With a perfect combination of sun, clouds, and breeze, It felt as if Houston was making love to me as I escaped the treacherous, life-sucking fluorescent lighting of my Westchase office and moon-walked my way towards a Friday night full of booze, buds, and Budweiser. (I'm more of a Saint Arnold's drinker myself, but alliteration, dammit!)
First stop on the agenda was Market Square Park downtown, the site that serves as the starting point for the notorious last-Friday-of-the-month rolling bicycle party called Critical Mass. After parking my gas-guzzler, I biked towards downtown, Instagramming the city along the way, with Snoop Lion's Reincarnated providing the soundtrack.
I'm still formulating my final verdict on this album, but the combination of Snoop's charisma and Major Lazer's production makes this an enjoyable offering from The Artist Formerly Known As the Dogg.
Many of the bikes that ride the Mass are equipped with impressive portable sound systems that range from simple iPods with small external speaker attachments to those ice chests/speaker combos, and even fullly amplified subwoofer contraptions that keep the ride "turned up," as the kids say nowadays. Friday night's track lists included some Dr. Dre 2001, a few Kanye/Drake/2 Chainz medleys, and even that one guy who plays nothing but Tejano at full blast each ride.
We rode from Downtown to Washington Avenue, turning north on Heights Boulevard. A couple of motorcycle cops guided our way for a stretch, and I think a police helicopter circled us above for a few minutes. It very much felt like the video games Need For Speed or Grand Theft Auto as everything from rap to pop to EDM flowed from the crowd of sweaty hipsters taking over the city, two wheels at a time.
After stopping the ride at Hermann Park's Miller Outdoor Theatre, my amigo Chuy and I decided to make a break for it and hit up a house party on the Northside. It was a friend's birthday, and Houston's own Los Skarnales were hired as the night's entertainment.
We walked into what felt like a movie set in East L.A.: the DJ rocking tunes that were neither too fast nor too slow, a giant tub of beer in the backyard and a guy passed out in the corner. (Overheard in the crowd: "Is that guy dead?! Never mind, he just took a breath.")
As the band set up and sound-checked, we sat with Skarnales front man Felipe Galvan and chatted over a few Dos Equis cervezas. Ever the storyteller, Galvan told us stories about touring in Mexico in front of hostile crowds, the evolution of his band through the years, and a touching recollection of how his father introduced rock and roll to the small Mexican town of Reynosa as a youngster. We could have easily kept this up for hours, but duty called downstairs.
In the hot, dusty, and humid room that served as a stage, los Vatos Rudos, a.k.a. Los Skarnales began their set. Felipe, Razo, Chapy, Kevin, Jon, Jose, Adam, and Nestor create one of the most exciting atmospheres of live music that Houston has ever experienced. And shit was it loud!
They absolutely rocked tracks from Pachuco Boogie Sound System ("Borracho," "Juana") and Dale Shine ("Rajita de Canela," "Una y Otra Vez"), inspiring the crowd to dance, sing, and shout along. I will never tire of catching a Skarnales show. If you've never seen them live, do it ASAP!
After a few more beers and a couple of giant jello shots, we ended up at Boondocks for the Kinda Super Disco party featuring DJ/Producer/Remixer Gigamesh. Now usually, the upstairs at this bar is almost pitch black, with just the bass and bar lights to guide you. However, for the past few shows and gigs that I've attended, the bar and/or promoters have utilized small but effective lighting fixtures that seriously enhance the mood of the place.
By this time, I don't exactly recall anything specific about the music, but it did make me shake a tailfeather while drinking the free Jack and coke the cute blonde at the bar gave me. Yea, it was that kind of night. I retreated to the patio, bummed a few cigarettes, and called it a night.
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Soundtrack for the ride home: "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams. I've mastered staying "up all night 'til the sun," now I've gotta work on the "to get lucky" part.