Echo Lounge Weathers Lonely Downtown Nights
First, there's an inordinate amount of horse-drawn carriages riding back and forth across McKinney Street. Does anyone know why this is necessary?
But second, and more importantly, the area is a virtual black hole for late-night entertainment.
Save for the seasonal crowds for the Astros or Rockets (who've recently struggled with declining attendances of their own), downtown shuts down about 7 p.m. and reopens for business in time for early-morning rush-hour traffic around dawn.
Sure, the odd bar or venue has managed to stay alive, but for the most part, it's pretty well acknowledged around town that downtown is for work, not for play. For a city as massive as Houston, it's actually pretty eerie.
It's in this little bubble that Amber Elizondo finds herself.
For the past year, Elizondo, general manager of Echo Lounge (formerly Jet Lounge) has taken the task of pushing the local-music market in an area that has traditionally been unreceptive to the regional music scene.
"Originally, Jet Lounge was established as a DJ lounge next to the Engine Room, which was doing pop shows and touring bands," Elizondo tells Rocks Off.
"Jet was always kind of an afterparty spot. But after the Engine Room shut down, we lost that purpose. So there needed to be some kind of change in our makeup."
With Elizondo at the helm, the changes came quickly.
First, there came the issue of the name, which Elizondo readily admits was not a serious problem as a whole. But nevertheless, a business overhaul means just that, so out went the famous "Jet" in Jet Lounge.
"It's been there for eight years now," says Elizondo, "and we wanted to revamp the whole thing. Give it a new brand. So it's Echo Lounge, not the place people remember it being five years ago."
The new name was a welcome change, but the real work for Elizondo came when figuring how to approach the Downtown area -- a market she fondly refers to as completely "dead" -- with local artists and bands.