"Hellcat" Matt Christman takes it easy. Photo by M Stanton Renner.

"Hellcat" Matt Christman takes it easy. Photo by M Stanton Renner.

"Hellcat" Matt brings punk to Broad Ripple 

For every Michael Jordan or Billy Joe Armstrong, there are thousands of people who throw their dreams under the bus in order to make a living. But some people, like Matt Christman, have found a way to turn "making a living" into something a little closer to "following your dreams."

Christman, an Indiana native, has been a member of the local music scene since his early high school years. While he's not currently in any bands, he pulls his weight by bringing national punk acts through the Rock Lobster in Broad Ripple.

After listening to bands like Operation Ivy and Rancid, Christman joined his first band, The Skitzofranticks, in 1996, and adopted the punk rock nom de guerre Hellcat Matt.

"Indianapolis was a big punk city in the mid-'90s," Christman recalled during a recent interview. "We had a lot of bigger names coming through. Even Rancid played here twice over the span of a few weeks in '94." (Those two shows fell on Oct. 4 at The Emerson and Oct. 19 at Second Avenue.) "The all-ages venues in the city at the time seemed to be the key to attracting touring punk bands. The Emerson was a really cool and busy place — but I have no idea what the hell is going on there now," he added with a chuckle.

The Emerson Theater, the long-lived and rather dilapidated Eastside all-ages venue, is still in operation, but its current metal-centric lineup has left a vacuum in the local punk scene. Thus, according to Christman, "We need a new Emerson, or at least we need a new venue to replace what the Emerson represented to the scene. Right now, the crowds are divided. There are no 18+ shows in the city anymore. Everything is either at a bar or at some youth center. That automatically means smaller turnouts at the shows."

Christman isn't one to complain without trying to change the situation. He proudly booked his first show in a pole barn in Noblesville when he was 15, and he's never really looked back. During a stint playing with mid-tempo ska-punks Lockstep, Christman got serious about the prospects of live music.

"I was working at Rock Lobster, and Sound Man Dan was doing all the shows there," Christman said. "He ran the sound and everything. I learned a lot from him about stage management and the whole business."

It was a good thing that Christman paid such close attention, because he would eventually have to fly solo.

"Around 2007, Sound Man Dan left Rock Lobster and I slid into his shoes," he continued. "My first big show was in 2008 with [Chicago ska band] Deals Gone Bad, [Cincinnati ska band] The Pinstripes and of course Lockstep."

Christman left Rock Lobster briefly in 2009 to help jump-start the newly revitalized Vollrath Tavern.

"I booked lots of smaller shows there to get things flowing, but my first big move was booking Off With Their Heads," Christman said.

While the 2010 OWTH show was a success, there were just too many problems with the location of the Vollrath to make it worth his while.

"The location was just too remote to really draw people," he explained. "I couldn't really reach the Downtown and Fountain Square scenes, let alone the Broad Ripple scene."

Luckily, Rock Lobster was more than happy to have Christman back after he left the Vollrath. Once back, he hit the ground running, scoring a string of victories in 2010 by booking shows featuring Nothington, The Swingin' Utters, The Riot Before and Valient Thorr, to name a few.

"I definitely couldn't have booked Valient Thorr or Swingin' Utters at the Vollrath," Christman mentioned. "it just wouldn't have turned out right."

Christman looks forward to an even better 2011. In addition to booking shows at Rock Lobster, Christman manages Junker, one of the most exciting punk rock bands in the city. With Christman at their side, Junker's future looks all that much brighter. In fact, the Broad Ripple music scene looks a lot brighter with Christman working it from the inside.

"I'm having a great time," he added. "I just hope I can take things up a notch."

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