No offense to Axis’ previous incarnation as a rock nightclub/venue, but the converted warehouse’s new life as a hip-hop spot is off the hook.

At the old Axis, you never had to wait in line long for a beer or to use the restroom, even during big-ticket shows by the likes of Flickerstick and The Burden Brothers. At the new Axis on any given weekend, there are so many people, you’d better order two cocktails at a time – one to drink while hanging out, one to drink while waiting in line to order two more.

Mega-hip-hop clubs are all over Dallas and Arlington – Crystal’s Nightclub, Uropa, Nairobi. But as far as Last Call knows, there hasn’t been anything comparable in Cowtown until Axis’ reincarnation about a month ago. Owner Darian “Woody” Shanahan, who also owns Elegance Cabaret (on East Belknap Street), knows his clientele: mostly African-Americans with disposable income, an affinity for rap and R&B, and dwellings on this side of I-30. In other words, mature Fort Worth hip-hoppers. He’s tailored Axis’ cavernous interior to suit them (red plush couches, a gigantic plasma-screen tv, loud paintings), and he knows how to get them to move. The DJ’s are banging, and a couple of weeks ago, the crowd for a performance by Dirty South rapper Pimp C, who had just been released from prison, threatened maximum capacity. (Shanahan is a rap genius: Not too long ago, old-school West Coast baller Too $hort filmed a video at Elegance Cabaret for inclusion on his new c.d./DVD, Gangsters and Strippers.)

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I think we can safely say that Axis: The Sequel is an unqualified success. Unlike its former self, Axis II has essentially no competition and a hungry audience. Shanahan also takes full advantage of what proved to be Axis I’s Achilles’ Heel: Being isolated from the rest of the city in a part of town where Whitey fears to tread.

Ameriquench Field

If Clubland isn’t a geographic area but, as I believe, a state of mind, you gotta catch the Rangers at some point this season at The Ballpark. (I know, I know. It’s proper name is Ameriquest Field, but a buddy of mine and native Fort Worthian told me that real fans still call the place The Ballpark, and who am I to argue?) Though the good guys lost, last Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Oakland Athletics was a banner day for fans of both baseball and hanging out, starting with the awesome weather, brisk but totally sunny.

Then there was the hot link with onions, the cold draft beer, the homeruns (four in total, including a grand slam by streaking Rangers right fielder Shrek, a.k.a. Kevin Mench), the hammered and shirtless goofs in the Left Field bleachers creating havoc, the beer, the dude in the upper deck behind home plate who caught a foul ball with his friggin ball cap, the beer, the camaraderie among all of the adults in attendance, who, like my pal and me, were enjoying the hell out of a sick day from work, catcher Gerald Laird’s throw-out, and, yes, the beer. Once the juice stops flowing, after the 7th inning, the ballpark is equipped with assorted restaurants and bars to pick up the slack. My bud and I hit Rawlings All-American Grille, the sports bar named after the sporting goods manufacturer. (What? You mean American Airlines Center doesn’t have a bar called Bauer? Or Spalding?)

The chicken wings, tangy but not too sweet and with decent zip, scored a B+. The service, an A. But the view of the field: D–. From our lofty perch, the players looked no bigger than dandelion petals on a lawn. The hostess might as well have sat us in Space Station Mir. But that’s a minor quibble, and the same goes for the inordinate amount of teen-agers on hand. (Uh, is school out al-friggin-ready?!) General admission seats are affordable (between $15 and $50), and even though the beer is, naturally, a little pricey, my buddy says it never tastes better than at the ball game – who am I to argue?

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