Local house DJ/party promoter Kung Fu Pimp has been one of downtown Houston's most savage critics. It was just about a year ago, in this column ("Maller, Shot Caller," August 31), when he said that the city center scene was "a meat market" full of people who "don't appreciate the music because they're too busy figuring out who they're gonna go home with." So when the word came down that the Pimp, also known as John Tran, would be moving his popular "Friday Night Karma" party from CONXTION 2000 (800 Almeda Mall) to the Warehouse District, some people (including this writer) were worried that the Pimp was forgetting about his loyal customers and going upscale.
But don't get it twisted -- Tran still thinks downtown can be as pretentious and uppity as all get out, full of shiny-shirt-wearing frat-boy types he dubs "Joe Guidos." But call him crazy like a fox -- this is partially why Tran is relocating his low-key T-shirt-and-jeans funfest to the snazzy downtown streets. "I think downtown totally lacks a quality, friendly club," says Tran. "It's more of the doorman's an asshole, you go in, you buy a drink and you're like, 'Damn, I'm broke 'cuz that one drink cost me ten bucks!' "
But as Tran is quick to point out, the move is more about convenience than ruffling any Versace-clad night-owl feathers. Many patrons and performers who have attended past "Karma" evenings griped about the way-down-288 location of Tran's weekly shindig, and requested that he move his party somewhere closer, like, let's say, downtown. "A lot of people that I promote too are like, 'Dude, if I have to drive out there one more time,' " says Tran. "I've heard that over and over."
So Tran, along with former CONXTION 2000 manager Tony Montoya, decided to take the advice and seek a more central venue. (Don't cry for CONXTION -- it's still open, with its highly attended Tejano and R&B/rap nights on the weekend.) They set their sights on the infamous club space located at 799 St. Emanuel, infamous because in the span of a year this spot has housed such blink-and-they're-gone clubs as The Saint, Privilege and Space. Despite the building's doom-laden history, the club is now in their possession and will be open only on, of course, Fridays. (The club, which has yet to find an official title, is looking to open nightly once it gets going.)
Montoya, who has sunk $150,000 into rebuilding and reshaping the club, agrees with his partner that downtown Houston needs a club where professional patrons can go and stop acting all high 'n' mighty. "We're gonna show 'em how to have a good time," says Montoya, "instead of them going to the bars and being so uptight and trying to impress each other. They make $20,000 a year, but they have to act like they make a million dollars. I said, well, I'm gonna give 'em a place where they don't have to act like that. They can just be themselves and have a good time and dance."
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The spot, which postponed its September 21 grand opening to work out some kinks (check out the event's Web site at www.hardrivefuture.com/karma for news and updates), will not be Tran's only weekly downtown appearance. Last Thursday Tran made his debut as the resident DJ for "Rock da Casba," a house/trance night over at the newly opened Azure (723 Main). Tran was approached with the job when he spun for a get-together at Spy (112 Travis), organized by Azure owner/promoter "Yo" Ha. "It was, like, four days after the flood," says Yo. "And they threw a party with, like, five other DJs I booked, and also a rap artist that I also booked. And the turnout was great, so he's a good DJ."
So Tran or Pimp or whatever you feel like calling him isn't selling out at all. He is, in fact, making his claim downtown, fighting the good fight so it can become a place where underground dance kids and martini-swilling shiny happy people can intermingle, learn from each other and maybe, just maybe, give each other some. Good luck, young man. Godspeed and don't trust no one -- especially anyone who's willing to pay ten bucks for watered-down rotgut.
For years the Montrose hangout known as the Mausoleum has been pigeonholed as a goth refuge. Well, it looks like management has officially put a stop to that kind of thinking. The long-standing bar/coffee klatch/performance space has forgone its notoriously brooding name and recently changed to the more gleaming Heliotrope (411 Westheimer). The new name refers to the sun shining on and/or giving energy to something -- like a flower, for example. The name can also reflect on the eclectic nightly entertainment that the spot has accumulated lately, like "Quality Hip-Hop," the all-night beat-heavy get-together that made its debut over the summer. Every Tuesday night rappers, DJs and poets and other rhythmically creative thinkers convene to assemble a decent night of authentic hip-hop. "Hip-hop culture is intertwined with all sorts of other cultures," says MC/producer Jesse "Mr. Gazookus" Hoffman, who runs the show along with rapper Grapefrooht (who moved the night from a monthly stint he did in Austin) and DJ Melodic. "It's not a certain type of hip-hop, it's not Dirty South, it's not East Coast-West Coast whatever. It's just hip-hop, and that goes across the board." Across-the-board hip-hop at an across-the-board venue -- shine on, you crazy diamonds!