There is little doubt that in recent years Houston has gained a reputation as a cultural hub in a manner that seems to baffle some of its longtime locals. However, in our city of close to seven million people, there is still a growing need for spaces that are curated in such a way that they reflect the true wealth of diversity that one discovers here. Mystic Stylez is one such entity seeking to disrupt the Houston status quo. Through unique underground events like Trust Me Daddy and Exhibition (collaborative parties with MAJÍA), the production group has been able to create a specific style all of its own, yet with a flavor that echoes underground parties like PDA in London and GHE20G0TH1K in New York City.
Nathan Kennard, the brainchild behind Mystic Stylez, describes his events as “naturally inclusive.” This is due in large part to the menagerie of clubbers, partners, and lovers and collaborators who are known to attend and serve as talent for his parties, and whose devotion to his parties is a testament to their necessity. With ongoing series Trust Me Daddy and Exhibition, Kennard has shown he has a cultivated taste that effortlessly merges art with commerce.
In a recent conversation I had with Kennard, we discuss all things related to the club scene in Houston.
“I’ve seen my events, and events I’ve thrown with the MAJÍA label, grow over the last couple of years,” says Kennard when asked about the evolution of the club scene in Houston. “The opening of a proper dance club, The Dive, has been helpful. But besides that, I’ve seen pretty minimal growth. I would have expected another crew to have emerged by now, or maybe some new and exciting DJ/producers, but it’s mostly the people that were around when I started, bless their souls.”
Kennard’s main collaborator this past year has been the MAJÍA Label, created by Houston underground DJ/producers Santa Muerte. Another group he talks about with great fervor is Houston producer and composer Rabit’s Halcyon Veil label, which he insists is releasing some of the most fascinating music (and gaining international acclaim in the process). However, the issue that comes up again and again in our discussion is how to expose Houstonians to this music and the ethos behind it in a way that it creates a local cultural movement and not just a one-off night out for people.
Last June, Exhibition welcomed Berlin-based polyglot dance music DJ Why Be to Houston’s The Dive. At the same event, Sines and PanchSM, the duo that comprise Santa Muerte, gave the crowd the hard-hitting underground mix that has made them veterans of the Houston club scene. The entire evening was a carefully curated mélange of the familiar and the new.
Why Be’s introduction to the Houston club scene was new, not only because the DJ is known primarily to SoundCloud and Boiler Room aficionados, but because the DJ represents something exciting that is happening in Houston at the moment: a search for all things pushing social consciousness.
Mexico City’s club scene sensation Mexican Jihad gave a sensational set back in October of 2018 that turned into yet another event where the local envelope was pushed and something novel was introduced to Houston’s local party scene. For the well-travelled, experiencing Why Be, Mexican Jihad and Santa Muerte is everything you could ask for in an evening. However, the challenge remains if these events will be accepted and permitted to grow in Houston.
“The pros of Houston is that people have an open palette, and there isn’t much going on like Mystic Stylez,” says Kennard. “So if I’m able to get people out, they respond really well to the parties.” For Kennard, some of the cons are the fickle clientele, lack of true engagement with art outside of the nightlife environment, urban sprawl, and the general unawareness of current fashion/art/music trends and movements.
Kennard is undoubtedly a product of Texas, and he credits his knowledge to the network of people he has nurtured here. His inspiration for his events, he says, stems from the arts, peers, events, and music labels he has familiarized him self with. NAAFI \Traicion (CDMX), Club Chai (Oakland), Papi Juice (NYC) and Genome 66.6 Mbp (Shanghai) are amongst the collectives and labels he currently finds most inspiring.
Kennard’s crowning glory of 2018, without a doubt, was the New Year’s Eve party he threw at Rockerfeller’s. The event saw the return of party staple House of Kenzo, who are back from their recent global tour. False Witness (NYC), PanchSM, Kona FM, Rachel Orosco and Collin Hedrick also all performed. The defining moment of the night, the one that created the crucial alchemy of the evening, was the performance by Houston rapper B L A C K I E, who is about to release a new record. The night transformed at that moment, and it was evident that Mystic Stylez had created the experience that everyone had hoped for.
The fact remains that Houston has an exciting and thriving youth culture with all the necessary talent to command a presence on the global club scene. Let’s hope 2019 is filled with some much needed evolution, and we continue along that path. In the meantime, please check out Kennard’s next party. There is already a great deal of buzz about his first official one in 2019. So far, all I know is that there is going to be an Exhibition event at some point in February. You would be remiss to miss it.