Bench Warmers

SAT 8/6
Craig Long, a.k.a. BBC or B-Boy Craig, knows a little bit about the Houston hip-hop scene. The 38-year-old has been involved since 1984, hosting events at long-gone hip-hop clubs like Magic Bus and Wax Museum. "I've been a graffiti artist, I've deejayed, I rhyme, I break," he says. "There are very few people that have had their hand in every part of the culture." Long started a monthly hip-hop night called The Bench at the Rhythm Room last November. He invites some of the city's best DJs, Dirty South MCs, conscious hip-hop MCs, breakers and graffiti artists into one arena, giving them a chance to shine in front of a large, enthusiastic audience. "We're not getting anything like that in the city," he says. "It's such a positive vibe. People just freak out. One girl told me after she came to The Bench, 'I found my home.'"

This month, hardworking MCs V-Zilla and Niyat will showcase their latest tracks; DJs Comp1, Baby J, Akshun Kid and Killa Kut will flex on the Technics; and Air Lust 713 will provide on-the-spot artwork.

"My nephew was over the other day and he played Slim Thug's 'I Do It for You,' which is a song about Houston," says Long. "Somebody has to show Houston how to do it. That's why I do it. It means too much to me to let it just drop." 9 p.m. Saturday, August 6. 1815 Washington Avenue. For tickets, call 713-864-6962 or visit $7; free for ladies until 11 p.m. -- Travis Ritter

St. Elmo's Bahama Mama

My friends and I are half in the bag when we blow through the strip-mall doors of St. Elmo's (8110 Boone, 281-530-0344). The small, burly crowd looks like it's been here for a hundred years. We get some stares as we order our drinks. "I'll have what she's having," I tell the bartender, pointing at a fruity-looking cocktail that should have a tiny umbrella sticking out of it. "The Bahama Mama," she says. Is she talking about the cocktail or the woman drinking it? The bartender lights a cigarette and says, "Sure, honey, it's a house specialty." She mixes up my booze with the cig hanging out of her mouth. The girls I came in with are head deep in video poker, so I gulp down half of my drink and strike up a game of shuffleboard with the Bahama Mama. As she schools me in the game, I turn and notice the smoking bartender is turning over liquor bottles, to finish them off, I guess"in my glass! No wonder the patrons look like they've been here a hundred years. There's a huge vending machine by the door, and it's stocked with everything you might need in a bar: cigarettes, gum, condoms, lighters, antacid, aspirin and -- oh, yeah -- rolling papers. Just as I think this place can't get any better, I notice a reward poster for information leading to the arrest of some people who robbed the very club we're now leaving. Bitchin'.

1 ounce Bacardi Silver rum
1 ounce Bacardi 151 rum
1 ounce Malibu Coconut rum
1/2 ounce grenadine
2 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces orange juice

Pour all the ingredients in a tall glass filled with ice, stir and set sail to the abyss. -- Jason Kerr

A Real Blow Out

SUN 8/7
Witness the popularity of Bravo's reality salon series Blow Out, and it's obvious that hair is serious stuff. Yes, fashion starts with the follicles, and this weekend the fantastically groomed will converge for Hair Raiser '05. Local hair, makeup and body artists will create "fantasy" dos, then turn runway models into walking works of art with makeup and more. NYC DJ Star88 will spin as the stylish crowd mingles and discusses the horrors of split ends. 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday, August 7. The Meridian, 1503 Chartres. For tickets and information, visit $30 to $100; proceeds benefit Cherish Our Children International. -- Steven Devadanam

Biz Is Back

SAT 8/6
You totally remember the chorus: "Oh, baby, you, you got what I need / but you say he's just a friend!" Rapper Biz Markie's goofy, tone-deaf ode to a cheatin' lover, "Just a Friend," scored him tons of fans who'd never heard his kooky, freestylin' flow -- and a Top 10 pop single in the early '90s. The chubby rhymester returns to H-town this weekend to host The Soul Lounge, which features live music by vocalists Liz Vaughn and Gary Mayes, and big Biz spinnin' old-school and new-school tunes. 9 p.m. Saturday, August 6. Mercury Room, 1008 Prairie. For tickets, call 713-225-6372 or visit Half-price admission until 10 p.m.; $15 to $20 afterward. -- Steven Devadanam

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