From Mattresses to Music: Eastdown Warehouse Delivers

The words "work in progress" spring forth on a visit to Eastdown Warehouse.

Anyone even a bit familiar with the people behind the warehouse district's newest music venue will tell you to put the emphasis on "work" in that phrase. The operators of the club, located at 850 McKee, have a big vision for it, but they're not waiting for a fully finished product to do any or all of what they have in mind. They've rolled up their collective sleeves and have presented more than a dozen events in the two months the venue has been running.

"We want to support all of the artistic community of Houston by bringing it all together in one space," says Jesus Flores, the club's co-owner. "We plan to showcase music, art, fashion, even Houston's food, with local food trucks."

Flores didn't just happen upon the expansive room he and business partner Steven Rodriguez are reimagining as an arts haven. He ran a furniture-delivery business from the space for several months before convincing the building's landlord to allow him to shift from Houston's mattress needs to its musical ones.

Flores said his neighbors, places like The Doctor's Office and Ponderosa, have been welcoming. Eastdown Warehouse affords what many of the other local spots can't -- space, and lots of it. There's a large outdoor deck for smoke breaks and an oversize lot for the food trucks that will wheel in on occasion to feed show-goers.

"A lot of those people are now hanging out at our spot, too," Flores said of the music fans who frequent warehouse district spaces. "We don't get fucked with here; the police don't bother us about how many people are here or the noise."

Inside, there's a hand-built show stage and a small art gallery, where local artists' works are on display. There's ample bar space, clean restrooms, offices and a gargantuan dance floor. Think of a more upscale version of Walter's, just swank enough to host private functions, and you're on the right track.

This may all sound ambitious for an upstart, but Flores and Rodriguez have the benefit of some talented and experienced cohorts alongside them. Adam Rodriguez, a veteran in Houston's music industry who has brought national acts to Houston's House of Blues and other venues, books shows for Eastdown.

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He brought U.K. punk legends the Vibrators in last month and has up-and-comers Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands and NYC's Spirit Animal booked for November. The venue also enlisted "Senior Jukebox," the former Mangos barkeep, into its ranks.

His animated and expressive love for music automatically gives the place character. Flores and Rodriguez have friends and family in long-running local bands like Always Guilty and FUSKA, and have leaned on those ties to strengthen their position in drawing hometown acts to the venue.

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All this know-how hasn't gone unnoticed by patrons.

"The staff at Eastdown is very friendly, laid-back and easy to work with. Everyone appears to be very knowledgeable about what they're doing," says Jennifer Lunn, who helped organize last month's fifth Fuzzy Fest installment, which Eastdown hosted. "It's very spacious on the inside compared to some of the smaller venues -- there's enough room for people to be comfortable.

"I really like that it's an indoor venue, which is a huge plus on account of Houston's constant humidity and unpredictable weather," she adds. "For the most part, it's just a really nice place."

"As far as a new venue, they have really made their mark on the Houston music scene," agrees Whitney Flynn. Her band, Decathect, has played Eastdown and she hopes to bring touring shows there via her grassroots booking service, Sweater Weather.

"It always seems like something is going on there," she says. "The atmosphere there is always welcoming and I'm excited to see their progress. They are great people with a great venue."

Early signs indicate otherwise, but if Eastdown doesn't succeed, it won't be for lack of trying on Flores's part. He's on the grind like Krups on coffee beans. On this night, he's scanning the Houston Business Journal for real-estate news, signing off on the venue's official logo, posting online ads for furniture and hosting a show.

Midway through our interview, he and Rodriguez have a discussion about the venue's facade, which currently is painted blue and features the Houston Texans emblem. Flores seems to think show-goers could mistake the space for whatever sports bar it may have been in a former life. Rodriguez, still dressed in his Texans jersey from the football game that was played earlier that day -- a Texans loss -- favors keeping the exterior as is.

It's just one of many details still to be addressed. I ask Flores why, with so much to offer and such a grand vision, he didn't wait until everything was exact to open.

"Local bands are eager to play, and the rent has started, too," he says. "We're trying to get the most benefit from the building right from the start."

See more about Eastdown Warehouse on Facebook.

Jesse's short fiction piece, "You, At The Beach," is featured in the 2013 issue of Huizache. If you've ever wondered whether your life's as interesting as an average 50-year-old's, follow him on Twitter.


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