The Tree House, Havana, Patio Loco, El Chilango--these are all names that summon up nostagia for Triangle salsa dancers. They are some of our favorite by-gone haunts in the Chapel Hill scene. It's always had a smalltown flavor, with a lively traffic of youthful dancers and the emphasis on fun and participation rather than an obsession with technique.
I was pleasantly surprised (well, not too surprised) last Friday night to discover that the Latin spirit parties on in Chapel Hill, at The Mansion 462, located next to the Carolina Brewery on the far end of Franklin Street. Their monthly Latin party (3rd Fridays) features an early live music set by Razpa, from 10-11-ish, followed by a deejay spinning copious salsa, with bachata, merengue and tropical mixed in. Sound levels were comfortable for the relatively cozy space, so I had earplugs handy but realized I could take them out after awhile. Kudos to the management's powers of sanity and restraint.
Razpa is a "rock" band but they thread Latin rhythms through their tunes, making it possible to dance to fuel-injected cumbia or salsa with heavy metal breakdowns (highly recommended for what ails you). It may not be for purists, but then Chapel Hill has never been about that. As they used to say on Salsa Carolina's advertising: "Where no one will ask you where you're from, only if you'd like to dance."
The Mansion's atmosphere is elegant, without being cold or overly formal, with wood floors that make for fine dancing, and Persian rugs hanging around the walls. There's a $5 cover for Latin nights. I recommend you go early to catch Razpa, they seemed to rock a little harder there, where they are in their element. Definitely a band worth hearing, and the venue deserves encouragement for taking a chance on live music.