The Turn of the Screw
A few weeks ago, club owner Jay Ferrero gave his Richmond Strip sports bar Club Chico's a total overhaul.
Named after the moniker he was given when he was stationed in the army in San Antonio (apparently he was the only Puerto Rican around), the New York-born Ferrero decided to switch his four-year-old establishment from sports bar to dance/rap/hip-hop spot to build a hipper, larger clientele. He changed his club's name to Club Baby O (9275 Richmond). "It's a sexy name," he says, laughing. "It brings the guys here." With his club open on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, he is already beginning to attract a young black/Hispanic crowd with the club's newfound rhythmic appeal. But deep inside the club, Ferrero already is working on something unique that he hopes will make his club the place to be on weekend nights.
The story goes like this: One day, while talking to performer/2001 Houston Press Music Awards winner South Park Mexican, who has played the club several times, the rapper planted the idea in Ferrero's head to open up a club that plays nothing but screw music. For those who don't know, screw is that locally based practice where rap music is slowed down to the point where it sedates the listener, who is at times already sedated on that codeine-spiked liquid confection often known as lean. "He just say it's a good idea to do screw music," says Ferrero. Since Ferrero already had a vacant, modestly wide room inside his place that could serve as another hangout, he decided that could be the spot for his latest venture, Club Screwston. The spot had its grand opening on Friday, August 11. "There are a lot of youngsters into screw music now," claims Ferrero. "And there's no club in Houston that they dedicate, like, just screw music, like, one night, you know. So we're gonna start doing that."
To some, listening to screw -- that creation of DJ Screw, who, everybody knows by now, went to that big recording studio in the sky late last year -- is an experience best savored by themselves with the narcotic and/or PlayStation game of their choice. Derrick "Nephew" Taylor, a 26-year-old southeast Houston resident, has been a fan of screw music since 1993 and remembers seeing Screw perform after-hours back in the day at a southeast club called The Midnight Hour. Taylor says this club may have a chance at working but thinks it may have to pull out a lot in order to get screw fans to come to the heavily integrated (and heavily patroled) Richmond-Westheimer streets. "The only reason I think if it don't get off, I think that would be the problem," says Taylor. "Because a lot of guys from right here, where we at, they'll be hesitant about going there." Taylor also believes that since Screw is a child of the South Side, his fan base would be more comfortable enjoying his music in his neck of the woods. "It's gonna be hard to get a lot of these people that come out these gutters, younowhamsayin, over there," says Taylor. "Now, you put a screw club right here on Yellowstone and Scott, I mean every night you're gonna have a line from here to the freeway."
From his experience selling screw CDs and tapes to consumers, Yahya, co- manager for local record store Serious Sounds, projects Screwston will attract an urban (read: FUBU-wearing) crowd at around 18 to 25. And he predicts that if southeast locals do manage to make the trek to Richmond, the club and its hazy/lazy rhythmic vibe would be too laid-back to attract less than peaceful patrons, as some screw detractors would have you believe. "I don't think the music would cause a problem," says Yahya. Apart from that, Yahya believes the club has a shot. "There's definitely an audience for it," he says. "I don't see why not. It's never been done before."
But essentially Ferrero just wants people to savor the delights of both his venues once they're inside. "They're gonna go over there to the main club, and then they're gonna go into the screw room, 15 to 20 minutes, you know," says Ferrero. "I think that's what people are really gonna do."
Well, it's time once again to pay belated respects to another fallen nightclub: After only a few hazy, conceptually confusing months of business, the gay/bi/whatever Richmond Strip nightclub Danzoo closed its doors a couple of months back. But now the venue has transformed into Club Ambrosia (6130 Richmond) under new management. Unlike its previous incarnation, Ambrosia looks like it knows exactly what its identity is. As Hyperia (2001 Commerce) is for downtown, and "Friday Night Karma," over at CONXTION 2000 (800 Almeda Mall), is for the Almeda-Genoa area, so Club Ambrosia hopes to be for the Richmond Strip: a haven for underground dance music. "We don't want to be a commercial club," assures manager Mark Dang. "We want to get the music that people can't hear on the radio out to the clubs." So far they're doing a good job by enlisting a rotating roster of heavy hitters to provide the nightly grooves, including the legendary Chris Anderson, Hyperia spinner Jimmy Skinner and "Karma" chameleon Kung Fu Pimp. The club has also held "Miss Hawaiian Tropic" bikini contests on Friday nights. Breaks, beats and bikinis -- oh, yeah, the memory of Danzoo has officially been erased from this place.
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