For weeks now, Rocks Off has been trying to get in touch with the ever-name-changing venue next door to ECHO/Jet Lounge. Seeing that two shows were scheduled over the weekend, we decided to swing by with our camera and see what sort of information we could acquire. (Unfortunately, our PC is pissed at our camera right now, so the venue let us use some pics from its Facebook page.)
Saturday night, Underground Live Houston - the latest in a long series of names for the venue, including Groundhall, the Warsaw, the Engine Room and even its street address, 1515 Pease - had its official grand opening, featuring Das EFX and Houston's own Rel the Chosen.
We had never heard of Rel, but were impressed with much of his lyricism and backing beats. As for the venue, Rocks Off noticed that a few VIP areas with cushy sofa-like seating areas and curtains for privacy, and an improved bar supply, gives Underground Live more of an upscale feel than previous incarnations. The standing-room floor leaves plenty of room for casual concertgoers.
This weekend wasn't quite the turnout its new partners were hoping for, but they are confident that things will change for the better with the help of the venue's upcoming lineup, which includes Rahsaan Patterson, Cody Chestnutt, Bilal Oliver and Shonen Knife over the next few months.
Underground Live is now owned and operated by the consulting-service companies DMOT Management Group, LLC and Ideas Unlimited, LLC. Shows will be booked by Clearview Entertainment and "a few other promoters," said Chris Williams, one of the venue's managing partners.
"The venue targets [fans of] soul and R&B, rock, gospel, with a jack-of-all-trades approach to all music," he added.
Underground Live has been remodeled a bit, and Williams told us that even more renovations are planned. After a three-month overhaul, he said the sound system has been upgraded and 17 LED lights have been added to the stagefront.
Further alterations will be made incrementally, and the bar's new staff is "green-conscious," he added.
"We took over April 30 and began construction that same day," Williams said. "This has been a vision of our company's for over five years."
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After promoting a couple of shows at Groundhall, DMOT's staffers decided that it was time for them to take over. Williams, also known as DJ Cruize Control, approached owner Marianna Lemesoff, who also owns and operates AvantGarden, with a proposal to acquire Groundhall.
"The rest is history," he said.