Sunday, May 30, 2010

First Friday free-for-all

Posted By on Sun, May 30, 2010 at 10:37 AM

Looking for free things to do on Friday, June 4? Here are some suggestions:

The exterior of the Domont Studio Gallery
  • The exterior of the Domont Studio Gallery

"Twin Musings: Art and Poetry" Reception: Squeal! Poetry plus art? Yes, please! Artist Amy Kindred invited poets to submit works that would complement her paintings. The result is Twin Muses: Art and Poetry, which Kindred will sign while some of the poets, including Neil Cain, John Domont, Devon Ginn, and Barry Harris, give readings. The event takes place at Domont Studio Gallery (545 S. East Street) from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Call 317-685-9634 for more information.

"As I See Indiana": Painter T.K. Nelson is having a show at his gallery (6331 N. Keystone Avenue) that will feature photographs by Robert Clark and jewelry by Yelena Adelfinskaya. I’m looking forward to seeing Nelson’s abstracts in person; I especially like his figure studies. Catch a glimpse of his work before the show on his website. The reception will be from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., during which time wine and appetizers will be served. Contact Nelson at 317-490-0678 for details.

Underground: The Elusive Evolution of the HIV Epidemic: This multimedia exhibition will feature works by persons living with or affected by HIV. I've not experienced art like this before; I'm quite intrigued about what will be on display. "Let Us Not Forget," a film about HIV in Indiana, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. The show will take place at the Athenaeum Artspace (401 E. Michigan Street) from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mass Ave Wine Shoppe will provide wine and food. Call 317-918-5253 with questions.

New Works: Tess Michalik, Alicia Obermeyer, Stuart Snoddy: The artists, including minimalist painter Michalik, will be showing their works at Healing Arts Indy (805 S. Meridian Street) from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. I've been in this space before; it's lovely with its high ceilings and blond hardwood floors. The exhibit will remain on display through June 30. See some of the art prior to the show by visiting http://secretstripes.wordpress.com. Call 317-955-7811 for more information.

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Remembering Dennis Hopper

Posted By on Sun, May 30, 2010 at 4:00 AM

Actor Dennis Hopper died yesterday from complications of prostate cancer. He was 74-years-old.

Hopper_Rider.jpg

Dennis Hopper always looked like he had fun playing villains. That playful twinkle in his eye made those characters magnetic rather than repulsive. I first saw him as the quick-witted mad bomber, Howard Payne in the bomb-on-a-bus-thriller, Speed.

When I roamed the video store aisles as a boy, it seemed that Dennis Hopper was the villain in everything. I vividly remember him in menacing positions on the box covers of Blue Velvet, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Red Rock West, the list goes on.

After seeing these films at an older age, I discovered these were not mere monsters, but rich, flesh-and-blood characters. And Hopper may play a lot of villains, but they are all different. And amazingly, they all feel like real, empathetic people, even the helium-huffing maniac, Frank Booth (Blue Velvet).

The best example of a complex, empathetic Hopper villain is the hitman, Lyle from Red Rock West - a film I watched merely a week ago oddly enough. Lyle is a Vietnam veteran and instead of portraying him as a disillusioned, demented soldier, Hopper makes him a bleeding heart patriot and a good Samaritan. A scene that lingers in my mind is the one in which Lyle insists on buying Nicolas Cage's character, a fellow veteran, a drink. When Cage refuses him at first, it's as if he is pouring salt on Lyle's lonely wounds. In the scene, Hopper looks genuinely bruised and broken - you feel for him.

This is how I remember Dennis Hopper. Others remember him as the director of the groundbreaking Easy Rider - that kaleidoscopic motorcycle trip through the heart of 1960s America that defied Hollywood conventions, aiming for gritty reality instead of grand-scale escapism.

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The point is that Hopper is an incredibly talented and versatile artist. He will be sorely missed.

 

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Writers' Center uses classes, outreach to survive

Posted By on Sat, May 29, 2010 at 8:00 PM

Barb Shoup
  • Barb Shoup

Like many nonprofits, the Writers' Center (812 East 67th Street) took a big financial hit at the end of 2008. Luckily, they're still with us, which is great news for anyone who writes or is even interested in writing. The Writers' Center aims to be the go-to place for those looking for resources (e.g., reliable advice) and I'd have to say they're well on their way.

The Writers' Center has been around since 1979 and is currently run by Barb Shoup, a six-time novelist who has been in charge of the center's programming for several years. Events include readings and classes, such as the popular So, Do It!, a chance for writers to sit together and write from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Marian University (Marion Hall, Room #222) on the first and third Sunday of every month. (The next meeting is June 6.) If you don't know what to write, Writers' Center volunteers will be on hand with writing exercises. Registration isn't required and it only costs $10 for non-members. Members of the Writers' Center get in free. For membership information, go here.

When things got difficult, decisions had to be made based on what was possible, especially in a world that's becoming more and more online-based. The Writers' Center redid their website and began doing a lot more outreach to writers of all ages. Especially popular is the memoir project, which has reached war veterans, senior citizens, and juvenile offenders. "People want to tell their life stories," Shoup says and smiles. An introductory class to memoir writing is coming up at the center in August.

For those who are nervous about writing in a large group, rest assured: Writers' Center classes generally have between five and 12 people. The teachers, who are all published writers and often teach at the college level, are prepared to work with a range of talent. "What we really have to sell," Shoup says, "is community. Writing is a lonely pursuit." Making things work to the Writers' Center's advantage has been challenging but a light comes to Shoup's face when she says, "[the work] feels like creative process... I think we're going to be around for a while."

Visit the Writers' Center's website to learn more about classes, writer's resources, and upcoming events. Email barbarashoup@indianawriters.org to start receiving a weekly email with information about upcoming events.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Tea Party Art

Posted By on Fri, May 28, 2010 at 1:30 PM

Artist Meg Michael's offering to the Tea Party movement.
  • Artist Meg Michael's offering to the Tea Party movement.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Know No Stranger at Central Library, May 26

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2010 at 1:49 PM

Mundanities
Know No Stranger
Central Library
Wed. May 26

The stage of Central Library’s Clowes Auditorium was set with a pile of blankets on the floor topped with a Ninja Turtles pillowcase, a cardboard television, and some beat-up living room furniture. It really didn’t look too different from some college apartments. This ordinary flair made perfect sense for the presentation of Mundanities, a free musical presented by Indy’s newest theater troupe and artists collective, Know No Stranger.

Mundanities is the journey of a young man struggling to discover the secret of writing a killer track for his band. The show was billed as a musical, with a KNS twist.

Maybe the twist came from the giant overhead projector screens, fabricated from what looked like white bed sheets sewn together. Spanning half the stage and slightly taller than the actors, the screens displayed hand-drawn transparencies that became moving sets. Picture cut-outs created appearances from Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and Michael Beethoven, Ludwig’s less talented brother.

Or perhaps the twist came from the musical numbers. From the opening notes, strummed on a banjo, the songs carried the feel of a jam session with friends. The subjects of the songs are appropriately mundane. “Socks” contemplated the woes of going out in the rain when you really that Sum41 CD from your car, but can’t find your shoes (No one needs a Sum41 CD that badly). “Name Game” recalled the discomfort of coming across someone you know, but can’t remember who they are. All relatable, all hilarious.

As the show progressed, more musicians—more friends—joined the band, culminating in the finale, “Just Be Yourself,” with the whole cast moving into the aisles, leading the audience in a sing-along. The song’s message is corny advice we’ve all heard, but it’s also the kind of advice that never gets old when offered by a close friend.

So, maybe that’s the KNS twist. Mudanities wasn’t pretending to be high art, because that’s not what KNS is about. The show, and maybe KNS at large, is about doing what you know, doing what you love, and having fun while doing it. Even when a joke fell flat or an actor forgot a line, things kept moving with a laid back enthusiasm.

In the May 19 issue of NUVO, Michael Runge, founder of KNS was quoted, “The idea behind Know No Stranger is that everybody’s a friend, and anyone can do this—something positive for the community.”

With all the charm of your best friend’s garage band or your younger brother’s video blog, for its brief performance, Mundanities seemed to bring the audience together, as if we were all eating chips and salsa, playing Scrabble together.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Representative elements

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 2010 at 4:00 PM

Taylor Smith is destined to be my best friend. A contemporary abstract painter, she was living in Germany when I visited as a foreign exchange student. We both saw the Berlin Wall before it came down, although she was the only one to participate in creating art on the structure along with artist Keith Haring. I own two of his prints and I love her work. Ergo, besties.

Smith studied traditional and contemporary painting at the Academy of Fine Arts Nuremberg where she married her knowledge of still life works with a contemporary vision. Objects in a still life might include a table laden with fruit, a wine bottle, a lit candle, and a skull. Smith paints horizontal and vertical lines that mimic a table and/or window’s sharp angles, adds varying amounts of wine to acrylic paint and the canvas or linen, smudges with charcoal to recreate candle smoke, and adds stencils featuring skulls. Her wine chemistry series, which I first saw during this year’s Stutz Artists Open House, incorporates any number of these elements (or others), but most often the aforementioned lines and circles indicative of wineglass bases.

Chemical Still Life 92
  • Chemical Still Life 92

The chemical formulas found on many of Smith’s works are related to the fermentation of wine, such as those on display at the Charles Krug/Mondavi Gallery in Napa, California. The locale provides a natural market for Smith’s paintings whose sale and representation serendipitously began after she journeyed west for a wine tasting. She is represented locally by ARTBOX Gallery (217 West 10th Street) and also by the Tim Faulkner Gallery (Louisville, KY), Midtown Artery Gallery (Greenville, SC), and Gallery MAR (Park City, Utah).

Field Chromatics 1845 - A Working Title
  • Field Chromatics 1845 - A Working Title

Smith’s work is influenced by her travels around the world and by artists like Jackson Pollack and Andy Warhol. Her time in Germany inspired confidence and creativity and a perspective she wouldn’t have gotten stateside. A trip to Thailand, Japan, and China led to work that departs from her analytical side and explores an abstract landscape with wildflowers.

Secret Language of Zen 02
  • Secret Language of Zen 02

To see more of Taylor Smith’s work, visit the Starbucks in Broad Ripple (854 Broad Ripple Avenue), where you’ll find her work displayed over the fireplace. You can also view her website at www.abstractmodern.com or email taylor@abstractmodern.com to set up a time to tour her studio. Be sure you contact her first since I’ll already be there drinking wine and talking giclée prints with my new best friend.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brush strokes, snapshots, and beyond

Posted By on Sun, May 23, 2010 at 2:04 PM

Aiden On Top of the World
  • David Cook
  • Aiden On Top of the World

I'm standing outside the gallery space where David Cook shows art (a couple doors west of Forty-Five Degrees, located at 765 Massachusetts Avenue) when a clearly-drunk guy ambles by. He says unkind things about some of the art (which he later retracts) and the restaurant, not realizing Cook's connection to either place. The man is allegedly an artist and borrows a pen to write down his contact information for the unflappable Cook, who says encouraging things about being in touch for future exhibitions. With that kind of aplomb, I can see Cook going far in the art world.

Untitled by David Cook
  • Untitled by David Cook

Cook is a self-taught artist whose work includes photography, painting, and sculpture. He recently showed one of his paintings in Chicago and has set his sights on taking his art “everywhere.” Cook had photos he wanted people to see and contacted various galleries but wasn’t interested in putting someone else in control of his work. He spoke with Shannon Linker, Director of Artist Services with the Arts Council of Indianapolis, who told him about First Friday events. Forty-Five Degrees is now one of the stops on the monthly tour and proves to be an excellent venue. Exhibiting at the restaurant gives the work a new audience; it takes away the stuffy feeling at some galleries where it’s déclassé to ask how much the work costs. The availability of tasty martinis (try the pomegranate) certainly doesn’t hurt.

Not surprisingly, Cook won’t work with anyone whose work he doesn’t like. The tour he takes me on includes portraits by Lobyn Hamilton, a DJ whose portraits of musicians like Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix are made from broken pieces of vinyl records, and photographer Cody Holliday, who is now based in Austin, TX. Stay tuned as Cook — who is inspired by “lines, forms, symmetry, chaos, and women” — continues sharing his vision with Indy.

A photograph by David Cook
  • A photograph by David Cook

Learn more about Cook and soli deo gallery via the indyarts.org artist database.

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That’s my spot

Posted By on Sun, May 23, 2010 at 10:00 AM

wotps.jpg

I’m trying to identify the shape of the stage at Write On: The Poetry Spot (3326 Clifton Street). I’m vacillating between guitar body and an infinity symbol when poet Matthew Davis calls it a peanut. (Yep.) Davis, back in Indianapolis after a seven-month stint in Senegal, was the former host of this poetry gathering when it was held at The Earth House Collective (237 N. East Street). When he left, his best friend and fellow spoken word artist, Sleepy P, took over as emcee. Now that Davis is back, Sleepy has set up shop in the two-story limestone building set off with electric-blue lights and is rebuilding his audience. Three weeks into being on the near-west side, the room is standing room only as the hour gets later.

Things kick off every Friday night beginning at 10:00 p.m. and wrap up three hours later. I’ve heard some pretty amazing poetry, from as-yet-undiscovered talent to Tasha Jones, a poet from Indy who now travels internationally and has performed on the Showtime at the Apollo stage. The group seems like family and sometimes is — Sleepy P’s cousin deejays the event during the show. Most poets perform from memory, passionately delivering pieces in storyteller rhyme. Should someone forget their words, “take your time” floats out of the crowd and calms whoever is standing under the stage lights. Between poems, Sleepy encourages the crowd to snap, clap, yell, and/or say the popular phrase, “That’s my spot!”

Each Friday, open mic performers sandwich two sets from a featured poet. On Friday, it was a young poet and singer named Queen Victoria whose future is as bright as her stilettos are tall. Sleepy and several Indy performers are working to make Indy a destination for traveling artists. With the talent available, I doubt it will be long before arriving an hour early will be enough to guarantee a seat.

Admission is $7 just to listen and $5 if you’re there to perform. Arrive early to get on the open mic list.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Has Oliver Stone gone soft?

Posted By on Thu, May 20, 2010 at 4:00 AM

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Part of the fun in waiting for Oliver Stone's films now is anticipating what stunt he'll pull next. World Trade Center depicted the events of 9/11 as we were still recovering from them. W. was groundbreaking in its portrayal of a sitting president. Now, Stone is releasing a sequel to his 1987 capitalism saga, Wall Street in a time of economic unrest. The film will be in theatres on September 24.

By tapping into the American zeitgeist with laser precision, Stone is more of a provocateur now than ever. However, World Trade Center and W. don't match the dark edge of JFK, Natural Born Killers or Nixon. Their edge is evident only in their basic premise. World Trade Center was not a searing account of 9/11, but a rather tepid disaster film reminiscent of a made-for-TV movie. And W. was not a critical look at our 43rd President, but a surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of the highly satirized figure.

Stone's evolution as a filmmaker is most evident in the closing shot of W. Bush (Josh Brolin) gazes up at the starry night sky, as if contemplating his place in the universe. With this shot, Stone shows for the first time that he doesn't have all the answers, that he can't cut through the darkness of the political world. The turmoil of our times is made all the more frightening by his inability to reach a solid conclusion about it. Like Bush, all he can do is look up and wonder. His films are becoming less hard-hitting and more open and ethereal.

Although I admired W. for underplaying Bush's political follies, I miss Stone's aggressive filmmaking style. His films in the 90s were political movies for the MTV generation, films with the bite and immediacy of editorial cartoons. Nixon and Natural Born Killers were living, breathing Ralph Steadman drawings, fun-house mirrors of reality. Stone challenged audiences by forcing them to stare into the abyss, at the dark heart of America. In Nixon, our government is depicted as a mystical beast that consumes all within its path. "I want to tame it enough to make it do some good," Nixon says. Our economy is also a wild animal and I'm hoping Stone treats it as such in the upcoming, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Based on early reviews of the film pouring in this week, it seems Stone is doing exactly that. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman said the film is "a darkly exciting steel-and-glass vision of piranhas in the water, of ruthlessly wealthy, nattily dressed men doing whatever it takes to make themselves wealthier". That certainly sounds like the kind of otherworldly, fever dream of a film Stone made in the 90s, at the peak of his powers.

What are your thoughts on Oliver Stone's new style and Wall Street 2?

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Touchdowns, bouts, and spandex... oh my

Posted By on Wed, May 19, 2010 at 1:57 PM

Participants at a water aerobics class
  • Participants at a water aerobics class

One of the subjects I can cover on my beat (she says while sliding a press pass into her fedora and searching for a scandal to expose) is sports and recreation. I’m not a sports person — I like to make the athletically-inclined twitch by saying things like, “I hope the Pacers score lots of touchdowns tonight!” — so I wasn’t entirely sure what I could discuss with any kind of authority. Then I realized I could cover women’s sports. Huzzah! Gone was the visual of me painting my face blue and white and trying to fit in at a Colts game, a blog which would have resulted in a lot of phrases like, “Some guy had the ball and that made all these OTHER guys mad and they jumped on him. The end.”

Although I don’t entirely understand football, despite my best efforts and many kind people explaining downs and attempts and why the GAME KEEPS STOPPING, I’m still interested in seeing the Indiana Speed play. I would also like to finally see the Naptown Roller Girls compete. I went to a bout last year in Detroit, so I know the general idea behind roller derby. (Skate fast. Turn left. Repeat.) And then, of course, there’s the Indiana Fever, although I can’t approach anyone on that team quite yet. I’ve seen some of the players with their height and hotness and I descend into a hand-flippy flustermumble that makes me want to sit down and drink lemonade while I think about puppies. Fever indeed.

While I work on covering professional sports, I thought I’d discuss my own athleticism. (Seriously.) After a long absence, I’m headed to water aerobics at the Jordan YMCA (8400 Westfield Road) tomorrow night. I’m nervous as though I have forgotten how to swim. Some trepidation is swimsuit-related. (Oh, the clinging!) Really I’m just concerned about keeping up because I'm out of practice, but I know I’ll be fine. I love water and my bounty makes me especially buoyant. I shall bob and crunch and kick and have, ahem, a gay old time.

For information about water aerobics (a.k.a. aqua fitness) at the YMCA (one of many places throughout the city that offers the activity), visit http://www.indymca.org/.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Rupert: Final episode of "Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains"

Posted By on Mon, May 17, 2010 at 12:59 PM

After ten years and twenty seasons, Survivor has really worked out an incredibly effective TV show format and formula. The final show is the icing on the cake, what with its sentimental look back on this season and past seasons featuring the Heroes and Villains. And the final three days on the island were wildly entertaining.

Highlights: Sandra throws Russell’s hat into the fire. She is one stone cold bitch, and I mean that in a good way: “That’s for everything he’s done to me… I don’t care.”

As the final three face the jury, Coach delivers a rehearsed, Shakespearean soliloquy that had everyone in the room where I watched the program doubled over in laughter. I think I might have peed my pants a little when he concluded by saying, “The journey of King Arthur has ended.”

Rupert’s final speech, on the other hand, was no laughing matter. “Russell, I want to start with you. If you think you should be proud of how you got here, you’re sadly mistaken… (You are) a disgusting human being.” Ouch. Even Jeff Probst looked impressed by our boy’s steely, calmly delivered verbal assault.

Finally, Sandra got the jury votes needed to win one million dollars. It’s her second time to collect the big check — she won Pearl Islands in 2003 when she and Rupert did their first shows. Then, in a two-man showdown between Russell and Rupert based on votes from fans, the evil Russell once again triumphed. Though I’d have loved to see that money go to Rupert (and thought he’d win it), you gotta admit that Russell earned this reward with his outstandingly devious, hard-fought play.

FINAL SURVIVOR THOUGHTS:

Some people have complained that with the tiny bikinis, all the jiggly parts, the pixilated nudity, the oiled-up bare male chests, etc., that Survivor has become a TV soft porn delivery system. To these folks, let me just say this: “duh!” The show is full of what one particularly roguish, indelicate friend of mine (Scott Sanders) refers to as “boner shots.” Does this type of hedonistic, gratuitously sexual prime-time-TV content signify the end of modern Western civilization? Yeah, probably. Whatever.

The photography this season was breathtaking. From the beginning of the show with the Air Force helicopters swooping in, to all the transition shots of the island and its various creatures and natural wonders, we were treated to some spectacular images. And I don’t just mean the boner shots.

I noticed that the Survivors all had canteens this season. I remember that on the All-Star series six years ago, this was not the case. In fact, the contestants were drinking rainwater that had collected on jungle leaves just to quench their thirst. My guess is that CBS legal and medical staff have decided that they have to provide fresh water — otherwise, even with the waivers all contestants must sign, their liability is too high. Bad things can happen to the body when it gets dehydrated, including serious heart stuff. I’m sure there’ve been many high-level network discussions of this topic: “How do we push these people to their physical limit, but not kill them?”

Finally, congratulations to our own hometown Hero, Rupert, for making it so far in a game where a lot of strong players were eliminated early. Personally, my one beef with the show is that Rupert did not get the screen time he deserved. I mean, they could’ve called this season “The Russell Hantz and Parvati Show.” Not that those two didn’t deserve a lot of focus — they played a great game. I just think that, for whatever reason, Rupert got shortchanged by the producers. Where were the shots of Rupert catching fish with his bare hands (besides on the Internet)? Too much Russell, not enough Rupert; too much conniving, not enough surviving.

Thanks for reading — I hope everything is great on your island. Aargh.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Acceptable poetry

Posted By on Sun, May 16, 2010 at 4:18 PM

Gabriel Harley
  • Gabriel Harley

Q: What do you call a guitarist who breaks up with his girlfriend?

A: Homeless.

That’s one of the first jokes that musician Gabriel Harley ever told me. In the years since we met in a writing class at IUPUI, I’ve learned a lot about the music business, including audio engineering terms I had once reserved for cooking (read: mixing) and other tidbits that will either help me win more categories on Jeopardy! or just make me more interesting at parties. Harley has begun recording his fourth CD, which will join Talisman (1999), Shuffling Off the Darkness (2002), and Halfway Home (2008) when it’s released this fall. We sat down to talk songwriting and performing. Surprisingly, I learned more about poetry in the process.

Songwriting, Harley explained, is like writing poetry with restraints. Though pop songs and poetry are two different animals, they share striking similarities: “The best songs play on poetry. They show but don’t tell and use concrete language and strong, sensory images.” When I mentioned that rhyming poetry drives me insane, Harley said, “Music takes some of the weight off the rhyme.” As a songwriter for more than 15 years, including trips to Nashville, TN, to co-write material, Harley is well-versed in the process. He noted that he’s become more cognizant of the message he’s trying to get across, knowing that songs need to tell a good story, something the listener will think about later.

Though Harley is a songwriter, he also does post-production work in his studio, Audio Affairs, some of which includes creating music for film, video games, Internet, television, and voiceovers. He’s worked with a variety of folks originally from or still in Indianapolis, including The Gates of Slumber, The Playboy Psychonauts, Jason Webley and Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Bizness As Usual, Cliff Snyder of the Indianapolis Songwriters Café, and Melissa Schott. Harley also created a recording scholarship through the New World Youth Symphony Orchestra, which annually allows a high school senior to record a project at Audio Affairs without constraint of budget. Two words: Awesome. Sauce.

Here's a clip of Harley performing a solo acoustic version of "Broke Down" from Halfway Home:

Catch up with more of Harley's work at www.gabrielharley.com and www.audio-affairs.com.

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