There are three steadfast ways, all fairly easy to identify, to tell if a club's DJ is doing an okay job.
Take, for example, the man behind the decks tonight at Blvd 610 Bar and Lounge (3005 West Loop S.), DJ Cruize Control. Wednesdays are Blvd's chill night, so the music is mostly relaxing R&B/neo-soul/reggae-type stuff. Thursdays, when the crowd is mostly Asian, the music tends to be more Top 40-oriented. Saturdays are Latin house night, so there's that whole vibe going on.
But tonight is a Friday night, and Fridays are reserved for the "urban" scene. Accordingly, Cruize is hitting 'em with a solid set of throwback and current 97.9 favorites. It's clear he's earning his check.
Blvd 610 Bar and Lounge
3005 West Loop S.
The most basic tell, naturally, is whether or not a lot of people are dancing. In Punch Out! terms, it's the Glass Joe of DJ benchmarks. Presently, the 240-capacity Blvd 610 is about 60 percent full, but the majority of patrons are either on the dance floor or eyeing it.
On a weekend night, any DJ worth his weight in vinyl gets to this point by 11:15 p.m. Cruize arrived about 30 minutes early, so score one for him.
The next level of hypeness is contingent upon how many times the majority of the crowd feels compelled to holler "Oh shit!" This has happened three times in the last nine minutes — at the beginnings of Biggie's "Dead Wrong," Luniz's "I Got 5 On It" and Lil' Kim's "Crush On You."
But for a hip-hop party DJ, the Holy Grail only comes once there's a 33-year-old woman in the corner doing the splits — right leg thrust forward, left leg back. Yep, there she is.
"You saw that?!" laughs/screams Shon Quiney, a retail saleswoman during the day. "Oh my God, I must've had one too many Cape Cods. I haven't done anything like that since college. I'm usually a homebody."
Note to self: Make friends with more homebodies.
Blvd 610 opened up back in November of last year, within walking distance of that Mattress Giant right inside the Loop near the Galleria. That seems like a weird way to describe how to find a nightclub, but no fewer than two other people inside said they were given the same directions. Us too.
It has a definite shopping-center feel to it, but it more or less makes you forget that once you're inside.
The walls are painted what look to be rich shades of terra cotta, the floor is concrete and the ceiling black and open. The marble-top bar is dressed up to be made to feel weighty and substantial — thick wooden pillars sprout up from the corners, iron light fixtures dangle above it, etc.
Some nice white sofas are set up around the dance floor, and the large windows that make up the bulk of the streetside walls are fogged over (which was way smart). Blvd 610 is a mid-level upscale kind of place, but the atmosphere is very lax. There was literally a lady wearing knee-length jean shorts.
About the only real quarrel anybody seemed to have with Blvd 610 is a lack of variety among the crowd.
"You would expect a more diverse crowd in the Galleria area," says Shavonnah Roberts, visiting the club for the first time. "If I were white and staying in the Westin, I wouldn't come here."
But even that tends to fluctuate depending on the evening.
Bar manager Jordan, who requested her last name not be used, insists the Saturday-night crowd is much more "general-market."
All in all, Blvd 610's greatest attribute — aside from the splits-inducing DJ — is that it actually feels like it was built to be a nice place catering to a more laid-back crowd than a venue that intended to be a posh spot but ultimately came up short. In other words, it's a decent enough place to start an evening.
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"We just want to welcome everybody who has a positive attitude and wants to come out and have a good time," affirms Jordan over the phone two days later. "Our staff works really hard to make everyone feel comfortable."
A lot of clubs promote that sort of attitude, but here it actually feels kind of genuine.
Seriously, valet parkers have become some real hustlers as of late. Don't let those playboys that man the shopping strip where Blvd 610 is located get you, though. If you can manage to weasel past their little makeshift headquarters at the front of the club, free parking is located toward the back area of the lot. You can use that extra $10 to get yourself a Cape Cod. And after you park for free, make sure you look the valets square in the eye and smile as you're walking toward the club. They love that.