Divey, dirty fun

Sniff sniff or good riddance? Whatever—TownHouse Lounge parties bumped and grimed, and will be missed.

TownHouse’s last stand: Who didn’t worry that, during some larger-than-life moment at a sold-out bass-bumper blowout, the TownHouse Lounge’s second floor would come crashing down onto its first?

Hell, I was convinced of such a calamity one night a few years back during a capacity-crowd Chk Chk Chk gig at the much-loved, much-loathed club. The band hadn’t played Sacto in a while—I believe now-defunct bruisers Mayyors also were on the bill, just to rub it in—and the two-story ToHo at 1517 21st Street brimmed with off-the-chain vibes. Upstairs was a mishmash of sweaty undulation, bodies so knotted hip to hip that you couldn’t even glimpse the venue’s black-and-white checkered floor beneath your feet. And this humid stink permeated the squarish, low-ceilinged room, but it was a ribald-if-ripe revelry worth enduring: a night of Sacto rock legends at a special funky place.

But then Chk Chk Chk broke into “Must Be the Moon”—arguably the guys’ most popular hit, what with its cruising bassline and four-on-the-floor thumps—and I was more than a little bit uneasy about the structural efficacy of TownHouse’s upper half. Basically, it was a moment of panic. The ceiling was gonna cave in. We were done for, for sure. Of course, this was not our fate.

And it likely will never happen: ToHo will close its doors at the end of October after nearly a decade of grimy grooves and infamous good times.

DJ Shaun Slaughter was one of the pioneering promoters who rescued TownHouse from nightlife irrelevance some years ago, around 2005. He (smartly) recognized the space’s potential for stacking pancakes: dancing downstairs and bands such as Wallpaper upstairs. But, perhaps more importantly, TownHouse’s owner, Desmond Reynoso—who I’ve known over the years simply as “Desi”—was game for anything.

For instance: At one of Slaughter’s regular birthday soirees, the deejay rented a mechanical bull. First, what club owner in their right mind is gonna let Shaun Slaughter transport hundreds of pounds of vibrating faux cattle into his club? Exactly. Secondly: “We had the guy begrudgingly lug it up the stairs,” Slaughter recounted, “and brought in, like, a million bails of hay.”

Trouble. And by the night’s end, clubgoers had ripped the hay from the bails and festooned the entire club with straw, from the bar to the deejay booth. “It was seriously nuts,” the deejay said. And Desi didn’t fire anyone. Kudos to the chaos.

But the end of those nuts days is nigh. And, as Slaughter shared recently on Facebook, there aren’t too many other free-for-all options in Sacto’s nightlife scene. “Despite it’s flaws, [TownHouse] was an AMAZING place to cut loose,” he wrote, “and somehow created this very weird, no holds barred vibe no other venue could duplicate.”

This past Friday, I did what any intrepid and appreciative music journalist should do—admittedly, after a handful of cocktails—and tripped into TownHouse just before midnight for one last hurrah. And those couple hours before last call were a blur of boozy boneheadedness: DJ Roger serenading a filled floor of butt wigglers upstairs, DJ Whores downstairs driving a packed dance floor with bassy techno and house, Slaughter sneaking me behind the bar for a shot of bourbon. It was dizzying, probably embarrassing—but one of riches.

So, why not give the old ToHo a go this Friday, October 26, with Slaughter and Roger’s annual Halloween party? DJ Adam J joins the team, too, and the place will be decked out as a “haunted forest.” (Again, what other local club owner’s gonna allow that?)

Sure, TownHouse’s bathrooms are hardly the Four Seasons’. And yes, the bar often ran out of liquor. And Grimey wasn’t just its most popular night. But the old 1910 building—with its “secret” back staircase, chatterbox parking lot filled with ciggie suckers and Sega Genesis console at the bar—filled a void. And will be missed.

Meanwhile, DJ Whores’ Grimey night surely will land new digs. And Slaughter says Midtown BarFly (1119 21st Street), which has settled in to the former Club 21 spot, and the new Purgatory Restaurant & Nightclub venue—you know, heaven upstairs and hell downstairs—on J and 16th streets could be future homes for his Friday nights. Change, except in the case of Gov. Mitt Romney, can be a good thing.

“But I also can’t help feeling like we’re losing one of the last divey, dirty and fun to party in, spots in Sacramento,” Slaughter lamented.