It was already late on Friday night when a friend of mine informed me The Kemps were playing a house show somewhere nearby. Having already seen these guys a week or two ago, I knew I couldn’t pass this up. Besides, I love a good house show: the sheer, raw experience of it. This, I knew, would be good.
Later, much later, we found ourselves driving around the neighborhood behind College Ave., up near the Red Key, when we knew we’d found the right place. There was a crowd of what must’ve been 200 people milling about in the lawn, on the porch, and inside of the brightly-lit three-story house on the corner. How such a scene was permitted to happen in an otherwise sleepy residential neighborhood is a mystery, one that would be solved at around 2:30 a.m. when the police showed up to clear the party.
Vacation Club were the first to set up shop in the low, musty basement that night; within a minute, the band was dripping with sweat. The bass player, dressed like a preppy who stepped straight off the bus from the Hamptons, quickly removed his shirt as the band rocked a set of almost hypnotically-loud and vocally-unintelligible songs. In that moment, lyrics hardly seemed to matter, and the lead singer’s strangely high-pitched voice added to the weird, psychedelic garage rock vibe of this band. Fans in the basement pounded heating ducts in approval.
Oreo Jones took the mic a bit later to mellow things out, adding his free-flowing, old-school hip-hop grooves into the mix. His bearded beatsman sat sublimely at the computer behind him, and his bass player provided the undercarriage. Again, it was only possible to catch a word here or there, but that was hardly the point: it was an opportunity to watch a professional at work, free styling three feet away from you, for free.
Finally, at 1:30 or so, The Kemps took up the controls and the basement reached full capacity. Looking around, I could see a cast of characters — both musicians and music fans — who are mainstays on the Indy music scene. Members of Slothpop, Homeschool and Marmoset — to name a few — were there to support one of the hottest emerging bands in the city.
When The Kemps started to play, the bass immediately took over and the basement became a den of subterranean chaos, the sound getting muffled to an almost sub-sonic aura that only the crashing symbols and snare could pierce through successfully. In spite of the naturally limited acoustics that night, it was easy to see that The Kemps were on the same page, and you still got an immediate sense of what they’re going for: 60s-era garage rock in the grittiest sense of the word. They play fast and tight, with plenty of attitude, and they’re good.
As the set wore on, lead singer Jared, in his trademark sleeveless leather jacket, began jumping and moshing in the crowd, falling backward into the few fans brave enough to stand right in the front of the band. By the end of the set, everyone seemed to be jumping, almost hitting their heads off the joists and floorboards very closely overhead.
Later, as the fans and musicians alike sat on the porch to cool off, the inevitable happened: Indianapolis P.D. showed up to bid the merry-makers good night. Those who may have been under 21 shuffled off the porch in a concealed kind of haste. Those of us who are, well, much older, grudgingly got to our feet and left the house at the insistence of the hosts and the police, calling it quits on what was a great night of music.