The top button of Luke Wrobel's white button-up shirt is undone. His sleeves are rolled up to his forearms. And the knot of his tie, long askew, sits several inches below his Adam's apple. At his back is a gorgeous nine-piece band; at his feet, a gaggle of couples waiting to hear what he'll do next.
Onstage at The Capitol at St. Germain, a three-month-old venue that could potentially become the Houston area's premiere one-stop nightlife destination, Wrobel looks every bit the part of an iconic lounge singer.
A full-time writer and performer at the acclaimed Music Box Theater (2623 Colquitt), Wrobel croons through a swing-era medley, most enjoyably Frank Sinatra's 1960 hit "Nice 'n' Easy." Without a hitch in his voice, he handles the pressure of replicating one of music's most legendary figures with class and ease.
The Capitol at St. Germain
705 Main, Suite B, 713-492-2454, www.thecapitolhouston.com.
Sure, Wrobel doesn't look like Frank Sinatra — and to be fair, nobody could ever look like Ol' Blue Eyes — but he sounds almost exactly like him, and that's plenty good enough.
The Capitol, built out from bygone hip-hop venues and modeled after 1930s-40s supper clubs, is part restaurant, part music venue.
"Before you had it where people would go to eat and then head to another place after that," says senior manager James Gicas. "We want to combine that — you can come here, you don't have to go anywhere else."
The Capitol is large and open, nicely outfitted with dark hardwood floors, and never feels grandiose or gaudy. A proper stage holds one side of the venue down, with those kind of red drapes behind it that make every stage feel more important. The upstairs section is peeled back just enough so that the tables up there have a passing view of the band.
Out front, a real, actual theater marquee is visible from blocks away. Mondays bring Swing Nights, and the tables are removed to accommodate dancers. There may not be a better night of its kind currently operating in the city.
"This is a really nice setup," says Mark Alvarez, 34, who is celebrating his birthday. "It's very impressive."
He and his wife have also been to nearby Sambuca (909 Texas), the bistro in the Rice Lofts building that programs live jazz and swing, and enjoyed it.
"You get the same ambience here, and it's far less crowded," Mark says. "We didn't come to dance, but after sitting here watching these guys, we're definitely considering taking lessons."
Naturally, The Capitol has attracted a professional clientele that trends older, and — gasp! — has a mixed racial makeup. Tonight a medley of faces are in attendance, an auspicious sign so early in The Capitol's existence.
There are many things to like about a night here, be it small bits of luxury like the Crispy Gulf Blue Crab Bombs with Creole Ravigote Sauce ($13) or the raised platform that MCs mount between shows.
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"Our food was awesome, the music is awesome," says Margaret Alvarez, wife of the aforementioned Mark, with a smile. "Everything about this place is just perfect."
To channel Sinatra, and Luke Wrobel, nice 'n' easy does it every time.
In addition to its Swing Night, The Capitol hosts live music most nights, such as two shows you should consider seeing this week. Thursday, heralded local funk/jazz bassist Rozz Zamorano will bring his group inside to make some noises using their instruments. The immensely talented Zamorano has long been a Nightfly favorite; there's simply nothing cooler than a bearded big guy playing the bass. Go. You will enjoy. Then Friday, Cas Haley, the Texas singer-songwriter whom you'll remember because he finished as runner-up on a season of America's Got Talent, will perform. Go to that one as well.