Crvnes, a Free-for-All DJ Palace, Rises at the Old Meridian

Along a dimly lit street, inside of a dark and aging building, at the top of a haunted stairway, sits a shadowy and cavernous room. With a simple donation bar at one end, and a hard-hitting combination of CD-Js and speakers at the other, this is no velvet-rope club or posh cocktail lounge. There's no dress code, no cover charge, no valet. All that's left is the thumping, driving, and heart-pounding sound of drums and bass.

The newly opened Crvnes Warehouse, whose name is a stylized rendition of the word "Cranes," hosted the first of what it hopes are many more artistic ventures inside the space once known as The Meridian. The history of this place includes some of the loudest shows in Houston's history, a tradition that continues through the work of Crvnes mastermind David Rodriguez.

"We are making an attempt to create a new era in Houston's music scene," he said Saturday. "What the public needs now is a mix of different flavors, a scene not tied to a particular genre or clique." Rodriguez speaks from experience of being co-owner of the downtown lifestyle storefront The Tipping Point, and has in recent years sponsored a mix of club nights, artists and brands who reflect their progressive attitudes of fashion, music, and art.

It took Rodriguez and his crew more than three months to clean out their warehouse. Repairs included fixing leaks in the roof, updating the electrical infrastructure, and extensive plumbing work. Completion of the renovations is still months away, but once finished, Rodriguez hopes to utilize the warehouse as a one-stop creative workplace, be it for fashion, photography or music studios, and a series of showrooms for pop-up shops.

We also spoke to Crvnes' new musical director DJ Panchitron, aka Briones. According to him, these Power-Up Sessions are poised to become an experiment of genres and formats where each artist is provided a platform to showcase his or her versatility. The DJs are motivated by the freedom of a venue with little boundaries, where set times are fluid and the music continues far beyond the usual 2 a.m. last call.

Its versatile philosophy was evident as each DJ spent time behind the booth. Alec Varnell, a young man hailing from Missouri City, is H-Town all the way, and spun a mix of grime, juke, future bass, trap, and slow-and-low hip-hop as DJ Kruxx. Sporting a Houston Rockets cap, he maneuvered a strong set of tracks without regard for existing convictions or expectations.

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"He's definitely not shy" beamed Briones. "He's just young enough and just fresh enough that there are no boundaries to what he plays."

He certainly hit us as a fresh and different talent.

Ape Drums was also raised on Houston's southwest side, specifically the Sharpstown area, and now resides near Katy. His philosophy is making music for the new generation, catering his sets according to the size and makeup of each crowd, allowing the night to dictate the playlist.

The combination of DJ/producer Ape Drums and DJ Hyro took over next, with a set that led into the most danceable series of the night. From dancehall to dembow, reggaeton to trap-hop, this duo traveled across the spectrum of what Ape Drums calls "New School Dancehall," a mix of hip-hop beats and house/electro rhythms that enticed the audience to dance and groove.

DJ Rabit brought some UK garage music to the mix, with straight bass and elemental beats reflecting a sound that has dominated the South London music scene and is now migrating across the pond. This music may be dismissed as weird and experimental by casual listeners, but for the music heads and other DJs of the night, Rabit's set was cutting-edge and hard-hitting, if definitely more advanced and something Houston may not be ready for.

Although this was only the first event for Crvnes, the potential is evident. Promoting local talent and providing a venue for creativity is always welcome, and whether these sessions become a bi-monthly or quarterly event, those who are searching for a release from the current standard of club nights and watered-down DJ sets need only keep their eye out for the next edition of these Power Up Sessions.

Personal Bias: I welcome no-frills events where I can enjoy great music in shorts and sneakers, and where bone-shattering bass predominates.

The Crowd: Small, yet dedicated.

Overheard In the Crowd: Nothing. The music was too loud, in a good way.

Random Notebook Dump: I need a gold grill right away!


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