwdown was supposed to have happened somewhere else. All's well that ends well.
The men of I10 Media have been around too long to let a change of venue -- even on the day of the event -- shake them up. In fact, it's their forte. "At our events, we bounce around," says Rhodes. "It's not good for us to be in the same place every time."
In the past year, I10 Media has held mixers, get-togethers, listening parties and other shindigs at such locations as Sempers, Echelon, The Mercury Room (1008 Prairie), Fusion Cafe (2442 Times) and The Renaissance Hotel (6 Greenway Plaza). "I would like to have something at every venue at least once," says Rhodes. The more locations where he and his crew pop up, he says, the more his social affairs stay interesting to his clientele. "Most of the time, people are just concerned with being at a nightclub, and there's a DJ and there's music," says Rhodes. "That's not what we're mainly concerned with."
I10's concern these days is setting up M.A.S.I.A. (Movers and Shakers in America), a social club for upscale African-Americans. The months-old, 200-member-strong traveling social club is inspired by the success of First Fridays, the networking parties for black folks held in cities nationwide (and in Canada). M.A.S.I.A. members will convene four times a month -- for party night, movie night, dinner night and coming up on Saturday, May 18, wine night. "There's no fee," says Rhodes. "It's just building a relationship so that there's a consistency with you coming to our functions. It's really a big melting pot for people to come and network."
For wine night, Rhodes has linked up with Ruggles Grille 5115 (5115 Westheimer, inside Saks Fifth Avenue). Bruce Molzan, owner of the Ruggles chainlet and a frequent collaborator with I10 Media, is looking forward to the "wine school" event. "Reggie is a good guy to work with, and he knows this could bring in a good crowd because that market is out there," says Molzan.
Although black night owls have long had southwest Houston spots like Sempers, Coco Loco (3700 Hillcroft) and Max's (2630 Augusta), M.A.S.I.A. hopes to provide African-Americans a place to go on the weekends that's just as refined and hip as the downtown and Neartown haunts white folks frequent.
"Those establishments are already doing well on the weekends," says Rhodes. "So if you wanna be in their venues, you have to choose a night that's good for them, as well as good for you."
Steve Rogers of Bottom Line Productions knows the difficulties of getting a downtown club to work for brothas and sistas on a Saturday night. Although he has recently managed to cozy up to Paesanos Lounge (213 Milam) for "Still Fly Fridays," Rogers says it's a struggle to get a club to set up a weekend black-niche night. "Most clubs are not gonna give you Friday and Saturday night, downtown or anywhere," he says. "They give you off-nights like Tuesdays or Thursdays." To their detriment, he thinks. "A lot of these clubs start out targeting the same people: the upscale white clientele. As a result, a lot of them have closed and a lot of them are slow 'cause they're all trying to go after the same people."
But even if Rhodes and his I10 Media team have a little trouble cracking the NoDo nut on weekends, it won't stop them from finding a place to perch M.A.S.I.A., which is already spinning off clubs in Chicago and New York. "Basically," explains Rhodes, "what I'm trying to form is a social club, and a family, that has a level of consistency."
Just look at the musical buffet on hand this weekend! First off, the increasingly eclectic Lotus Lounge (412 Main) is welcoming "High Life" into their humble abode. It's a night of trance, breakbeat, dancehall and other rhythmic delights supplied by DJ Matrix and spinners from India (MistaFu), Japan (Chris D) and Jamaica (Cashless Clay). Second, Hyperia (2001 Commerce) is hosting spinner, remixer and card-carrying Ministry of Sound member Erick Morillo on Friday, May 17. And third, veteran New York DJ Susan Morabito will be the top draw at "Plastic" at Rich's (2401 San Jacinto) on Saturday, May 18. But those who just want to support their own can find SDF.3, BMC and a bunch of other local DJs storming the Live Sports Cafe (407 Main) for Saturday's "Dazed and Confused." If you attend all these events, Sunday morning should find you properly stuffed.
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