Night Life

Making the Scene

The Houston nightlife scene, what a cruel, complex bitch you are.

For the past six months -- it seems longer, sweet Lord in heaven, it seems longer! -- this column has strived to put a neat, coherent spin on the cute, nocturnal netherworld with which Houstonians have been blessed (or cursed, it's your call). But the scene keeps shifting and morphing every time we try to assess its character. Every time something new and exciting pops up, it shuts down quicker than your dad when you call up from the holding cell to ask for bail money, and he says you ain't worth putting up the house again. But that's neither here nor there.

Case in point: This fall we were going to write a column about a downtown club that offered the promise of live professional wrestling. But before the story could be published, the damn place closed down, like three weeks after it opened in October or something ridiculous like that. What the hell?!

But the year wasn't all about poorly calculated (read: half-assed) openings and abrupt closings. Some clubs had the good sense to stick around and actually develop a patronage. Here are a few of the highlights and lowlights in clubland this year:

North downtown has managed to persevere, even when it looked like that whole scene was gaining as many detractors as patrons. The Main Street vibe, with the über-exclusive Prague (402 Main) serving as its beating Prada-clad heart, enticed many partiers who wanted their clubs with a dash of fashionable elitism. And for every club that closed its doors (let's spill some Thunderbird on the ground in honor of 410, Jones Bar and Lava Lounge), even trendier spots took their place, like the Mercury Room (1008 Prairie), which at least had the good sense to draw in customers by holding parties with Playboy models lurking about.

Although a few proprietors bid farewell to their funky southwest hangouts in favor of a piece of the downtown action -- Mitch Burman locked up his Instant Karma permanently to oversee the Engine Room (1515 Pease); Club Some owner Neil Heller moved the late-night fun to Hyperia (2001 Commerce) -- the southwest nightlife scene isn't in danger of extinction. Sorry, downtown owners, but the Richmond and Westheimer scenes are still booming. Likewise, the alt-spots in and around Montrose, such as Numbers (300 Westheimer), Emo's (2700 Albany) and The Oven (403 Westheimer), are busy too. No matter how ritzy and glitzy the downtown hangouts get, there are still folks who wanna go to clubs without worrying about things like, say, tripping over homeless people or wondering if they're wearing the right kind of shoes. They're just funny that way.

Then there were those off-the-beaten-path places like CONXTION 2000 (800 Almeda Mall) and Club Bounce (478 West Parker) that took a detour from the standardized ambience and served up periodic nights of relentless dance music, the kind you usually find at raves. Speaking of which, you gotta give it up to the Houston rave community for not going ballistic on Channel 2. The station sent its News2Houston Investigators to a rave at the AstroArena in May -- apparently they had already exposed every cockroach dropping at local restaurants -- and discovered drugs! KPRC followed its report with a "community forum" to solicit public opinions to solve the "crisis." But amazingly, through all the turmoil, some dynamic parties were still turned out, like the all-star "Thriller" in October, with a bill that included headliner Method Man and practically every DJ of note in the city. News organizations should call the rave scene depraved more often -- it looks like ravers work better when they're accused of destroying minds. (Like TV isn't doing that already!)

It's difficult to sum up the year in Houston nightlife in a tidy package. For all the obvious stuff that went down, there were even more in-between happenings worth mentioning. Luckily we have next year to address all the many aspects of the scene.

So drink up and have a happy new year. Try not to trip over any homeless people.

Last Call

The folks over at Metropol (804 Fannin) are livid about a recent theft at their underground establishment. A couple of weeks ago the management was stunned to find that an autographed subway poster of the Brit rock group Oasis had disappeared from club walls. (Perhaps not that surprising, since the theft apparently occurred on the night the club hosted a listening party for Oasis's new live album, Familiar to Millions.) Metropol is offering a $200 reward for the return of the poster, no questions asked. "It means a lot to us at the bar, and it means a lot to some of the patrons that come here," says owner Tim Murrah. "It's a sentimental value-type thing, you know what I mean?" For more information, call (713)225-0948.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey