Birdmen of Alcatraz 

Genre: Hard rock/rap

In the late ’80s, it seemed the combination of rap and hard rock was limited to Run D.M.C./Aerosmith and then Anthrax/Public Enemy. In Indianapolis, the Birdmen of Alcatraz proved that you didn’t need a video or record contract to combine the two powers.

From 1989-1996, the Birdmen toured North America and represented the city’s music scene. Singer Rusty Redenbacher (aka, That Dread-Locked Guy at Northside News) graduated from guest rapper to band singer. He was excited to be part of the experience.

“I had no idea how blessed I was. A lot of people gave me legs,” Redenbacher says. “That band set us apart. When we first came out, we were a little more funk-based. We got compared to the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. I would freestyle a lot.”

Before and the Internet, the band would spend hours at Kinko’s working on flyers and posters for the mailing list. Then they hit the road.

“We usually went out for a week or two,” he says. “Sometimes a month. That got to be harder. It was all DIY shit. You play shows out of town and met other bands. Traded shows with others. It was a real grind.”

The band took a “much needed break” in 1996, and Redenbacher formed the Mudkids in 1997. “We always try to get together when we can,” he says. “The music was so good. I still get good feelings.”

The Birdmen have resurfaced for one-off shows for special events, including the Midwest Music Summit and the closing of the Patio.

“That Patio show; I paid for it. I was so sore,” Redenbacher says. “I’m not in the same shape to do what I did in my 20s, but you can’t cheat the audience. They’re expecting that kind of shit from the Birdmen.”

Fellow Birdman Richard “Dino” Codalata says he still gets feedback from Birdmen fans.

“We still hear about it daily,” he says. “A lot of bands playing now are saying how much we influenced them.”

Codalata says he’s ready to perform live again with his band, Stepchildren, featuring singer Lucinda Russell. “We do real old Heart and Fleetwood Mac stuff,” he says. “I’ve had to put everything on hold for three and a half years, and that’s all about to change.”

Codalata is adding guitar to Redenbacher’s dark new Lazarus project, and the two will collaborate on a future funk project.

The Indianapolis music scene family tree is bound to wind around the Birdmen of Alcatraz. When you least expect it, or when you need it most, don’t be surprised if the band soars again, even if it’s for one night and for the right cause.

“I love the fuckin’ Birdmen, dude. I got nothing but hugs and smiles to them,” Redenbacher says. “I love those dudes.”

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