Night Life

The R-word

Let's see how far we can go in this column without mentioning the R-word. You know, that word -- the term generally used to connote a certain late-night event that features techno music, adolescent guests and glow sticks in a ballroom, warehouse or (more rarely) amusement center. Apparently the new thing in the local underground dance community is to shun the R-word. DJs, promoters and crews alike are fed up with the harassment brought on by police, fire marshals and other authority figures whenever one of these nocturnal shindigs is held. So their solution has been to refer to their events as, well, anything but (time to let the cat out of the bag) a rave.

It's hard to say where all of this began. If you ask DJ/event promoter Charles Cherkui, he'll say that it started last year at one of his events, a show called "Funtastic Voyage" held at the Funplex (13700 Beechnut). According to Cherkui, the sheriff's department tried to convince the complex not to hold the event because it was a -- well, you know. "Raves have such a negative image," says Cherkui, "thanks to the news, local folklore -- partly factual, partly not -- [about] what goes on there and what they're all about." Although "Funtastic Voyage" weighed anchor as planned, Cherkui and his Boom Tap Sound team didn't call their next event a rave.

Many other event promoters have gone all out distancing themselves from the word as well. A few weeks back, this column reported that Bobby Rodriguez and his company, Bigtyme Productionz, will use the term "hip-tronic music event" for all future throwdowns. Last week, local production company Xtra Terrestrial Concerts put on a show called "Invasion 2001: First Contact," a techno event featuring Superstar DJ Keoki that took place at the International Ballroom (14035 South Main). When word got around that the event was going to be another one of those pesky raves, the organizers posted a message on the Web site requesting that their event be taken off its schedule. "We are putting together concerts just like Pace or any other major concert production company," says Xtra Terrestrial founder Audio X.T.C. "We are not providing a place of illicit drug use and trafficking. We are providing a venue and a stage for our artists to perform." Webmaster VJ believes that promoters who argue semantics are kidding themselves. He sees the "concert promoter" tag as a mere trend and doesn't think it will do much good. "My opinion is that this is an ineffective tactic," he says, "and [it] will not protect them."

The bad rap raves have gotten for being drug-addled exercises in juvenile debauchery have given authorities cause (justified or not) to shut down these shows, and the city's strict midnight curfew law helps them do it. "It seems like the curfew law is regulating teenagers' rights to live as normal teenagers in society," says Audio X.T.C., who claims the curfew law has raised the crime rate instead of lowering it due to curfew violations. Cherkui has gone from admitting all ages to a 17-and-up requirement at his events, trying to avoid abetting curfew violators. But he says that hasn't satisfied the boys in blue. "I think they get what they wanna see out of it," believes Cherkui. "I'm not saying there are not things that go on at parties that parents should be concerned about if their kids are underaged. I think also they're not really seeing the full picture, and maybe not being honest about what's going on."

It's going to be hard for people to stop referring to raves as, well, raves. There probably isn't another term that more accurately defines these little get-togethers, and nobody is likely to run up to one of their chums and breathlessly ask, "Hey, you going to that hip-tronic music event Saturday?"

VJ remains guardedly optimistic about the future of raves. It's his belief that in order to escape hassles from the authorities, promoters should compromise. "For the survival of the scene, Houston promoters need to confront the law and make their events follow these laws," he says. "The alternative is hiding, a path which will lead to negative results for all."

Cherkui, on the other hand, is glum. He claims attendance for local raves has declined in recent months and that the city's underground dance movement may revert back to its smaller-scale beginnings. "We've been fat; now we're gonna get skinny," says Cherkui. "The era of big parties, the era of the high-budget $35 raves, that stuff is just gone -- at least, for now."

Last Call

This Thanksgiving weekend, a few clubs will provide some tasty morsels for those who crave a more moveable feast. Chicago DJ Derrick Carter is coming to Houston Thursday, November 22, to headline "Community," over at Club Upscale (5851 Southwest Freeway). On Friday, November 23, superstar house spinners Kimball Collins and DJ Icey also will be visiting our fair city and doing their thing at Hyperia (2001 Commerce). But let us not forget "Baller's Night Out," Friday, November 24, also at Club Upscale. Local DJs Simple, Bruno B and Bryce Martin will provide the grooves as Houstonians live out their fantasies of becoming the ballers, pimps, playas and macks they have always wanted to be. Make sure your fake fur-brimmed hat is properly steam-cleaned for that one.

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey