Uptown Rap


Sensation’s unadulterated R&B;/hip-hop format and $10 cover draw devotees from as far as Los Angeles, where many clubs with similar music charge higher admission or score low on class, quality and safety.

Every Friday and Saturday, seasoned deejays spin the likes of rappers Domino, Foxy Brown, Westside Connection and Heavy D. With an occasional exception, they steer clear of these artists’ harder-edged, violence-ridden cuts.

Patrons are frisked at the door, but an abundance of security guards and a lack of attitude or aggression make it a peaceable kingdom with loyal regulars.


Saturdays are dressy, Fridays more casual; both nights pulse forcefully. Dancers grind away the week’s tension with knees bent, backs arched, hips pumping sensually to the slow, driving beat.

The multiracial crowd, which includes area residents and military personnel, ranges in age from 20’s to early 30’s. It shares only sweat with the chichi set at Sports Club Irvine, just across MacArthur Boulevard, where members pay monthly fees of $75-plus to see and be lean.

“Somebody yell ‘Hell, yeah!”’ calls deejay Ken, his hands gliding gracefully like a hula dancer’s going from disc to disc to blend one tune seamlessly into the next. “Hell, yeah!” answers the dance floor, a clutch of revelers moving in unison in the dark. A flash of decolletage, a slick vinyl shirt and a thick gold chain are momentarily brought into focus by colored, rotating lights. The music’s deep bass palpitates.

A Rusty Pelican up until a few years ago, Sensations still has that restaurant’s mainstream dinnerhouse trappings, albeit with a tropical flair; potted plastic vines, wicker chairs, walls covered with boulders, a canoe suspended from the ceiling. It doesn’t fit the night’s urban grit, but the place is clean and roomy, although Saturday’s throng leaves little breathing space.

Management doesn’t offer drink specials, but munchies are served until 9 p.m. at the long bar, which occupies its own room, and at booths near the railed-in dance floor. Burgers are $5.25, fish sandwiches $6.95; both come with fries. Spicy hot wings go for $4.95.

The format switches to Top 40 on Wednesdays. Thursdays are “international night,” featuring contemporary sounds from Iran, Armenia, Europe and elsewhere, and occasional live bands. Sundays feature rock en espanol.



Sensations, 1830 Main St. Irvine, (714) 724-9776. 9 p.m.-3 a.m. Wed.-Sun. Cover: $5-$10.