Thursday night's show at RBC was supposed to be a memorable one. Detroit rapper Denmark Vessey flew in specifically to headline the show, and Callie Dee, the Fort Worth promoter who organized it, had DJ Sober design special posters to mark the occasion. But as the police shootings took place blocks away in downtown Dallas, those plans got turned on their head: The show never happened. Instead, those present wound up in a prayer circle.
"We were really excited about that show. It wasn't just a random show; it was special to all of us," says Dee, who felt that Vessey's new video for the song "Think Happy Thoughts" — which debuted on Vibe on July 6 — was a sign of big things to come for the rapper. "I had them all sign [the posters] and a couple even took the posters with them. It was like, 'This is going to be a night we're never going to forget. We'll remember this show forever.'"
Dee says that the "Think Happy Thoughts" video, which includes images of Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler and the atom bomb, had set the tone for the show. But the events of the week — including the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in St. Paul, both at the hands of police officers, which had prompted the march in downtown Dallas — had been draining for those involved in the show.
"The last 48 hours or so after the first shooting had just been super tense," says Dee. "Some of my artists had really been feeling the pain, so already it was a very somber night. For whatever reason, things had just not been going well that day."
Dee had stopped for food before the show, but by the time she arrived at RBC, reports of the shooting were already flooding her social media feed. "I made it before they started closing down the roads," she says. "I was like, I feel like maybe the show won't go on. I don't know, it's so weird tonight."
When Eksile, a rapper not scheduled to perform, arrived, he relayed how serious the situation was: At least three were believed to be dead, and several of his friends were on lockdown at the McDonald's downtown. Another artist that Dee manages had left his car near the Bank of America building and wandered around, recording what he saw. Dee posted a video online inviting anyone seeking refuge in the area to join them at RBC.
By the time 88 Killa arrived, not long before his scheduled 10:15 set time, it was clear the show wouldn't be happening. "He was like, 'I don't really even want to rap,'" Dee says. Only a handful of other people had managed to make it before the roads had been blocked. "A lot of [people who] were supposed to come couldn't leave, or they saw it on the news before they left."
That was when 88 Killa got onstage to inform everyone that they would be holding a prayer circle on the patio. RBC hosts a church service on Sunday mornings, but this decision was made spur of the moment. DJ Sean P. led the prayer, with Krum and 88 Killa adding some words as well.
"Normally, we pray at shows and it's a private thing. I felt compelled to pray because corporate prayer is powerful. I didn't see the downside in unifying in these tough circumstances," says Sean P. of what prompted to him to lead the prayer circle. "Afterward, [88 Killa] encouraged us all to use our platform to speak the truth and [practice] unity. It was a good moment in the midst of pain and tragedy."
It was an intimate moment, one where no one pulled out their phones to document the proceedings. Dee admits she's never experienced anything like it at a show before. "It was really refreshing, and not something you would normally see in a bar," she says. "I try not to mention religion too much; I have my own personal beliefs and my own personal relationship with God, and that's not up for debate. But even with that being said, at the beginning of night I said, 'I feel like we need to do a prayer circle.'"
Around midnight, they finally closed up RBC and Dee and a friend decided to wander around Deep Ellum. "It was super dead; there was really nobody out," she says. They stopped in at Two:Tone at Wits End, but the shows at Club Dada and Three Links were already over. "Everybody was inside. Usually, especially Thursday, Friday and Saturday, you go down the street and people are hanging out on the sidewalk... But the people there were definitely inside."
It was only when Dee got back to her car that the emotions of the night caught up with her. "I took a moment to check my phone and saw all the notifications of people who commented on my video [and] I started crying right there," she says. And she still had to drive all the way home to Fort Worth: "I came home and hugged my kids and just... man."
While the RBC show was abandoned on Thursday, Dee has plans to reschedule it, with a tentative date set for September 8. "Denmark Vessey is ready to fly back out. Everybody's bummed they didn't get to play the show," Dee says.