Party City

The Bands and DJs to Book for Your Next Bash

Plus, Houston's most unique entertainers for kids—and, fine, grown-ups, too.

By Gwendolyn Knapp and Morgan Kinney August 26, 2019 Published in the September 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Disco Expressions

As a child, frontman Paul Beebe learned to dance by watching his mom’s VHS copy of Saturday Night Fever. As an adult he discovered something about himself: “I just have the body for disco.” He also has the pipes, which he shows off by singing hits by the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and KC and the Sunshine Band with his nine-piece band, whose members wear authentic ’70s fashions such as leisure suits and snakeskin platforms. A word of caution: Stand back during “Kung Fu Fighting.” 

The Allen Oldies Band

This popular group has been playing throwbacks like “Wooly Bully,” “Peanut Butter,” and “Secret Agent Man” at Houston events since 1996. There’s no setlist, explains frontman and founder Allen Hill: “I read the crowd and observe what they’re responding to, so it’s like stoking the fire.” In other words, the band keeps the dance floor smokin’ all night long. Just make sure to book at least three months in advance, and keep one thing in mind: “Anything after December 31, 1969, is not an oldies song.” 

Xanadudes, Now We Are Here

Bored by the typical ’80s setlist, “we started out with songs you wouldn’t hear,” says founder Tom Escalante. That meant covers of the Smiths, INXS, Spandau Ballet, The Church, and—but of course—the soundtrack from Xanadu. These days the ’dudes also play pop hits from Wham and Hall & Oates, as well as the occasional Tears for Fears slow jam. 

This DJ Knows How to Get Any Party Started

IN any given year, DJ Dave Productions lays down the soundtrack for some 400 Houston weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, corporate soirees, and every kind of celebration in between. Here the man himself tells us what to consider when planning your next party:

What’s the appeal of a DJ over, say, Spotify and an aux cord?

Spotify may have popular songs, but it won’t know what to play at what time. It’s not going to stop at the right time to make announcements. We’re going to play across genres, play to the crowd. There’s no substitute for a real-life, human DJ, and every crowd is different. The playlist that worked last week will not work for the next party.

Are there any artists who are off-limits these days? What about must-plays?

While it’s all personal, currently it’s R. Kelly and Michael Jackson. The crowd-pleasers are going to be your Pitbulls, Bruno Marses, and Cardi Bs. I grew up on classic rock—Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top—but I don’t get to play that much. Being a good DJ is rarely about playing what you like.

How do you approach different types of events?

A wedding, for example, has many moving parts—it’s much more complex than a plain and simple party. But whatever the occasion, it’s also a personality-matching process. We let our client look at our DJ profiles and read their bios. It should feel very specific and personalized.

DJing Your Own Party? 

These 15 surefire songs by Houston artists will get the room off its feet. 

Unique Entertainers

Jurassic Extreme

A dinosaur walks into a party: No, it’s not the start of a joke. Instead, it’s a herd of 7-foot-tall, 12-foot-long reptiles—Rocket the T-Rex, Razor the Velociraptor, and others—parading into the room, surrounded by a cloud of bubbles to bring the drama. There’s humans inside those incredible, custom-made costumes somewhere, but that will be forgotten amid all the dancing, games, and nibbling—adventurous kids can put their heads in the dinos’ mouths. The creatures can roar, too, but if that’s a bit scary, there’s always Roxy, the sweet baby triceratops puppet that kids love to pet. Starting at $350/ half hour

Tio Choko

With a name that more or less translates as “Uncle Chocolate,” Tio Choko is both Honduran and African-American. “I embrace both cultures and love bringing everyone together through music,” he says. Choko made his name in 2016 through a series of YouTube videos that went viral, leading to his career as an entertainer. Since then he’s performed at hundreds of events across the country, including 108 quinceañeras and counting here in Houston. Videos from events offer a taste of what’s in store: Music begins to play, and he crashes the party in a ten-gallon hat, boots, huge belt buckle, and ridiculous mustache to perform his hilarious dance moves and, later, interact with guests. His fans aren’t all children, either. “Grown men and women,” he says, “go crazy over me.” Starts at $300/hour

Incredible Events

Bill Wiatrak, owner of this one-stop shop for all things party entertainment, first unicycled his way into Houston’s heart as Yummy the Clown 35 years ago—during “the golden age of clowns,” he says. Since those days his events company has booked thousands of kids’ birthdays, and you can bet he knows all the best superheroes, baby sharks, carnival rides, bubble machines, petting zoos, and ponies in town. Parents, take note: “DJ parties are really big right now,” Wiatrak, also a Houstonia contributor, says. His DJs will dress to your party’s theme, play kid-approved pop, and keep everyone from toddlers to tweens hyped with games and cool prizes. DJs start at $200/hour (two-hour minimum)

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