Southern G.R.A.B.

Karina Nistal is a flirt, and she knows it.

G.R.A.B. Bar (809 Pierce, 713-655-0707) seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder. It's usually a sports bar, but it also schedules an impressive array of hip-hop and DJ events throughout the month. (Even the name is a bit off-kilter — G.R.A.B. stands for Game Room and Bar, which makes the unabbreviated name Game Room and Bar Bar.) Tonight, like every first Friday, G.R.A.B. Bar hosts The Southern Grab, a monthly show by local rappers Noon & Esso.

Even though the bar is ridiculously easy to find, I am to the G.R.A.B. what a blindfolded kid with a stick is to a piñata bloated with candy — I am fucking turned around. I follow a bewildering circuit up Gray, down Pierce and back around again before I finally find the place. I text my boyfriend, who is at home watching television: "Apparently I suck at directions and, quite possibly, life."

I park and go in, making fast friends with a couple of Cape Cods. As Noon & Esso open up onstage, I peer around at the digs. The walls are still red. G.R.A.B. regulars are still watching the game on the big screen. But the rumors are true — local hip-hop usual suspects abound. The atmosphere is cozy and laid-back, and suddenly I don't notice the Astros game recap as much. The Southern Grab definitely packs a nice crowd.


G.R.A.B. Bar

Scheduled to perform is an all-female lineup of local artists, singers Karina Nistal and K. Lee, DJ Fly Girl T, and rapper Surreall. Eager males seem to be aware that it is ladies' night. They are crowding around the stage, and I follow suit. It's showtime.

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Up first is Karina Nistal. She's a flirt, and she knows it. She seduces the crowd with her sultry signature Latin-infused electronica. After a short set, Karina dashes off to another gig, remembering to plug her latest release, Nistyle, before she goes.

Next on the decks is DJ Fly Girl T. Tracks by Murs and Cali Agents are refreshing in a town where "The Scenario" and "The Choice Is Yours" are staples of most hip-hop DJ sets.

Her set ends and it's Surreall's turn. The rapper is obviously ready to get down to business. Surreall's a roughneck, pint-size dynamo. Men crowd around the stage, slack-jawed, as Surreall smacks them in the face with rapid-fire verses and a rockin' ass to boot.

I'm snapping pictures, going elbow to elbow with the mass of tongue-wagging men. A few moments into Surreall's set, I feel a presence hovering just behind me.

Captain Obvious decides to make himself known. "So you're taking pictures?"

"That's what I'm doing," I say mid-snap.

"Why? You have a much nicer butt," he says smugly.

I turn to look at him. "You're fucking kidding me, right?"

He seems taken aback and walks away.

Homeboy was blatantly lying. I'm very familiar with my Asian ass, and I am well aware that it stands no contest against the vast majority of black girls' booties — Surreall's included.

After K. Lee's power pop set and one Cape Cod short of too many, it's time to call it a night.

I walk outside, and the former doorman — a short, older gentleman with scraggly gray facial hair — asks me if I'll be walking to my car alone.

"I'm parked just across the street," I tell him. He follows me anyway, explaining that he likes to watch out for "pretty ladies walking to their cars alone."

I'm sure you do, I think to myself. I decide that I've probably had a little too much Southern hospitality for one night and don't make nice. I don't want to encourage him. He starts to tell me that he's seen me before, but all he gets is the ‘thud' of my car door closing. Now, if I can only find my way home...

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