From left to right: Stewart Anderson, Joe Ross, and Alex La Rotta

Image: Mars Varela

A Fistful of Soul Fifth Anniversary Party
Sept 19 from 9:30 to 2
Free
Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge
3714 Main St.
bigtoplounge.com

This Friday marks the five-year anniversary of A Fistful of Soul, the monthly dance party which just last month was voted “Best DJ Night” by the Houston Press. Founded by DJs Stewart Anderson, Joe Ross, and Alex LaRotta, the event attracts as many as 500 people each month to Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge, inside and out (on the patio shared by Big Top, Continental Club, and Pachinko Hut). It’s one of the biggest all-vinyl soul dance nights in the country. This Friday’s installment will be one of the biggest yet, featuring guest DJ spots from Brett Koshkin of New York and Topper James of Austin, both of whom are friends of the Fistful trio. The music starts at 9:30 p.m. and runs to 2 a.m., and best of all, it’s free. Show up early if you’re there for the merch – buttons, stickers, shirts, and free mix CDs will all be on offer to the loyal crowd, who are sure to snap them up fast.

Five years is a long time to keep one party going, but A Fistful of Soul is more than just a party: it’s a history lesson. Anderson, Ross, and LaRotta have turned Big Top into a musical classroom for an audience interested in studying the past in the most engrossing way you can: by dancing to it. On the curriculum is a deep record collection of indispensible Gulf Coast soul, Motown, R&B, and dance music from the ’50s and ’60s. From fan favorite classics like Archie Bell & The Drells’ “Tighten Up” and Gloria Jones’s “Tainted Love” to whatever new finds they’ve unearthed lately (this month, it’s Inell Young’s “The Next Ball Game”), the trio have turned an obsession for digging up old 45s into a monthly celebration that brings out newbies and aficionados alike to appreciate the groovy treasures of decades long past.

The music isn’t the only throwback part of the night. A Fistful of Soul is a great chance to dance for hours to an endless stream of yesteryear classics, but it’s also a prime chance to trot out your best vintage-inspired outfits. Sharp dress is encouraged, and for those looking to see or be the scene, Fistful doesn’t disappoint. Earlier this summer, I was dragged from my late-night coffee on the patio across the street at Double Trouble by a partygoer who insisted that I’d picked the right night to be out on the town in a vest and bowtie. I quickly saw that he was right – the place was packed with people sweating right through their suits and sundresses in the glow of the giant “ELVIS” sign alongside the outdoor stage.  Of course, this being Houston, shorts and a t-shirt are hardly going to merit a second look, but for those willing to do a little crate-digging of their own this night of 45s is a great excuse to dress to the nines.

Dancing all night is thirsty work, but the Mid-Main block is one of the few areas of Houston that offers a slew of easy-to-walk-to choices for those in need of a breather. For drinks with a little more space, guests are free to move next door to Alley Kat (3718 Main) or across the street to Double Trouble (3622 Main), if the outdoor bar at Pachinko Hut and indoor Big Top are too crowded. Those who’ve worked up an appetite on the dance floor can hit up Tacos A Go-Go, which stays open until 2 a.m. on Fridays. However, Continental Club hosts Friday night concerts, so even though its back room connects to the same patio as the others, there’ll be a cover required to move in and out through that venue.

  

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