Houston Activists Celebrate Music & Art at FTCX

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

Houston, Texas (TFC) – ­ The activist community in the Houston area was buzzing with excitement over For The Community 10 (FTCX). It is a multi­genre music and art festival held regularly by Visionary Noise and The Houston Free Thinkers. It has helped to spread awareness amongst the activist community through the expression of music and art over the last few years. The festival not only attracted a local crowd, but many activists nationwide traveled to Houston, Texas for the two day event.

Arriving in Houston on Thursday evening, I met up with one of the organizers of FTCX, Derrick Broze. Although very busy and multi­tasking before the big weekend, he very enthusiastically gave me an overview of what the weekend would be like. He shared some of the topics that would be discussed by the speakers and also showed me the list of musicians and artists that would be performing that weekend.

FTCX was booked in an area of downtown Houston known for its run­down factories, buildings, and abandoned homes, all adorned with graffiti tags and art. It seemed like the perfect atmosphere for the type of unique music and art that the activism community has become known for.

Among those performing over the weekend, Derrick’s band, Maninkari, was also scheduled to perform on the evening of day two. He had band rehearsal at a local studio, which I attended. As the band started to set up, Derrick handed me a pair of earplugs and said, “You might want to use these”. Maninkari is a 4­piece hardcore metal band with Derrick on lead vocals, a guitar player who likes to be referred to as “Unknown”, Sperrow on drums, and Chad on bass, who was not present at rehearsal as he was unavailable to attend the performance at FTCX that weekend. The ear plugs would prove to be a kind gesture as Maninkari definitely played at a high decimal for the duration of their rehearsal, which went very well and I was also able to take some incredible photos and video footage of the band.

Maninkari’s message is just as big as their sound. Derrick uses a very difficult vocal technique when performing with his band known as “screamo” or “skramz”. Sometimes, this technique can make it challenging to identify the lyrics, which are well ­written and very empowering to the listener. Derrick is always sure to print out lyrics for the audience during performances so they get to appreciate the lyrical content of the music as well.

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

After a very productive band rehearsal, everyone headed for home to prepare for the weekend. The festival was held at Last Concert Cafe on Nance Street, along with the Eastdown warehouse that was a few paces up the street. There were 3 stages in total amongst the venue locations for scheduled musicians to perform, and artists lined the streets and parking lots with their artwork.

All of whom came together to provide these services to attendees completely free of charge.

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

I arrived on­ site at The Lat Concert Cafe (LCC) around 1 p.m. on Saturday November 21st. Feeling of unity, peace and love was in the air a midst a glorious array of music and art. Sound engineers were hard at work setting up the stage for the musicians, and vendors and artists began filing in to set up their artwork and displays.

After getting familiarized with LCC, I headed to the second venue location, the Eastdown warehouse. It had and open parking lot where musicians and attendees had plenty of space to perform and dance, and the third stage was located inside the Eastdown warehouse. Many of the artists displayed their artwork on the deck outside the venue, several even executed pieces right on the spot, and their was a one­block “art crawl” where you could view individual artwork displays that were arranged very creatively on steps, fences, warehouses and abandoned buildings.

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

The excitement continued to build through out the evening with stellar performances by Colombo, Ganesha, Silk Mule and The Wheel Workers. Those performances were followed up by guest speaker, Nick Bernabe, founder of the Anti­Media. Nick got the crowd really hyped and discussed the idea of freedom along with a personal story that helped him discover how most people value freedom in the same way, no matter where you are from. He even encouraged the audience to participate and asked about their opinions on the topic.

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

The night finished off brilliantly with a high­ energy performance by the band, Cassette Tape, who blew the lid off The Last Concert Cafe, and had the audience begging for “One more song!”. Day two of the festival proved to be just as exciting as the first. Upon arrival, two DJs were playing outside the Eastdown warehouse, and just moments later I became well acquainted with one of the most prominent artists at the festival, McKinley Faas. I got the opportunity to view his work and ask him a few questions about his style, themes and inspirations. Much of his work was featured in the FTCX program book. He is very inspired by the female form and typically uses it as the silhouette of his pieces. He also uses very unique objects as canvas’ and creates his pieces using paint, pencils, and spray cans, but also uses unconventional art utensils, such as socks and kitchenware.

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

Image Source: ReAnna Ruiz

After finishing my Q & A with McKinley and browsing around the vendor stands, I headed back over to LCC to catch some of the evening performances. A powerful songbird by the name of Kristal Cherelle captivated the audience with her original pieces, in a sultry merge of funk and blues. Her performance was followed by a heart felt speech by Randa Fox, representative of Not On Our Watch America, who spoke about the unsettling statistics of child abuse in the US and how the foundation offers help to victims. Other musicians and bands took the stage including performances by Mystery Loves Company and Romina.

The audience was particularly blown away by Feral the Earthworm. He is a very skilled rap artist, and also displays great talent in spoken word. He gloriously hypnotized the crowd with his incredible ability to flow. The content of his lyrics was most impressive as he is only 21 years old and speaks in depth about geo­political issues in his material.

Feral the Earthworm’s performance was followed by a speech by one of the FTCX organizers, Derrick Broze. Derrick discussed his personal struggles with substance abuse with the audience. He motivated the crowd and gave them valuable advice on how to overcome the obstacles of life.

As the final night of FTCX began to wind down, I headed back to the Eastdown warehouse to catch the last performances of the evening. As I approached the stage area outside I came upon a mind blowing performance which included an art show called, Morphis Art Collective. There were several unique elements to this performance artwork, including a florescent light show, and live DJ that played west indian inspired techno, while the artist painted his piece. The inside stage offered a performance by We Are Technology, a hard bass­lined eletro group with a lead rap artist rhyming over live beats while random anime scenes played on a big screen for the crowd.

One of the final performances of the evening was Derrick Broze’s band, Maninkari. They rattled the pavement and awakened the streets of Houston with their riveting hardcore originals. It was a great finish to a very entertaining weekend of music and art. Visionary Noise and The Houston Free Thinkers did an impeccable job organizing this two day event. The activism community was certainly in high spirits at the conclusion of the festival and they now anxiously await the next one, including me. Currently, For The Community 11 is scheduled for March 19th,

2016. If you love music and art you won’t want to miss this event, and as always, it is completely supporting these types of events in the activism community is important because it brings culture to the movement and also allows us all to spread awareness through the expression of music and

For an overview of For The Community 10, watch the video compilation below:

This report prepared by ReAnna Ruiz, an independent journalist. She recently launched her new project, The Ninety Nine.