Houston’s mainstream club scene used to be dominated by house, drum & bass and techno music all throughout the 90’s and 2000’s. Every Monday night at Cafe Brasil on Dunlavy Street, Chicken George, DJ Sun and Melodic posted up with a 3 x 6 DJ set on 6 vinyl turntables and jammed out until 2 am.
Brasil was wall to wall slammed every Monday night like religion for us. Mainly because we were all curing our hangovers from the day parties the Sunday before, the same parties that established Houston’s famed ‘Sunday Fundays’.
Sunday Funday Origin Story:
Where the current El Tiempo Cantina is on the corner of Taft and Westheimer in Montrose, there used to be an Italian restaurant called La Strada. Starting around 2 pm on Sundays, after brunch, Houston’s technorati would converge on the patio for bottomless mimosas and bellinis. We’d over drink while dancing to house & techno music until it was time to go to the now closed Berryhill Baja Grill on Montrose Blvd. around 6 pm, where more house and techno beats pumped till 10ish.
This was the original Sunday Funday routine; which evolved over the years. The going belief was that anyone willing to party this hard on Sunday’s was more fun to be around, so many of us only parties on Thursday’s and Sunday’s to avoid mixing with the mainstream crowd on Friday’s & Saturdays.
The Exceptions to the Rule:
If you wanted to party hard on Friday & Saturday, then Downtown Houston was the move as it was dominated by house, techno and even drum & bass with clubs like Spy, Mercury Room and Toc Bar. During that time in Houston, the door policies were about as rough as they could get, more people were left outside than let in on a week to week basis. But if you were in, it was epic level partying because the crowd was curated with the same crazy people that partied Thursday’s and Sunday’s.
One of World’s Largest Ecstacy Rings Busted
Turns out Spy was actually started to launder money for a one of the largest global ecstacy trafficking syndicates during that time with manufacturing out of Israel and The Netherlands and distribution networks spanning multiple continents. (source)
The DEA busted Spy and shut it down, that bust reverberated through Downtown Houston’s club scene, making way for Midtown to establish itself as a destination and then later Washington.
Rise of Bottle Popping Culture:
With each subsequent year, less house & techno was played and more hip hop, reggaton, etc… was played which rode the wave of rising bottle popping culture. Dancefloors were replaced by booths and instead of large groups dancing together, you either shelled out hundreds if not thousands for booth space or just simply stopped clubbing.
The Flat & DIY Parties:
The Flat was one of the lone hold outs to continue playing non-mainstream music and in the mid-to-late 2000’s DJ Sun took over the venue and established it as an oasis of sound when mainstream music was too jarring for underground fans.
The finger in the air test would tell you that DJ Sun and The Flat held down Houston’s electronic music scene just long enough for the next generation of DJ’s to develop their craft and turn their noses up to what had become of Houston’s mainstream club scene.
Why try to get into a club with a strict (very corporate looking) dress code, just to hear the same music as on the radio, while spending thousands of dollars on bottles, when you could rent a DIY space and pump great music dressed how you want and BYOB with your closest friends?
I know there are a lot of venues that I have left out of this story. Every other venue that you might have thought of has also played its part, but the broad highlight from my vantage point spanning 25 years of Houston’s party scene, this is what bubbles up to the top.
For the Record:
There’s nothing wrong with bottle popping culture, if done right in a group setting you could actually spend less than if you went with a plus one. But where there’s no diversity there’s misery. And right now, Houston’s club scene is totally dominated by mainstream music of all genres.
The fear is that the underground scene won’t spend enough on alcohol to generate north of $50k a night; which is needed to to sustain these multi-million dollar venues. And since no mainstream club owner that I know of is running a global drug ring, they need to sell bottles of Titos by the hundreds to thrive.
What if We Take Money Out of the Equation:
Fast forward to present time and imagine a club setting where we can play whatever music we want and not have to worry about selling bottles.
I’ve done that with my AFTERHOURS operation and now plan to take that same philosophy to the 10-2 hour. My goal remains the same, support great Houston DJs & artists. Try to make just enough to pay everyone a fair wage and not come out of pocket for week to week operations.
It took me two and a half months to get out of the red with AFTERHOURS. I am going to commit to this next project with the same determination with the hopes that those of you seeking great house & techno music will find a home where you can dance to great music all night long and not worry about anything else.