Followers of the Indianapolis scene might notice a couple familiar faces among the many out-of-towners visiting this weekend for the Midwest Music Summit.
The Austin, Texas, band Hitchhike features the voice, guitar and songs of Kyle Barnett, formerly of the now-defunct local band the Lovemeknots.
Hitchhike will play one official and two unofficial MMS gigs this weekend: 7:45 p.m. on Friday at Indy CD & Vinyl; 10 p.m. on Friday at the Mousetrap, with local friends Gentleman Caller; and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Melody Inn, for a breakfast set with local friends Phyllis, which includes former Lovemeknot Dave Magee.
The Lovemeknots were an amiable three-guitar pop quintet that released three independent full-length albums in the early '90s. Their insistent rhythms and simple but solid melodies often drew comparisons to the Velvet Underground and Yo La Tengo, and they frequently shared gigs with the likeminded Vulgar Boatmen.
Judging from Hitchhike's debut five-song EP, Night Light, the band should please fans of the old group while intriguing new listeners with its clever guitar interplay and greater variation in rhythm and mood. Barnett shares the guitar, vocal and writing duties with John Alderson, an arrangement that sets up an interesting tension and contrast. Barnett's tunes are economical, straightforward slices of life; Alderson's are more eccentric, with his angst-ridden voice adding a likeable neurotic edge.
Filling out the lineup are Barnett's wife Lisa on drums, Jonathan Elbom on bass and Lynn Boland on keyboards, horns and other instruments. Boland can't make the Indy gigs - something about getting married Sunday - but another former Lovemeknot, Evan Finch, has agreed to play the euphonium on selected songs. No kidding.
Since leaving Indiana, Kyle and Lisa Barnett have been "seeing the USA on the master's degree program," pursuing higher education in Ohio, North Carolina and now Austin. Kyle is teaching at the University of Texas and seeking a doctorate with a dissertation on the early recording industry. The band is currently recording its first full-length release.
Not surprisingly, travel is a theme in many Hitchhike tunes, notably the New Order-inspired gem "I'm Not Tired" that opens the EP.
"A friend asked me, 'Do you have some obsession with transportation?'" Kyle says. "Once you leave home, it's like you're a permanent observer or tourist."
Texas' famed "live music capital" is a mixed bag for musicians, Kyle says. The bustling scene is exciting, but new bands can easily get lost in the shuffle, and the sprawling geography of Texas makes it tough to play gigs out of town.
"I miss being able to do little jaunts into Kentucky or Ohio. Houston's four hours away. Dallas is four hours away," Kyle says. "It's weird to see Jimmie Dale Gilmore at the Office Depot. It's like, 'Shouldn't you be on a horse somewhere?'"
Scott Hall writes about music and stuff at www.onthebeat.org.