Dance clubs never get a fair shake. They're maligned, sneered at, and generally discounted in favor of live music clubs. That's what you get when you live in the "Live Music Capital of the World," but things have been changing over the past couple of years. Take, for instance, the Microlounge, a one-room, spur-of-the-moment club that started up a couple of months ago as a means for Texas Electronica Festival mastermind Keith Jones to finance this year's Fest. While originally a one-off, Friday night chillout space with Jones and a few friends spinning gritty house grooves, the 'Lounge has since morphed into a regular weekend event with guest DJs, throngs of 3am revelers, and more than a few pre-dawn surprise visits from Austin's Blueboys (always a sure sign of burgeoning popularity).
In the real world, Jones spins at Bob Popular, which, despite the name from hell, holds down the north side of Sixth Street with a multi-tiered DJ blitz that runs the gamut from house to retro to bizarre live shows from the likes of Vanilla Ice, A Flock of Seagulls, and Run DMC. Speaking of retro, there's no place moreso than Polly Esther's, a Seventies theme bar/experience that borders on the terrifying. Situated in Austin's arts district, a visit to Polly Esther's is a little like finding yourself trapped in Tony Manero's cerebral cortex. Disco never died here, and Georgio Moroder is still on his first wife.
Not so at the Red Room, where the future is, uh, yesterday. Once reviled as the home of candyflipping 14-year-old insouciants (you know, them), this heady, beat-intensive venue is now home to some of the biggest touring DJ shows to cross the country. It's also home to a fiercely loyal band of local DJs who spin everything from deep house to happy hardcore to jungle and more jungle. Austin's house scene has always been a strong one, moreso than many of the other permutations of DJ-based music out there, and Twist, a self-described "video bar," has long had a hand in promoting local house DJs with Friday and Saturday night residencies and touring acts. While this bi-level club (with pool tables in the front) draws a mostly young, upscale crowd, it's finally getting the respect it deserves from the clubbing crowd.
Likewise longtime Austin stalwart Paradox, a sprawling dance club that draws collegians, slumming DJs, and other nighttimers. Given to foam parties and radio simulcasts, the mix of retro and future house has made Paradox the longest running club in the scene. The lifeblood of Austin's dance and DJ culture remains the one-off house parties and raves that take place either in rented warehouses or, more frequently these days, the cavernous Austin Music Hall. That said, the Austin scene continues to expand exponentially, with more DJs and more touring bills arriving weekly. It's still a guitar town, yeah, but more and more they're becoming sampled loops. --Marc Savlov