The Rocks Off 200: Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? If you see Flash Gordon Parks around a set of turntables -- which you can often do on "The Island" around 3700 Main or other spots like Leon's, Boondocks or The Flat -- it's better than even money you're in for a funky good time. Parks pours an encyclopedic knowledge of soul, funk, jazz, hip-hop and more into sets that will make you think as much as they make you sweat. That's no easy feat, but he makes it sound that way.
Photos courtesy of Flash Gordon Parks
Parks is also an acclaimed photographer who started at his Third Ward alma mater, Jack Yates High School. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Photography at Sam Houston State University, and in 2005 published a book, The Beautiful Side of Ugly, with poet/emcee EQuality. Combining EQuality's verse with Parks' images, the book aims to, according to its co-creator, "document the beauty of urban areas in Houston, Texas."
Parks says he sees his role as a DJ as "not only to entertain, but expose the audience to music that may not be accessible in familiar arenas." He wants his sets to be a mixture of music-history lesson, memory-jogger and new-artist spotlight, "all the while compelling you to lose your inhibitions and dance."
To that end, in December 2008 he co-founded the "Straight No Chaser" series of listening parties to, says Parks, "highlight local and world-renowned artists [and] provide a refreshing entertainment alternative to the city."
Home Base: Currently Parks presides over two such parties: Taste, sophisticated soul Wednesdays at the Alley Kat (3718 Main); and the rarer grooves of Easin' In (Doing Our Thang) at Boondocks (1417 Westheimer) the first Saturday of every month.
Good War Story: Parks describes himself as a passionate record collector of all genres, "particularly records that have a connection to Houston." His story concerns beloved Montrose resale shop Vintage Oasis, which was tragically destroyed by fire this past June.
"It was notorious for having tons of vintage clothing, hence the name," he opens.
But it also had tons of records hidden under mounds of leisure suits, platform shoes and such. Every so often I would pop in and dig up a LP or two but never really scratch the surface. I just assumed heavyweight OG collectors like Brett Koshkin, DJ Sun, The Are and DJ Cipher had already gotten all the gems so what's the point, right?
One day I just decide to dig as deep as I could. I went in every single room, [and] looked in every corner seeking out records that I'd been looking for. And man did I find them. I found sealed original copies of Soul Searchers' Salt of the Earth album, which is sort of famous for all the famous breaks and samples on it. Ashley's Roachclip alone...
But the most amazing find was an original sealed copy of Bubbha Thomas & The Lightmen Plus One Energy Control Center. I gladly paid the $3 asking price. After that discovery I would come back for years finding gems here and there. Unfortunately Vintage Oasis burned down this past summer. Such a loss to the community.
That place was a time capsule. I left a lot great records there, just taking for granted I could always come back and grab them.
Story continues on the next page.