Return of the Boomba
Dubstep is a club-friendly genre of music that popped up at the end of the '90s. Suraj Kurian, one of Houston's most prominent figures in the local dubstep scene, describes it as "what Justin Timberlake was doing with [producer] Timbaland, except there's no vocals." In other words, it's a super bass-heavy, funky offshoot of electronic dance music.
When played in a club setting, the sound of dubstep is massive. People go bonkers. It's more nuanced, more fulfilling and decidedly more earnest than distant musical cousins house and techno. And Alex O absolutely loves it.
This young man is a wire-thin, 18-year-old white kid. At the moment, he is setting the dance floor at Escobar (2905 Travis) on fire.
Escobar has been in Midtown since before Midtown was cool the first time. Today it's a mostly generic but still serviceable nightclub with red velvet curtains and a mirrored ceiling above the bar. Some of Escobar's shiny, eager clientele will inevitably accuse the door guy of being racist because he'll hassle them aboutgetting in.
It's that kind of scene. At least most of the time.
But not on Wednesdays since last month, when local DJ and party promoter Kurian began hosting Escobar's weekly dubstep night, Boomba. It's an offshoot of the monthly, even more intense mega-dubstep party Gritsy, which has been rotating around area venues for the last four years.
Since Boomba moved in, Escobar is now less about being seen and more about the scene. Alex O apparently thinks it the greatest thing in the world.
He's gyrating and pointing at things and wiggling around like mad. Several different times during the night, he dives onto the floor just because. He even attempts a few wayward headstands, an occasion the night's MC baptizes by saying to the crowd, "You don't know about that, that's that new, new shit!"
The rest of the room, mostly college kids on summer break, gets equally jacked as the night progresses. There's lots of throbbing to the beat and sweating under neon lights.
Right when TD BZ, a 2010 Houston Press Music Awards nominee for Best Club DJ, has worked the crowd into a proper pulsating frenzy, Alex sits down square in the middle of the madness, calm like a Buddhist. Then he explodes off the floor into another fit.
Approached for a quote, Alex simply raises his fists in the air and shouts, "I just want to dance!" Asked to at least give his name, he scribbles on a sheet of paper: "I just want to dance — Alex O (True Confession Time: We couldn't read the rest of the letters when we looked at it later), 18."
Indeed, it's a sentiment shared by most.
"I like it," says Tiffany Vanda, 19 and recently relocated from North Carolina. She's a tad more coherent than Alex, but just as active on the dance floor.
"There was definitely more of a hippie vibe in Asheville [North Carolina]," Vanda adds. "The people here seem more like your average, everyday people. But honestly, I've been too involved in the music to even really notice the crowd. I'm loving the music."
When famed Houston DJ Squincy Jones takes over Boomba's midnight shift, the night moves on in similar fashion: More dancing, more pulsating, more thumping.
"I come here every weekend, but this is my first Wednesday night," says Joshua "Fly Boy" Balerio, 27. "I can appreciate how these guys are mixing hip-hop with different beats to attract all kinds of people no matter the race, no matter the color.
"Anybody can dance to this."
The aforementioned Gritsy will be held again July 31 in the new downstairs section of Meridian (1503 Chartres), which after yet another management change has re-adopted its original name. Whereas Boomba has been drawing between 100 and 150 polished dubsteppers, Gritsy's crowd can stretch anywhere from 300 to 800, depending on the venue size. According to Kurian, it's way more intense, which doesn't seem like a lie. Check it out. But if you're having a grand time and then people start turning into vampires and mowing down the scene tourists like in the opening scene of Blade, well, sorry about that. Good luck.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.