When the city's preeminent music festival announced its lineup last week, some observers questioned whether this year's lineup had enough bang for the buck. One of Houston's fastest-growing music fests, For the Community, has no such problem, though. This weekend's installment, the fest's seventh, features some significant changes. But the one thing that remains the same is that it's free to everyone.
"Primarily, we keep it free because we want people to discover local music, local businesses and artists," says Micah Jackson, a partner in Visionary Noise, which stages the event with co-sponsor Houston Free Thinkers. "We want people to use that money they would spend on cover just this one time and give it to the artists themselves, buy merch and support vendors. We do not want anybody to miss out over some cover."
Missing out this time would mean not seeing 45 diverse music acts from Houston and abroad, not to mention "artists, vendors, Fire Vixens and Centurions and a mentalist," according to Jackson. Prominent acts on the bill include Josiah Gabriel, Blackmarket Syndicate and Kelly McCann, plus members of the Scooby Doo Crew bringing the electronic-music beat by way of their musical pedicab.
Jackson says there's a good dose of hip-hop, including Justice Allah of South Park Coalition's "his hard-hitting, smart rap which reflects Houston," or up-and-comer Feral the Earthworm, bringing some conscious rap over from Austin.
Jesse Cardoso, better known as Worst Nightmare to Houston underground hip-hop fans, will perform again and says this event is as stamped by its diverse audience as those who come to perform.
"I've played before, for FTC 5, and it's always so great to see people from all kinds of groups get together and enjoy themselves as a community," he says. "Houston Free Thinkers and Visionary Noise have made something that I think will just get better every year."
Worst Nightmare has an early morning set -- 12:30 to 1 a.m. -- at Walters. That's not just exciting for Cardoso, but for all who have an interest in watching the festival grow. Previous FTCs have been held at D.I.Y. venues like The Compound, but this installment is so large and the festival has enough momentum that a venue change was necessary. So, it has moved to the seemingly always bustling Warehouse District, with Walters, Last Concert Café, the Doctor's Office and Ponderosa all hosting FTC7 acts.
"The Compound was this baby's cradle but now it is toddling about the streets of downtown Houston," says Jackson. "There is room for the festival to grow as there are other venues, warehouse spaces and art galleries nearby, which we are eager to include.
"Ultimately, experiencing these venues and downtown Houston ties the festival deeper to the heart of H-town as a whole, [which] is crucial to both HFT and Visionary Noise," he continues. "We are confident that this move will be appreciated by veteran attendees and people first discovering FTC."
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Stepping away from the reportorial duties of conveying information and into the shoes of a blogger who enjoys local music, I'm excited to check out Gabriel's manic electronic dance music, psychedelic rockers Jody Seabody & the Whirls, the blues-grunge of "Downer," and booze-punk from 2 Buck Drunks.
Jackson volleys with some diverse acts he suggests I try, like Corpus Christi prog-rock act Modern Explorations or electronic artists like Artificial Earth Machine. Closer to my own comfort area there's Robber's Roost, a gypsy-jazz folk trio from Washington state.
Moving into stalwart venues like Walters and Last Concert Café is a sign FTC is coming into its own. The first festival just two years ago was one of the most talked-about local underground events of 2012, thanks to a special guest appearance by the Houston Police Department.
"We chose The Compound on Wheeler for the event," Jackson recalls. "It offered an affordable place with multiple stages that could accommodate hundreds of people. Doc V, who runs the place, is cool. Thirty musical acts were down for the event [and] promoted it like mad.
"At 10:15 [p.m.] HPD arrived, allegedly responding to a sound complaint," he continues. "We were good neighbors and shut down the front stage as well as other compromises, but things got out of hand. The police ended up arresting [Houston Free Thinkers'] Derrick Broze, throwing me around and putting me in the back of a squad car for a little while."
Once the cops left -- after cocking their shotguns on festival-goers, as captured on YouTube -- the festival churned back up and threw an indoor dance party. It exemplified what activists and unheralded independent artists do, which is to forge on in the face of adversity. That's the spirit of For the Community.
"The fact that they moved FTC to Warehouse District is going to make this fest insane," Cardoso says. "Some of our favorite Houston official and unofficial venues are participating. This will definitely change the intensity of the event for the better."
Jackson agrees and hopes moving to better-known venues will encourage better attendance. The festival's largest turnout to date has been a not-too-shabby 1,500, but Jackson wants even more Houstonians to come out and reward the support the festival's artists, sponsors and bands have offered.
And, he adds, don't forget -- it's free.
"I hear of comparisons with Summer Fest," Jackson says. "I can see why people draw the comparisons. FTC is unique and so is Summer Fest; people have unique experiences at them and that is the appeal of each. They both feature local musicians.
"I like FPSF," he explains. "I go especially to support the artists I love. FPSF is a great show, provides opportunity for local artists, but it is not For the Community," he said. "For the Community exists solely to thank and highlight local artists, to advance local craftspeople, artists and other entertainers."
For the Community 7 begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, February 22. For a complete schedule, see the FTC7 Facebook event page.
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