By Payton Wilson
“Catching plays & callin’ plays” is the line that fills King “Franco” Ekejija’s Twitter bio, and it just may be the perfect way to describe him. Franco is the mastermind behind Houston’s newest festival that prides itself on being a collaborative event that focuses on connecting individuals who are invested in not just the music industry, but the culture that surrounds it.
Franco, who is of Nigerian descent, came up with the idea with three of his closest friends, Jeff Dike, Brent Ugochukwu and Dave Ayanbule, and while it was a collective idea, it was Franco who ensured the event was executed.
“I reached out to my network, booked the venue and tried to execute all of the creative ideas I had in my head. I just wanted a lot of different, unique things that people will remember,” said Franco. The four of them wanted the event to be the main card of a memorable weekend that consisted of a cocktail party, the festival and a boat party to top it off. They named it “Jackboy” weekend and banked on their ever-expanding personal networks to drive the events forward. And to say their bet paid off, is an understatement.
Before walking into the festival, attendees were greeted with a plethora of vendors and pop-up shops ranging from streetwear brands to suave sunglasses to exotic soda. Bringing together different aspects of the culture was a large focus of the event and the energy stemming from that could be felt before you even entered the venue.
Jeff Dike spoke a bit on that mission.
“This is something we’re doing to expose people to different brands, different artists, different music, different clothes, different food. It’s more than just music. Franco just took the idea and ran with it,” he said.
The first highlight of the night came from local R&B artist, Kayshon. As soon as he walked on stage, he cut the music to make a quick announcement. All of the artists who performed prior to him were rap artists with upbeat, 808-heavy, hard-hitting songs that moved the crowd. He wanted to let the audience know that he was an R&B singer at heart.
As soon as he said so, it seemed as if every woman in the venue screamed to let him know that it was more than okay. His set was short, at only three songs, but each song he played was better than the last. He had an undeniable stage presence that not only captured the attention of the women in the building, it captivated everyone. When he left the stage, people wanted more. Kayshon may not be a household name yet but with the vocals he has and a stage presence that commands the attention of everyone in the room, he’s surely on his way.
Artists Alan Warhol and afrobeat artist Chimzy brought energetic performances, as well. The next highlight of the night came from New York native, Joe Ca$h. He performed six songs and engaged the crowd in each and every song. Although Joe was the only artist that wasn’t from Texas on the bill, it didn’t matter. He had one of the most enjoyable performances of the night, and it was easy to tell he was well-prepared and excited.
“It’s actually my second time performing out here. I love it. The food, the people, the city. I love it. As for my set, it’s six songs, but they’re cut down a bit. I’m just looking forward to bringing a lot of energy to the crowd,” he said. Joe’s performance was definitely one of the best of the night.
Later in the show, the headliner, Startheonly1ne (who happens to be an artist Franco manages) ended things with a bang. His energy was infectious and the crowd knew every word to each one of his songs and was ecstatic after every track. At one point he even jumped off of a railing into the crowd. Startheonly1ne is a star and his performance showcased that perfectly.
If catching plays and calling them was the goal, Franco surely executed that with ‘Franco + Friends’. Five years from now, he envisions the festival as one of Houston’s hottest events.