Located in the bail bonds and pawnshop section of downtown, not too far from north downtown and its glitz, Hyperia is an underground warehouse club that, with its glossy industrial sheen, thinks of itself as the alternative nightspot for overheated night owls.
"The niche I like to fill is underground and ahead of its time musically," says Neil Heller, Hyperia owner and operator. "That's what I enjoy, the music."
Too bad music isn't all that matters to club hoppers. What also matters are the intangibles, such as clientele, good location and groovy vibe -- things Hyperia, so far, has been lacking.
"Saturdays are a bit of a struggle," says Andre "DJ Sun" Sam-Sin, who spins then alongside turntable pros Michael DeGrace and DJ Unity. Sam-Sin believes it's the club's location that turns off potential patrons. Many downtown clubgoers, Sam-Sin says, favor parking at one spot, then cruising clubs on foot. Which seems reasonable: Can't get very far in those seven-inch pumps and freshly shined Steve Maddens. Since Hyperia is located nearly a quarter-mile from downtown's core, many patrons aren't willing to put the club on their to-do lists, not even somewhere between "brush back hair," "smile like a mannequin" and "pretend that I'm rich."
Yet when you add up everything that Houston's swankified look for in their hangouts, this club should work. Covering about 18,000 square feet, the interior of the club is cavernous yet accommodating. There are two DJ booths, three bars, wooden benches and a bottomless supply of house grooves. The dance floor is even big enough for the most "white" white dude doing "The Running Man" to slip and fall and not even brush up against any other dancer's Armani sleeve. Even the bathroom stalls are large and comfortable. The venue is essentially a rave but safer, cleaner and with better-dressed nightflies. (And there aren't any assholes selling aspirin as X.) The prevailing thought is that if people knew this club was here, they'd like it. Those who do show up make their appearance almost as an afterthought. "We usually don't get started until about midnight," says Heller, who also opened the well-loved after-hours spot Club Some (2700 Albany) eight years ago. "I think it's because a lot of our clientele is used to hanging out at after-hours clubs and probably take their time getting out."
To stop some of the bleeding, Hyperia has dialed the party-medics. Evolve, an advertising/marketing/promotions company, organizes a Friday-night affair every week at the club called Formula Fridays. The company also presents the successful "Delicious" every Thursday at Spy (112 Travis). Both events use free food as aphrodisiacs -- or lures. Pizza, candy, fruit and whipped cream are some of the items made available. A bonus at Formula Fridays is the lowering of the entrance age, from 21 to 18. It's too early to tell whether the special night is working yet.
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Hyperia isn't trying to topple intimate, cozy downtown hangouts like Swank Lounge or 410. Sam-Sin, who also performs weekly at the quaint Swank, says he personally prefers the smaller venues for their intimacy. Whether Sam-Sin's personal predilections matter to club hoppers is irrelevant. In all, Hyperia's success boils down to one question: Do club hoppers prefer intimate or gargantuan venues? "I say it's a 50-50," says Sam-Sin. "People just want a place where they can chill and kick back."
Hyperia, 2001 Commerce, is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Cover charge is $7 (over 21) and $10 (under 21, Fridays only). For more information, call (713)224-HYPE.
After letting top-notch DJs show pale-skinned, cosmopolitan-swigging, J. Crew-wearing yuppies how to groove to progressive house music over the past couple months, Thursday-night shindigs at Skybar (3400 Montrose) known as Insight are fini. So are house nights at Club Waxx. Yet never fear. A funkier party night remains. Prague (402 Main) has now jumped on the house bandwagon. The ¨ber-swanky club recently acquired the turntabling services of the ubiquitous Sean Carnahan for its Thursday nights. His new "residency" will feature Carnahan and guest DJs. For more details on Carnahan, the night's lineup or even the dress code (trust me on this one), call the club at (713)224-6125 or log on to Carnahan's Web site at www.77002.com.