Bayou City

Free Music, Free Thinking Return at For the Community X

Micah Jackson says the free music and arts festival that’s known to Houstonians as For The Community wasn’t designed to be a repeating affair.

“The first For the Community was a one-off party that was so thrilling and loved that we decided to continue to develop the event," he recalls. "We never knew it would grow as it has, or become so well-liked by musicians, vendors, artists and attendees. The enthusiasm and growth have far exceeded my early expectations."

Jackson is owner/partner of Visionary Noise, the independent, Houston-based label that teams with Houston Free Thinkers to stage the always-free For The Community, the tenth installment of which will be held this Saturday and Sunday at Last Concert Café and Eastdown Warehouse. By the time the last one hits the stage Sunday night, more than 70 music acts will have put their stamp on the event.

The fest brings local artists, vendors and activist speakers together, too. This tenth episode will feature a poetry block, live sculpture, live painting and a mobile gallery called The Dormalou Project. Still, its biggest draw will be the dozens of scheduled music acts. Many – like Ak’Chamel, Civeta Dei, Maninkari and Versa Nova – are returning to FTC’s stages. Others, like Giant Kitty and My Pizza My World, are making their For the Community debuts. There are too many acts to mention, so we asked Jackson which he was most excited to see. He mentioned The Wheel Workers (“A friend turned me on to their latest album, Citizens, and it was really good!”); Arizona’s Fetti Profoun (“He is an intelligent, creative and conscious rapper with great sounds that will have a great set.”); and Froogle (“I think he will bring a great electronic sound that I look forward to experiencing, and believe the lovers of electronic music that do not know of his work yet will be delighted to discover it.”)

The festival will also feature the return of Cosmic Bug Loaf, an FTC favorite.

“This is an amazing psych-rock band that we have had great shows with," Jackson recounts. "Unfortunately, on Independence Day weekend 2014 their bass player, Chris Bauman, was killed by an intoxicated driver. The band put everything on hold and there was serious doubt that we would ever hear Cosmic Bug Loaf live again. It is very exciting that they have found someone the band feels comfortable with so that people can enjoy this great music live again.”

The festival is one of the East End events that will be tug-of-warring for music fans all weekend. Houston Whatever Fest will be at the other end of the rope, down at Warehouse Live. As Jackson sees it, the rope isn’t what these fests are fighting over, but what ties them together.

“Houston is a huge city, there is room for each event to do well, I do not believe [HWF] will detract from For the Community's audience,” he opines. "It is hard to pigeonhole what type of person goes to FTC because they cross generation, genre and income demographics. This is something we are very proud of. We constantly reach new music supporters so that we can maintain a growing audience, serve our community and have a great time. For the Community has its own energy, we coupled our proven strategies with new methods and are expecting the largest turnout to date. Whatever Fest will have FTC supporters at it, but their absence will be more than made up for by new supporters at FTC.”

Jackson knows some FTC regulars will spend time at Whatever Fest because some acts that cut their teeth on past FTC installments are playing HWF. Those acts include prog-rockers Sunrise and Ammunition and the sublime stylings of indie darlings Say Girl Say.

“There are some past FTC performers and vendors at Whatever Fest and we are happy for them to reach new folks,” Jackson says. “The purpose of the fest is to build musicians’ followings, vendors’ reach, artists’ audiences and the public's awareness of creative people in Houston. We work to find the hottest new acts, we couple them with the best regional, national, and international acts we can attract. We are happy anytime we find an act that continues to develop. We feel a sense of confidence when we look at how many great acts have developed after playing Visionary Noise shows early on. We want them to grow and play the biggest shows possible.”

The festival has grown in size since the first gathering. Jackson recalls “mind blowing performances” by The Freakouts, Another Run, Jody Seabody, K-Rino and Justice Allah, as well as "incredible Nine Minutes set where the crowd was moshing and the vocalist launched himself up and out into the crowd — people loved it," he remembers.

“At FTC6 it rained so much the venue became a mud pit, so we relocated the second day to the Free Thinker House," Jackson says. "There were vendors up and down the lawn, the driveway, the backyard. We had LocalLiveHouston broadcasting from one room, while 14 bands went through our living room including, Days N Daze, The Cryptics from New Jersey and Black Queen Speaks, fresh from touring with the Toadies. My room was 'backstage', (Visionary Noise partner) Derrick (Broze's) room was where the radio station set up and there were countless guests, dancing, enjoying music, making new friends and hanging out with good friends. That had to be one of my favorite moments in that house.”

Looking back at past FTC events causes a boomerang effect, and we start talking FTCXX.

“FTCXX??? Just the thought is exciting!" says Jackson. "Honestly, we expect FTC to continue to grow. By FTCXX I envision the opportunity to bring more established acts, more stages and for more days. We want a giant water slide at a future spring event! I imagine there will be musicians and genres we have no clue about today!

"I would love to have past FTC acts such as Ganesha, Lion Among Men, Feral the Earthworm, Jon Black and many more to continue to develop followings and new music and return to For the Community," he continues. "We will want to have more venues, more vendors — more, more, more. The only thing that will not change is the door price. For the community, we will always keep the festival free.”

For The Community X begins at 2 p.m. Saturday and runs through Sunday at Last Concert Cafe, 1403 Nance, and Eastdown Warehouse, 850 McKee. All ages; free. See the FTCX Facebook event page for more information.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.