Joseph is not an iPod, nor is he a jukebox. Joseph is a DJ, and a distinction needs to be made between the three: One is, you know, a person. Joseph asked that we omit his last name. More readily known as GO DJ Xplicit, he has been spinning for a little more than a decade now. He has opened for Talib Kweli, DJ'd all three of the Frontline Tour shows and spun at countless tony Houston lounges and clubs.
He currently spends his Wednesdays at Zanzibar (9003 Westheimer), Fridays at Posh (711 Franklin) and Sundays at AvantGarden (411 Westheimer), so Joseph's credentials are unimpeachable. But he's particularly interesting tonight because he is mixing inside Zake Sushi Lounge (2946 S. Shepherd), which has followed a curious trajectory these last two months or so.
During the days and early evenings, Zake is an ordinary sushi bar. Friday and Saturday evenings, though, the restaurant transforms into an expansive, impressive lounge.
In less than 60 days, the fire marshal has already interrupted Zake's weekend late-night parties twice for going over capacity. If you enjoyed 2003's Love Don't Cost a Thing, the black version of 1987's Can't Buy Me Love, you might be impressed to know that Christina Milian has stopped by. No word on Patrick Dempsey, though.
And all this despite the fact that Zake occasionally charges $20 to get in.
"We have a buzz right now for being one of the hottest Saturday-night spots," says Xplicit, who is typically found spinning at Zake alongside the renowned DJ Mr. Rogers. "It's always a good look. People come in, get some sushi or sake bombs, then just chill. It's all grown-ups, all adults."
Xplicit's analysis is as crisp as his mixes. By 10 p.m., the venue is already bustling. By 10:30 p.m., the line is beginning to build.
And by midnight, Xplicit's turntable call and response has Zake looking like something out of the old Pied Piper story. The fire marshal is presumably rolling out of his bed badmouthing the young, energetic, ambitious marketing company responsible for these events.
"It's something different, something hot," explains J.R. Martin, whose MIG Worldwide marketing firm has recently brought acts such as Wale to town. "It's not necessarily a club atmosphere. We entwine it with a lounge atmosphere, and we serve food until 2 a.m."
To be thorough, Zake's weekend throwdown is actually pushed by three different companies: MIG, The Blaque Market and La Familia. Regardless of who's responsible, thus far the people have enjoyed themselves.
"Nice spot, nice crowd. Great DJ," says Paxton Luke, an aspiring rapper and DJ who goes by the name DJ Mr. Luke and is attending for the first time tonight. "If I had to give it a grade from F to A, I'd give it an A+. Everybody is in here having fun."
We did not ask Mr. Luke to give a grade, but we wouldn't necessarily disagree with the one he assigned.
Besides the trendiness of being a new place to stand around and drink, part of the reason these weekends have been so successful is that Zake is already built out like an upscale lounge.
The room is divided into two sections by a large bar, with the left section serving as the dining and drinking area, and a manned sushi bar at the back of the room. The right section is for drinking and...well, drinking.
The ceiling stretches tall toward the sky. Booths excluded, of course, the decor is sleek, modern and attractive. And the lighting is atmospheric.
A sushi bar turned nightclub sounds like a horrible idea. But try it out, and suddenly it becomes a good one.
A few things: First, don't park at the laundromat across the street from Zake. They will tow your Mazda Miata posthaste. (Although if you drive a Miata, you probably deserve to have it towed anyway.) Second, if you get there early enough, you can avoid whatever cover might be charged that evening. The amount varies, but the night we attended it was a ludicrous $20. Third, although they're a little out of our wheelhouse, we've recently come to the realization that partially local grass-roots rock group Thunderado is pretty boss. The guitarist lives in L.A., so they only play in Houston (his hometown) a few times a year, one of which is Thursday alongside Beetle at the Continental Club (3700 Main). See them online at myspace.com/thunderado.
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