In a refurbished rowhouse in Houston’s Third Ward, I was privy to one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life, and this was just a rehearsal.
In September of 2008, a few days after Hurricane Ike had ripped through the Gulf Coast, I received a phone call from my friend Justin.
me: What’s up man?
Justin: I’m starting a band.
Justin: I’m starting a band.
me: Oh cool. With who?
Justin: Fran, Carlos, Denis and his brother Abel.
Justin is one of those frustratingly talented friends whose creations leave you both happy and tormented. Happy because of the quality, tormented because of the lapses in between. Since I met him I knew he was supposed to do something special, important.
I’d seen him through two production crews, Underground Station (with Carlos) & Neon Collars (with Denis) and some forays an MC. All of which I thought had amazing potential and promise. But something was always amiss. There were elements or a vibe that was not completely there. The band made sense. It felt like a natural progression, the evolution of his previous bodies of work.
And then there’s Fran. Her talent is undeniable. There’s so much passion and pain and confusion and hope and sorrow and yearning in that voice. It’s humanity, weaved and sewn into notes and melodies. And it escapes from her body with such an intense yearning. It’s as if her words are messages from another world sent to save you from some impending, steadily approaching doom; light amidst so much darkness. This is coupled with this uncanny, yet natural way of making you fall in love with her. Her presence instantly puts you at ease yet demands your attention, or better yet you eagerly offer it.
A collaboration between these two spirits potentially possessed a power that was truly world changing, if only individual worlds, if only one at a time. Just the thought of it had formed synapses in my brain that redefined possibility and reshaped my own potential. This is why I knew it would work. This is why I was excited about it.
Actually, I was more than just excited. I remember feeling a sense of relief. What they were committing to do was important; it were as if it proved something. That something was possible. That purposes and passions will align and seek others of their kind, a confirmation long awaited and much desired.
After what I was told was a very exciting meeting and introduction, Justin Lewis, Franchelle Lucas, Carlos Conway, Denis and Abel Cisneros formed Neon Collars, the band.
For the next 2 months I waited, painstakingly, to hear just a snippet of anything they had produced. I would drive by the rehearsal space, call random band members during rehearsal time, offer to cater, but to no avail. When I was finally invited to witness, it was much more than I ever knew to expect. In a refurbished rowhouse in Houston’s Third Ward, I was privy to one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life, and this was just a rehearsal.
At this point in time they were preparing for their first gig, The Project Row Houses Fall Festival. This is a community festival that often serves as a platform to showcase the art of Project Row Houses‘ friends and community partners, that happens in the Third Ward Community of Houston, TX.
The buzz about the band had circulated quickly throughout the community, as we were all familiar fans of the individual members’ solo efforts, so this was the majority of the audience. While we were all in ecstatic joy and excitement with the first notes, the experience became ethereal when these sounds became present in the eardrums and the spirits of unsuspecting people passing by in the neighborhood. It was as if the songs possessed a gravity that they couldn’t escape.
For the next 30 minutes we all were exposed to a world we had never experienced before.
It was rough, organic, unpolished and beautiful. It was the music of purposes aligned for a moment in time. I loved it because it was proof that diligence and passion and faith truly do produce sweet fruit.