DJ Sun had already had a pretty great 2013. Last January he released One Hundred, a distillation of his 20-plus-year career as one of Houston's top turntablists and soundmakers that many local critics thought one of the best local albums of the year. (This one thought it was the definitive Houston record of 2013, along with Mike Stinson's Hell and Half of Georgia.) Then his year got even better -- he came into an entire nightclub to do with as he pleases.
Around Thanksgiving the investors behind The Flat asked Sun (whose given name is Andre Sam-Sin) to become the managing partner of the chic Montrose lounge, with which he had already had a longstanding association. Sun's residency Rocksteady Mondays, which he imported from Cafe Brasil when The Flat opened in 2005, is the platform that helped him become a one-man hub of Houston's music community, although the Saturday-night show he co-hosts on KPFT, Soular Grooves, should not be discounted.
"It's an institution in the Montrose community," Sun says of The Flat via email. "I felt that after releasing One Hundred, that I needed a 'home' in the same [way] that Thievery Corporation has Eighteenth Street Lounge in DC."
Sun in fact has been a longtime guest DJ at Eighteenth Street, and has used Rocksteady - which he says were an "instant hit" - as a sort of home base for dozens of visiting DJs and musicians including De La Soul's Maseo, Nickodemus, Farid, DJ Center, DJ Platurn, Austin's Chorizo Funk and Aloe Blacc, among many others.
"The reputation of The Flat solidified across the country due to these bookings," Sun says, "and I ended up making a great network of like-minded producers and DJs."
Now Sun plans to bring in an even more extensive network of local talent to fill out The Flat's musical calendar. Already on the books are nights like Jazz Technics, featuring Sun's One Hundred collaborator Tim Ruiz; Sabrosa, an all-vinyl '60s Latin dance party; Soul Dig, a very Blue Note-styled monthly; free reggae night Sound and Pressure; ultra-suave Friday-night weekly That Good Good, with Klinch and Dayta; the SG Social, featuring some of Sun's Soular Grooves colleagues; and the sophisticated dance music of first-Sunday staple Housekeeping. Other names Sun has tossed into the mix are Grandfather Child's Lucas Gorham, Fat Tony, Josh Dupont, Little Martin, Gracie Chavez, and more. You probably get the idea.
Since taking over, Sun has also brought in trusted associates such as Phil Marshall of Montrose design firm Squad Car Media, and food-and-beverage specialists Quasim Brown and Jay Rivera, and local visual artist Lovie Olivia to revamp everything from the interior design to the bar menu. Sun and Marshall have also taken over curating the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Mixed Media events, as of this month's season opener January 31 featuring Dam-Funk. He's hoping the L.A.-based "Ambassador of Boogie-Funk" will cruise by The Flat's afterparty, which seems like a pretty safe bet.
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But first Sun and his colleagues will officially unveil their renovations at a "re-launch" party this Saturday at a party that features an early-evening screening of TSUN SET, a documentary short that examines Sun's role at the center of this vibrant community, and will stretch well past midnight with a set by Philly-based DJ/producer King Britt.
If all this sounds like a lot to take on, Sun has no intentions of giving up what he loves. He figures he'll stick pretty close to The Flat for the first few months after the re-launch, to ensure all his scheduling running smoothly, then head back into the studio to work on a followup to One Hundred and another project he's producing for the Houston Arts Alliance.
"It feels really good to be able to have a vehicle to present quality DJs, quality music [and] quality food, with a twist that I can influence," Sun says. "From that standpoint it's a really great feeling. I must say that I do have a tremendous amount of help from great people around me, along with a great, enthusiastic staff."
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