Paul F. P. Pogue
Saturday, March 18
The Joel Conner Basement Music Center
Joel Conner and Susan Wynenken performing as This Boy's Fool, one of 10 Conner bands performing at IconFest.
As house party plans go, this one had to be filed under "lunatic ambition." Five hours, 10 bands, more than two dozen artists and the musical history of four decades all wrapped up in one show, cramped into Joel Conner's basement, fully converted into a light-and-sound show.
Joel Conner has been a fixture in various endeavors of local music since 1978, performing in nearly a dozen bands, most of which were represented here. Indianapolis music is a many-faceted gem that will drive you crazy if you try to take it in all at once, but IconFest '06 was a close examination of one of those facets, a single moment that may not represent everything at once but nonetheless cuts straight through the face of Indy music and catches it at surprising angles.
There's an interesting musicography to be heard just in the wide range of bands Conner's been in: the 1960s/'70s Southern-fried sound of Schizophonix ; soft-rock Triple Threat; the early-'80s take of Undercover; and modern alt-rock with Tigris and Indiscretion.
Conner's stage presence is an unusual dichotomy; on the one hand, he seems to genuinely enjoy the whole rock-star thing more than any musician I've ever seen. He throws his whole body into the bluesy guitar riffs, like Clapton on a rampage; he has a higher TWPS (Townshend Windmills Per Solo) than is recommended by doctors. But for all that, he never forces himself center stage, leaving the spotlight to the frontmen and -women of the various bands.
Indiscretion remains his most polished endeavor, ripping through "Helter Skelter" and the Powerpuff Girls theme with equal intensity. But another remarkable showing came from Conner's latest project: teaming with Susan Wyneken as This Boy's Fool, performing soft-edged, Dido-styled adult contemporary work.
You can tell some of these bands haven't played together in years, but retain a raw, unpolished strength, kind of like a jam session in progress where everyone knows the notes but takes their own pace getting to them. Doesn't hold them back at all. In this city, that's usually the only way anything musical ever gets done anyway.