When faced with the challenge of getting dressed for: a family dinner, the first ever CAM Perennial Party, and a visit to a “fabulous” new nightclub specializing in ’90s-era pop en español, I got a little confused. In a decisive moment, I decided to dress around my favorite jean jacket. Covered in patches, badges, and the Sharpie-inked signatures of two of my idols `French art stars Pierre et Gilles`, it’s like a denim roadmap of my life. But in a certain light, the whole thing looks, well, a tad obnoxious. In order to avoid wearing head-to-toe denim (a faux pas I’ve been scolded for on more than one occasion), I threw on a pair of blue-and-orange plaid Cheap Mondays pants, and a T-shirt I purchased at Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s only SA appearance (Majestic Theater, circa 1985), that reads, “Relax.”
The outfit went over as expected at the CAM Perennial Party, and I even found myself answering, “Yes, I did all the stitching,” and “No, I didn’t buy it like this.”
Around 11 p.m., I gathered willing Bar Tab collaborators Angelina Mata and Brandon Fischer and tried to explain where we were headed. I’d been instructed to meet friends Emma Vidal and Miguel Pineda in the parking lot of the Toys “R” Us on Blanco. “So no one knows the address of this place?” Angelina scoffed with disbelief.
Turning into Condesa Lounge’s parking lot, we breathed a sigh of relief and sat in the car for a minute, giggling about how covert our mission seemed. At the door, Brandon and I both paid a $5 cover, while Angelina was admitted for free, as all ladies are at Condesa Lounge.
As the video for Luis Miguel’s 1981 cover of “Cuando Calienta el Sol” played on a projection TV, a roomful of people danced — some singing the lyrics, others shouting them. “Wow, everyone’s so happy,” Angelina mused. True, everyone seemed genuinely happy, and so was I because everything I’d heard about Condesa was turning out to be true.
“You know what this place reminds me of?” Angelina asked. “The Wyndham Hotel. My mom used to drop us off there in the ’80s. What was the name of the nightclub there?” I had no idea, but Miguel remembered the place well. Grabbing Emma, he said, “They’re talking about the Wyndham Hotel, where we met!” Apparently, some 22 years ago, the Wyndham Hotel on I-10 was the place to be — if, of course, you were a fan of pop en español.
When I met owner Ricardo Leal, I quizzed him about the decidedly retro music. While we talked, Magneto’s 1991 mega-hit “Vuela, Vuela” `a cover of the French song from 1986, “Voyage Voyage” by Desireless` was playing. “I have a DJ friend in Monterrey. He sends me all this music, and every song has a video. Even in the early ’90s `when Leal owned the club Planeta Mexico`, we were playing the stuff that was popular in Monterrey. People told me it would be hard to bring that type of energy to San Antonio, but as you can see, people love it.”
Judging from the crowd, they love it all right. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Emma, who was now dancing her ass off with a screwdriver in one hand, shouting the chorus to “Vuela Vuela.” On a whim, I asked Ricardo if he remembered the old Wyndham Hotel. “Of course,” he said with a smile, “I used to work the door there.”
Off the main room, a nondescript hallway leads to another lounge area that plays party music in English. Angelina, Brandon, and I ventured down the hallway to investigate. We smiled as the music switched from the Black Eyed Peas to Bon Jovi. Groups of college-aged kids stood in circles, dancing half-heartedly, talking over drinks, acting silly on sofas. We ordered another round of beers and sat down on a couch next to three bubbly Asian guys. “More happy people,” Angelina noticed, eyeing them.
“Do you guys come here a lot?” I asked.
“No, first time. We just found it by driving by,” he explained in broken English. As it turns out, all three are visiting from South Korea — attending an intensive ESL program in San Antonio. As we chatted, a group of (very happy) girls in a nearby booth snapped silly pictures of one another, while squealing about Facebook. Somehow, I ended up getting splashed with Red Bull by an overly enthusiastic partyer mixing cocktails at the table (yes, they offer bottle service).
Back in the main bar, I asked Ricardo, “So, is that like the babysitting room back there?” He chuckled, “Kind of; it’s like a party room.” The music had suddenly shifted, and Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” was playing. Looking at the screen, Ricardo admitted, “We like to mix it up a little bit, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the pop en español, the stuff that really takes you back. And while we’re on that topic, I have to tell you, when you walked in here tonight, I told my wife, ‘You see that guy? You see what he’s wearing? That’s the way I used to dress in the ’80s. This,” he said examining the stitched and pinned lapel of my jacket, “this takes me back.” — Bryan Rindfuss