The music scene in Indianapolis is growing exponentially. It's estimated there are approximately 1,000 bands or individual musicians in the city that either play gigs or record albums. In the midst of such rapid growth, it's sometimes hard to tell who's who.
To that end, NUVO assembled a small panel of writers, editors and musicians and queried them on whom they believe are the 40 hottest local acts.
NUVO's jazz columnist, Chuck Workman, assembled a similar list of the Top 10 local jazz acts. Look at the following list as a barometer, not a complete guide. Many hours of argument ensued before we agreed on 40 acts. Similar arguments would have ensued had the list been 100 in length.
Brando's intelligent and intricate sound has a very malleable and lucent feel to it. To truly try and break it down with a name would bring it somewhere around indie pop alt rock. Brando sounds like the softer, creamier side of Guided by Voices and Big Star.
Even Homer Nods Seemingly existing in a euphonic and highly stylized mod time warp, their sound is perfectly preserved and reminiscent of "60"s style Brit pop. There is a rich and velvety perceptibility in Patrick Bower"s ability to write and arrange melody and instrumentation.
The Common have their collective hand on the pulse of the pop rock song-writing machine. They hold the blueprints for well-built pop tunes and harmonic delivery in the vein of the Who and the Beatles and always provide a definitive set of quality energetic pop.
The Mumble are Indy's elite, gritty power pop trio. It's hard to believe there are only three of them when you hear how full and developed their sound is. It's not hard to sum them up: They rock, consistently and without signs of weakness.
Theirs is a pliant soundscape that fuses elements including, but not limited to, jazz, funk, hip-hop and rock. MabLab owns the ability to transcend the limits of popular music, which is evident in their synergistic sound that amplifies their talent, diversity and social awareness.
Indy's best-imported musician, June Panic plays delicate but dirty Americana-tinged "60s pop rock. Panic's signature voice, nasal and a bit whiny as it may be, perfectly suits the delivery of his songs lamenting disappointment and misunderstanding. His music is heartsick and aching. Scumgrief Accurately self-proclaimed as "melodic groove-driven metal," Scumgrief has the ability to get the unlikely metal fan head-banging. They prove that metal can be intense and aggressive without losing the elements of true musicianship and heart. The boundaries of what metal is perceived to be are not only wrong, but also irrelevant to them.
Paging Raymond easily satisfies a jonesing for quality acoustic rock. They deliver an energetic stage show with an organic musical sensibility and the whirling ability to mix alt-country and pop rock.
Originally dismissed as Ramones-drenched kids barely out of high school (which, to an extent, they are), the Hooligans are an excellent pop-punk band that's gotten better and better the more they play. On their horizon: an album produced by The Slurs' Jim Kuczkowski.
The Impossible Shapes
The collective of talent that is The Impossible Shapes shows obvious signs of maturation with a gorgeous knack for melody and lucid reflection in their ability to write great pop songs. The Shapes are learning how to master the art of being able to take their sound from a playful tangent to veering in and out of the darker realm of "60s psychedelia with seamless transition.
Loretta fuses strong guitar chords with organically-layered melodic progressions and the most amazing harmonies heard in Indy and beyond. Their infectious energy and obvious love for what they produce beams through their live performances.
Making alt-country pleasingly digestible for rock fans. The quality of Citizens Band transcends the stigma of "country" music that many rock enthusiasts have a tendency to subscribe to. In the recognizable style of Uncle Tupelo, Citizens Band puts on a high-energy set of grass-roots rock and roll.
Seven Degrees From Center
With metal bands popping up with generic abundance, Seven Degrees From Center pushes the expectations of what modern rock metal is and what it can be. Their live show is an emotionally-draining experience and their music goes the distance from a soft melodic presence to a fever pitch of guitar-driven leads and powerful vocals.
A near impossible task would be to define the sound of the band f.u.z.z. Self-describing their sound as "schizophonic," that, really, is about as close as one can get. They create a distinct atmosphere with skilled vocal presence that floats around the ambient and chaotic layered textures of their songs.
They are a nice rock mix of the Bodines and the Chieftains with the same sensibility of authentic fusion as the Drovers. It doesn"t take a Celtic music enthusiast to get into their music. They incorporate modern pop influences and stylings to make their original "kilt rock" tangible to any listener.
The One Hundreds
Originally based out of Muncie, The One Hundreds are a pop rock outfit with distinctive guitar hooks and an analog ambience like no other band in Indy. With a Brit pop foundation, the guys incorporate passive punk and mod elements and apply them into straight-shooting rock "n" roll.
Indy's beloved, with their minimalist, post-punk sound. The influences of Sebadoh and GBV are loosely woven into their original brand of slacker rock.
"Fest came to Indianapolis from Chicago to teach this city how the rap game is done. Aligned with some of the best producers in the country, and armed with enough rhyme skills to stock a small record label, "Fest is looking at national recording offers now. Don"t be surprised to hear him turn up on BET sometime soon.
Extra Blue Kind
These guys rock out with rolling guitar drives and infectious alt-rock melodies. The Bloomington-based EBK are known for their radio-friendly catalog and their live wire live sets.
The mod scene is exploding in Indianapolis and Pop Lolita"s hands are lighting the fuse. They are a mod rock whirlwind that possesses the ability to record a great album illustrated by their very recent release, Smoke Rings and Halos, as well as being able to put on an amped live show.
Middletown is classified as an acoustic Americana roots rock outfit. The collective of musical talent runs deep. Equipped with inspired harmonics and masterful arrangements and even an accordion, this is a band whose sound is built of simplistic beauty.
America Owns the Moon
Relatively new to the exposed side of the Indy music scene, AOTM has an indie punk and roll sound with all the melodic eccentricity of the Replacements and Elvis Costello.
Diamonds and Rust
Diamonds and Rust prove that less is in fact more. With a simplistic acoustic folk rock foundation and the velvety grit of Kriss Luckett-Hart's ethereal voice, their music radiates a vivid honesty within.
Sonus Ventorium is audibly defined as modern rock style metal fused with hard-edged reggae. Rasta metal, hard to imagine but easy to get into. The term is new and their sound is loud with heavy guitar hooks fueled by nuclear power.
In some ways the quintessential metalcore band Perfect Nothing is a nearly-flawless assemblage of anger, humor, emotional lyrics. Topping everything off are two amazing lead singers, Stephanie Brewer and Randy Sharkey, who together form an insanely wonderful blend of styles and attitudes. When they play the Emerson Theater, watch out.
This hip-hop group is heavy on the philosophic tip. No guns-and-women talk here; MC Choc Soreel and DJ Tyler are into the peace and love thing. Among other reasons - one of them being that Choc is a world-class lyricist and rhymer - it"s why the "Kids are the undisputed leaders of the hip-hop scene locally.
This skinny white kid came out of nowhere to grab the attention of the local hip-hop scene. Fearless and witty in rhyme battles, where he"s beaten some of the best, "Al is looking to expand his horizons into touring and recording. Don"t bet against him.
The Slurs are gaining a name for themselves all over the city by ushering in a new wave of pure punk "n" roll. They have an art school rock look and sound like that of the Gaza Strippers crossed with the Buzzcocks. Their style isn"t stifling with the need to be obnoxious. They just want to rock. With an intensity rarely seen, they provide an unpolished rock show in the best sense.
Dirty Little Secrets
Because of their connections, both professional and personal, with The Slurs, this excellent heavy pop band gets labeled as punk. What DLS actually is is a powerhouse of a band, with husband-and-wife lead singers and a drummer who's among the city's best. If a whirlwind sweeps The Slurs to stardom, DLS will be one of the groups to follow.
Mighty John Waynes
Considered among the top four or five bands nationally in what they do, which is purvey hard-assed, slightly drunken party music, the MJWs are part of the Punk Rock Night/Slurs family as well. But they more than stand on their own, due in large part to the excellent drumming of Steve Pratt.
Another Steve Pratt-drummed band, Drunko specializes in punk music even wilder and, um, drunker than the MJWs. Selected song subjects include the joys of biscuits and gravy, if that gives you an idea of the intellectual level we"re speaking of. But there are few bands as fun and deliberately sloppy in town as Drunko.
Combining the most noble elements of country music and a rock and roll edge, Sindacato writes and performs gentle, uplifting songs of quiet Americans achieving quiet victories, whether on a small or large scale. Those qualities have left the Frank Dean-led band in strong demand.
Remember the days when seeing a rock show meant big-haired women with even bigger guitars? When Eddie Van Halen was God and when showmanship actually meant something? The women in Drama Queen do, and when they brought their all-out "80s show to the Battle of the Bands recently, the kids who were too young visited the Enterprise West and got a taste of the old school.
In the closest thing to an Indiana all-star hardcore band, members of the legendary groups Ice 9, Endive, Birthright and Curb joined together to form this uranium-heavy band which is not afraid to use unconventional instruments to get their many points across. It's just one of several local bands featuring ex-Burn It Down member John Zeps.
Unrelentingly fierce and brutal, the music of Forefront could be called new-metal. It could be called hardcore. It could just be called heavy rock. Another John Zeps group, Forefront makes its mark by leaving sonic tattoos on the ears of its listeners.
Is he a performance artist? An electronica artist? A filmmaker? A would-be heavy metal god? Daniel Niswander, the enigma of Indianapolis, is all of those things and more. His monthly anything-can-happen shows at Birdy"s have solidified his name as a drawing power, and his enthusiasm and zeal have established him as an entrepreneur as well.
Push Down & Turn
Still rocking after a decade on the scene, this band has weathered every single sea change in Indiana music. Their story mirrors the growth of the scene itself in a way. They started as a pure party cover band and over the years have written brilliant originals. Loved by many, envied by some, PD&T is a profitable industry of good-time rock that shows no signs of stopping.
The first thing Tommy Flake will say is that it"s a band. Duh. But they"re uncommonly smart at taking power-pop riffs and converting them into mini-epic songs. When songwriters are asked whom they admire, Tommy Flake usually comes up in the conversation.
Notoriously low-key and unassuming about their public persona, Saraswati gets high marks for their organized dissonance, stop-on-a-dime tempos, general level of intelligence and, most of all, melodic-yet-noisy songs. They're descended from emo-rock bands, but what they've been able to craft is completely their own.
What makes this long-standing local group so extraordinary is the way it combines pop melodies, art rock, emo-influenced songs and pure rock and roll jamming. Led by wunderkinds Marc and Eric Johnson, Wonderdrug never stops writing and recording. That"s why so many people predict big things for them.
Chuck Workman's Top 10 Jazz Artists
The Jimmy Coe Big Band
This band is still functioning in its prime directive, swing, and has been for 50 years. Led by its saxophonist, arranger, composer and teacher Jimmy Coe, this band has also been a training ground for the development of numerous musicians who wanted to play jazz over the years. They are truly representative of the music that gave this city its jazz reputation and still contains an active core of musicians who performed on Indiana Avenue.
Buselli/Wallerab Jazz Orchestra
This co-led, 16-piece jazz orchestra represents the state of the art in modern jazz big bands. The innovative and fertile minds of Mark Buselli, trumpet, and Brent Wallerab, trombone, have assembled an amazing cadre of dedicated jazz musicians to perform exciting originals and orchestral arrangements. The BWJO's work in jazz education with music school students adds even more to their commitment to keeping the jazz tradition of Indy alive.
Frank Glover Quartet
If there ever was a more-defined composite jazz group than this, I can't imagine it. They consistently perform jazz at its highest level. Especially outstanding is the musically symbiotic relationship between the brilliant pianist Claude Sifferlen and Frank Glover on clarinet and tenor sax. When these two get into a musical mind meld, the magic really happens. Their steady gigs at the Jazz Kitchen and Chatterbox are excursions of the jazz creative process at its best. There are exceptional CDs available of both men in various settings together.
His big, mellow baritone voice is carrying on a threatened jazz tradition: that of the jazz balladeer. If polish, professionalism, dedication and passion are the standards for this vocal art, then Greene consistently tops the bar. He has shown impeccable taste in his selection of tunes that he sells to his listeners with a mellifluous elegance and style. Greene has two CDs available, one on the national label Highnote.
An energetic contemporary jazz violinist who specializes in performing original tunes that have mass appeal. Her upbeat personality is reflected in her playing. Morris is a community-minded musician who gives a lot back in supporting causes and fund-raisers. She has four CDs available that have sold to further enhance her style of jazz and world music. When you hear Cathy Morris, it"s upbeat and a feel-good time. Mary Moss There are singers and there are entertainers.
Mary Moss covers both bases exceptionally well in her own unique style. Whenever Moss takes the bandstand you know its not going to be a dull evening. This "Lady With A Song" has a take-charge personality coupled with an amazing sensitivity to the mood of her audience, which she works with the aplomb only developed by a mature artist. She works in various musical settings, but seems to favor her longtime relationship with the Carl Hines Quintet. Also, she has created Women Kickin" It, a marvelous concept that brings women musicians and vocalists together.
The specter of Wes Montgomery hangs over any guitarist playing in this city. Weakly, though not a big household name among local jazz fans, has shown he is a musical force to be reckoned with. Musically, he is steeped in the modern jazz guitar tradition. He speaks with his own musical identity, but does pay homage to the past masters. He has been a recorded sideman and toured nationally with various groups. When you can catch him at Rick"s Boatyard - or any venue - you are in for a treat.
Deep Six Sextet
This cohesive group, led by saxophonist/educator Harry Miedema, performs in the bebop tradition of the sextets of Art Farmer and Art Blakey. It sports a lineup of heavies with names like Buselli, Sifferlen, Wallerab, Deal and Brinson. Great arrangements, coupled with probing solos by each member, give this group a distinct musical synergy.
A voice on the move. She was a jazz-oriented pop vocalist who has started to come into her own as a jazz artist. Now, she is taking vocal risks with a fresh innovative concept that"s a delight to hear. There is the feel of a breakthrough restlessness in her quest to breathe new life into contemporary pop tunes.
Carter/Markiewicz Jazz Quartet
This group performs classic modern jazz with a deep allegiance to Thelonius Monk and Ornette Coleman. They do it well - especially with multi-reed talents of ex-Kentonite Chuck Carter and the very swinging drumming of Gene Markiewicz.
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