Last Friday night’s concert starring rising songbird Frewuhn began with a few minutes of group meditation. Concert-goers were asked to close their eyes, focus their breathing and visualize themselves walking someone by the elbows out the room and into a world of endless possibilities. Much different from the routine hype music blared over audiences before shows at the typical concert venue, but then again this wasn’t the typical concert venue.
The show was held at the Hines Center for Spirituality and Prayer. The unassuming space at the corner of Fannin and Prairie is mostly reserved for soul-centering activities like yoga and Tai chi, but this summer it has added music to its growing itinerary. Since late June, Friday nights have been reserved for its Song + Story Concert Series. The center transforms into a chic and intimate night spot, one furnished with plush sofas, cocktail tables and elegant lighting. There’s enough room for a diverse collection of music fans to dance in, when the mood hits. Many enjoy free refreshments from event sponsor Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Best of all, everyone is there to be uplifted by music.
Artists like Eimaral Sol, Vodi and Ben Jarrad have already performed the free concert series. The inaugural run ends this month, with Gio Chamba set for this Friday and country singer Max Flinn closing the upstart program on August 16.
Danielle Fanfair, the center’s executive director, was last Friday’s emcee. She’s personable, funny and talented. She did the Nay Nay and even sang a little to Frewuhn’s soulful groove, but mostly she worked to connect the music to the tenets of the space which offers its members dozens of dance, yoga and movement classes and workshops on prayer and meditation.
“This concert series and this show is really special because, unlike most concerts where you just hear the music and then the artists kind of disappear and leave, this one’s called Song + Story, so we get to hear stories that fuel the foundation of, that are the energy of the music that we are hearing,” Fanfair explained.
The series has put together a group of acts which have committed to telling those stories. Some involve loss, addiction and depression and the roads taken, often through music, back to a healthier life. Frewuhn
(pronounced “free one”) is a native Houstonian who has toured with and backed artists Erykah Badu and Solange Knowles. She has a master's degree in theology and founded an artist’s collective. She spoke openly about taking pro-active steps to strengthen her interpersonal relationships. Those actions and the histories behind them informed her latest release, Stupid Carnival.
“A lot of the songs are me processing a lot of relationships that I was learning how to process when I began going to therapy,” she explained. “That song, ‘Tired,’ the first one I did, I was basically like being able to see myself for the first time and I was like, ‘Wow, you’re kind of like a janky person in relationships.’”
The admission was stark but also evoked a few knowing laughs from the crowd.
“I’m much better now,” Frewuhn assured the audience.
The song’s lyric goes, “Tired of chasing after you, tired of silly games, you were always out for you, no one could get in your way.” It sets up the story of someone whose acts ultimately lead them traveling down a lonely, painful road.
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“I was writing about myself at the time. The song was just me really being able to name the shadows and really beginning to understand that a lot of the fear that we have is self-created and a lot of times the monsters and shadows look so much larger than they actually are,” Frewuhn shared with the audience. “We turn the light on and we see that what we thought was the boogeyman ends up being like this little, tiny, small thing. So, just being able to really understand and not make excuses for the illusions we create, and not being ruled by fear. Whatever aspect of your life you can apply it to, fear is an illusion and it takes up too much space.”
The songs and storytelling set up more meditation, at the show’s intermission and conclusion. The format created a very unique music experience, one that allowed audience and artist some nice takeaways. For her part, after the show on her Facebook page, Frewuhn wrote, “It was beyond amazing. When audiences and artists meditate together creating space for positive energy to flow without resistance the outcome is priceless.”
As Fanfair told the gathered, “This is the Hines Center and where you are is an oasis for peace of mind, mental clarity, emotional balance and physical wellness in the city.” Music, it seems, meshes perfectly with those good vibes.
The Song + Story Series continues 7 p.m. this Friday with Gio Chamba at the Hines Center for Spirituality and Prayer, 500 Fannin. The shows are free and open to the public but require an online reservation.