All-ages Indianapolis: stuck in a rut 

The all-ages scene in Indianapolis has never had it easy. Whenever an all-ages venue opens, it seems to get shut down before it can get off the ground. Noise complaints, zoning issues, parking disputes; all have hastened the demise of various venues. Music-loving youth in this city cannot seem to catch a break.

Last year, our dear friends at INtake-Metromix-Indy.Com-Whatever ran a cover story on the all-ages scene in the city. In true INtake-Metromix-Indy.Com-Whatever fashion, the story was half-baked. The piece focused on only two aspects of our all-ages scene: Piradical Productions and The Sanctuary.

I immediately wrote-off The Sanctuary for several reasons. For starters, the space is in Fishers, so they aren’t doing any favors to our centrally challenged city. Also, on their myspace, we learn that there is “No Moshing” and “No Cussing”. No Moshing? No Cussing? NO THANKS!

The Piradical Productions crew, commonly referred to as “Pirads” (who I will talk about more in later posts), are more complicated. For those not involved in local scene politics, The Pirads run an all-ages space in the basement of a church at Central Ave. and Westfield Blvd., in Broad Ripple. The space can hold 250-300 people and it is all-ages. Pretty cool, right?

Sadly, the E.S. Jungle (an unfortunate name for a venue, indeed) isn’t nearly as cool as it could be. One of the main problems with the venue is that the promoters aren't booking shows appropriate for the size of the venue. Booking a show with an expected 50-person-turnout at a venue with a 300 capacity is a good way to ensure that the show will feel sparsely attended and awkward. Smaller shows should be booked at smaller venues.

E.S. Jungle: Small Show + Big Venue = Bad Idea
  • E.S. Jungle: Small Show + Big Venue = Bad Idea

While I am grateful for what good they do for the music scene, the Piradical crew has failed to use their space to lift Indianapolis out of the punk rock doldrums. In comparable cities St. Louis or Louisville E.S. Jungle-sized venues host bands like the Dillinger Four or The Lawrence Arms, popular, nationally-touring, mid-sized bands. Instead, the E.S. Jungle books shows that are way too small, or they book the same bigger shows over and over, like (the laughable) Flatfoot 56, (the mediocre) Company of Thieves and (the unlistenable) The Last Domino. To the Pirads' credit, the E.S. Jungle has housed a few perfect shows that were both packed and high-energy. But those shows are the exception, not the rule.

On the bright side, a new venue opened last year Sandwiched between The Emerson (another under-achieving all-ages venue) and J Clyde’s Pub on East 10th Street, The Dojo is a breath of fresh air. It's a small venue that isn’t someone’s house. It’s close enough to a bar for those who are of age to grab a drink in between bands. It's easy for just about anyone to book a show there. Right now, The Dojo is our best bet for a better all-ages music scene.

As a basement-show buff, the all-ages issue is near and dear to my heart. This is an issue that I will continue to tackle for as long as I can. I am getting sick of having to drive to Cincinnati or Chicago to see shows that should be here. This won't be the last of this you'll hear from me.

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