A crowd at the now shuttered Houston electronic music dance club The Dive
As a teenager growing up in Sharpstown in the 1990s, Suraj Kurian would spend his nights venturing out to illicit raves in downtown warehouses, dancing to new kinds of electronic music streaming out of Europe and other American cities. So when he and his wife opened The Dive in downtown Houston in 2017, it was to give a new generation of dancers a safe environment to enjoy their favorite artists, without sacrificing the underground ethos that the culture was born from.
For five years (with a break in the middle for COVID), The Dive did just that, making a name for itself as one of the only places in Houston where dancers could reliably hear the most subversive strains of electronic music every weekend. That ended in October, though, when The Dive closed its doors due to disagreements with their landlord.
Kurian, 47, had held out a sliver of hope that they might be able to reach an agreement, but conceded the club’s closure in an Instagram post on Dec. 16. He said that the building was suffering from serious maintenance issues that Kurian, a healthcare worker by day, and his wife were expected to fix with their own money. They offered to buy the place, but the owner wouldn’t sell. A proposed rent hike was the last straw.
“We weren’t really pulling a profit, we were just paying the bills, which was fine because we love the music, we’re lifers. We were willing to do that until we had the chance to buy the building… but it got to a point where it was time to go,” Kurian told the Houston Chronicle.
The property owner could not be reached for comment.
The Dive, which closed at the end of 2022, was an electronic dance music club in Houston.
A 150-capacity hole-in-the-wall at Pierce and Milam, The Dive was a dark, sweaty space for clubgoers to dance in front of bone-shaking subwoofers, under an array of matte pastel lights that rendered them silhouettes in the fog.
Jordon Nickerson, a local house and techno DJ who performs as Pro Ghost, likened its closure to that of the popular punk venue Satellite Bar in the East End, because both venues gave Houston talent the opportunity to share the stage with renowned DJs from around the world. He said the loss of The Dive leaves a large hole in Houston’s electronic music community.
“The Dive was the spot to go to to hear underground house and techno, or bass music and drum and bass,” Nickerson said, referring to electronic subgenres that aren’t often played at larger, commercial nightclubs.
He said the venue was especially important for fans of the latter genres. Drum and bass legend Goldie, in fact, was one of the last DJs to perform at The Dive, in mid-October. Kurian said Goldie was scheduled for a 90 minute set, but ended up playing about four hours, until 5 a.m., because of the energy the Houston crowd brought to the bite-sized venue.
Goldie, seen here performing on day two of Reading Festival at Richfield Avenue on August 26, 2017 in Reading, England, recently played The Dive in Houston.
“It was absolutely the only place in Houston you could go for that type of thing and without it, that whole scene doesn’t really have a place to congregate, and they had been able to form a really close knit community around that sound,” Nickerson said.
The Dive opened in 2017, about 10 years after the building’s former tenant, a hole in the wall called The G.R.A.B., went out of business. Moral panic over drug use had forced the rave community deeper into the shadows by the early 2000s, but even as Kurian got older, the bug he caught as a teenager never went away.
“The idea with The Dive was to take some of the stuff out of the warehouse and put it into a legal space, even if it was more of a low key, dark kind of vibe,” Kurian said.
Kurian said he’s open to starting another club in the future if they can find the right space, and he’ll still be hosting pop-up events with Gritsy, the promotional company he helps operate, around Houston. The group is throwing a New Years Eve party at Post Houston, and plans to host more events in the future.
Hardcore ravers will keep throwing parties at warehouses and other do-it-yourself locations while other venues, such as Bauhaus, Paradise Palace and Reset, will continue to play electronic music in posher settings. Boondocks, a dive bar in Montrose, will help fill some of the void left by the Dive’s closure.
Houston’s electronic music scene, however, is undeniably losing a vital focal point.
“There is some version of The Dive in every city around the world… that little spot that focuses very tightly on these genres of music, and everyone makes it work to a degree where they’re known worldwide. There were times when people would say that about The Dive, coming in from wherever, and that was always such a great compliment that always stuck out,” Kurian said.
Sam González Kelly is a reporter for the Houston Chronicle.
You can reach Sam at [email protected]
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