“Good to see you, man. How’s your brother?”. “He’s not with us anymore. Hey, great job on the show tonight”. Of all the words and gestures exchanged last Friday at The Varsity, those stuck with me the most. I don’t think he teared up, but, sure as shit could have. Mike Frances, I remember being the absolute rock of Windom Open Middle School. The guy was Dominican or somethin’, you’d totally mistake him for just another black guy, but he spoke Spanish like it was his first language… I’m guessing it was. Bi-lingual home or somethin’. Again, he still looked tall as ever, could probably dunk on the entire southside of Minneapolis, as he could always make a basketball look so simple to handle, hair grown out into a tied bun like a straight-up g, and smile as wide as I remember it. Memories are always exaggerated, but Mike Frances lived up to the hype.
If I ever… were to lose someone as close as a brother (Adam, Mark, Will, Annie, etc.), I would crumble considerably at the whisper of the mentioning of their name. Mike Frances holds up. He holds up well.
The Varsity sells out, but what impresses one the most is the amount of familiarity that ensued at the end of the night. Could be due to the fact the last two acts all graduated from South High School, or simply because Omari, legendary southside dj, has a monopoly clutch on the joint, has his brother bartending and a steady southside audience every weekend for salsa at The Loring (just down the block, under the same ownership). However, faces I haven’t seen for years appear like it was just yesterday we went at it on the blacktop in a fatal game of kickball. It’s family, not in the 7th Heaven sense, but my reality of family. Broken, cracked, in some places would appear as “f----d up”, and connected by a past we never deny or shy away from. Ever see someone from your childhood, and purposely ignore them to escape the excrutiating moment of having to reintroduce yourself say “how’s life”, exchange stories, act like you care, and bid goodbye? Nah, we don’t do that. I actually embrace the awkward space of it. Lovely.
Nearly sweat a kiddie pool over remembering lyrics, admiring the deadline of 1230am for the show to be done or else they pull the plug, and making sure everyone was happy. Worries, aside, the concert went off without too many hitches. Girl fight broke out in the front of the stage, pre-partying never took such a toll on an audience, the bar might as well replaced the water in the faucet for tequila, etc. The substance and emotions got the best of a few folks, but not the entirety, I’d say.
We close out, move it to the library, can’t help but still think of Mike Frances. “He’s not with us anymore”. Christ, then where is he? Horrible moment to brew over where you go when you die, if anywhere, but I’m a wimp when it comes to curiosity. Something I’ll probably never know until I get there. Whatever, perhaps the closest we get to it is when we sing and dance. Nothing in my life has felt more correct and necessary than music, washing dishes for my mother, and walking my grandmother to church. Doesn’t mean I do it all the time, but it feeds the soul.
Best moment of the night: all throughout soundcheck, Jake (Prof), sustained this stonewall, hoodie up, game face. I don’t blame’em. He pre-sold 300+ tix on his name alone, I’d feel the pressure or the necessity to produce a calm before the storm. I didn’t really see Jake until I walked down to the green room after it was all said and done. An uncontainable smile stretched cross his face. Lit up the room, forces you to smile a bit when you see it too. I congratulate him, he reciprocates. There we go. Once stubborn and naive over 5 years ago and on no means of speaking to each other, now clasped in a handshake after selling out one of Minneapolis' biggest venues. There we go.