Iconic Houston Nightclub

Iconic Houston nightclub gets the movie treatment: Only-in-Montrose story to finally be told

Iconic Houston nightclub gets the movie treatment: Montrose's moment

Numbers interior lights disco ball
The dance floor at Numbers is always covered in dancing patrons, lasers and disco lights, especially on a Friday night. Photo courtesy of Dinolion
Jeromy Barber, Marcus Pontello and James Templeton Friday I'm In Love
Jeromy Barber, Marcus Pontello and James Templeton are the three Houstonians at the helm of the upcoming documentary. Photo courtesy of Dinolion
DJ Wes Wallace of Numbers
Long-time Numbers DJ Wes Wallace has been the resident DJ since 1986. Photo courtesy of Dinolion
Mason and Westheimer Numbers corner
Numbers, the city's oldest nightclub, has been located at 300 Westheimer for 36 years and counting. Photo courtesy of Dinolion
Numbers Interview with Andy Bell and Vince Clarke of Erasure
As part of the documentary, Pontello interviewed Erasure's Andy Bell and Vince Clark about their experiences at Numbers. Photo courtesy of Dinolion
Numbers interior lights disco ball
Jeromy Barber, Marcus Pontello and James Templeton Friday I'm In Love
DJ Wes Wallace of Numbers
Mason and Westheimer Numbers corner
Numbers Interview with Andy Bell and Vince Clarke of Erasure

For more than three decades, Numbers has been the go-to club for the different, the disaffected and those who simply love to dance. The venerable club on lower Westheimer continues to draw large crowds on Friday nights where '80s music rules and on Saturdays it features special events for those interested in underground hip-hop, electronic music and hardcore.

Now, three Houstonians are determined to capture the club's illustrious history in a new film. Director Marcus Pontello, along with producers Jeromy Barber and James Templeton of Dinolion, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary about the legendary Montrose nightclub and concert venue. The club has occupied its space at the corner of Westheimer and Mason St. since 1978 and, as Pontello says, "it's a fixture of the neighborhood."

Given Numbers' 36-year history, there's a lot of ground to cover in their documentary, titled Friday I'm In Love after The Cure's 1992 hit.

 "It's a place that's always been a kind of come-as-you-are, 'be yourself' establishment. That's why Numbers is so great." 

"On a broad scope, we're trying to go through the journey of the building and the various stages the building has seen in terms of DJ's and music, because that's what brings people to Numbers, whether it's 1970s gay disco or new wave or goth industrial," Pontello says.

"Beyond that, we're trying to highlight the people who were very much responsible for the various stages — the different owners, promoters and DJs who really have had a strong influence on the club. And past that, we want to hone in on stories from patrons who go to Numbers because they're accepted there.

"It's a place that's always been a kind of come-as-you-are, 'be yourself' establishment. That's why Numbers is so great."

All are welcome

Repeated over and over — and with good reason — is the common sentiment that Numbers is an incredibly accepting place that's welcoming to absolutely anyone.

"I've been finding that people of different generations and ages have had similar experiences," Pontello says of the interviews they've been conducting with patrons. "It's always the same kind of narrative. 'I went to Numbers because I wasn't accepted in the suburb I was living in,' — or even in other parts of Houston — 'so I found this kind of entryway into subculture.' It's pretty amazing."

"What I think is interesting about Numbers is that Houston and Texas are traditionally very conservative," Barber notes. "There's definitely an arms-wide-open kind of community that congregates at Numbers. To this day, you'll go and see soccer moms and Midtown bros and goth queens and 60-year-old dominatrix slaves, all on the same dance floor."

Passion project

Barber describes Friday I'm in Love as a "passion project for three Houston kids," all of whom have experienced Numbers in different ways over the years.

For the now 26-year-old Pontello, he's been frequenting the nightclub since he was a 15-year-old student at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Although he didn't originally plan to make a film about Numbers, he says the project actually began two years ago as a hobby.

"I was living in LA, going to school there, then New Orleans, so I spent time away from home — which is Houston — and in my time away I was always trying to find a place like Numbers in another city, but there just wasn't a place like it anywhere else. So I started traveling back and forth, starting to do research and interviews, really just out of curiosity.

"(During interviews) so many people's first reactions are 'Oh, I went to Numbers,' and I ask if they have any really interesting stories and they say, 'Oh my god, you're bringing me back.' There are people who remember very specific details, but there are also people who haven't thought about it in 20 years or more. Our conversation starts and then they start remembering all these amazing memories."

Pontello says he's found many former patrons through Facebook, specifically through Numbers' own page and a page called the Friends and Loyal Patrons of Numbers Nightclub. Additionally, the group has already interviewed some of the artists who left a strong impression on the club, including Andy Bell and Vince Clark of Erasure, Groovy Mann and Buzz McCoy of Thrill Kill Kult and Bliss Blood of Houston's The Pain Teens.

"There's so many amazing things about Montrose that have just gone into the recesses of peoples minds," Pontello says."I feel like there's something about the spirit of the city, or maybe Montrose specifically, that runs the risk of being lost if stories like this don't get told."

The Kickstarter

"A big part of the conversation from the beginning was that we needed to raise money for this," says Barber, speaking of their Kickstarter campaign. "It actually took a long time to get us to the point where we were actually raising money."

 "I feel like there's something about the spirit of the city, or maybe Montrose specifically, that runs the risk of being lost if stories like this don't get told."  

The project's Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $31,000 as of March 2— inching closer to the $40,000 goal with only a few days remaining (the completion deadline is 9 p.m. on Friday, March 6). Depending on the donation amount, backers can score goodies like exclusive posters, T-shirts and even VIP tickets to the film's premiere.

(UPDATE: As of March 4, the group has exceeded their goal and has raised $41,096 with one day of fundraising left.)

With an expected completion date of fall 2016, Barber not only wants to host local screenings but also plans to send Friday I'm In Love to film festivals, specifically South by Southwest, given that the film's subject matter revolves around music subculture in Texas.

"Our goal is to document the film, to document Numbers, to make that a real thing that happens," Barber says. "Send the film out to festivals so that more people know about this place, because it's still a place that exists and it's a people can come visit. And that's exciting. Maybe it drives a little bit of tourism, maybe it'll bring some people out of the woodwork, even from within the area, who've never experienced Numbers. At the end of it, it just documents the story, it's sort of like a preservational piece.

"The culture of this super-accepting place is at the heart of the story. And it's an awesome story. It's an awesome story about Numbers, an awesome story about Houston, an awesome story of the last 36 years, and that's amazing."