There have been so many shows at Mediumship this summer it’s been almost impossible to keep up with all of them. I’ve found myself walking around Fountain Square on a random night, for some entirely different reason, only to bump into someone I know who says there’s a show going on at Mediumship. Next thing I know I’m in Bud’s picking up a warm six-pack and heading over to the house. Even if I’ve never heard of the bands, their connection to Mediumship makes them worth checking out.
And then the very next night someone will ask me if I’m headed to Mediumship for the show.
“No,” I will say. “The show was last night. I was there.”
“Yeah, well... there’s another one tonight,” the person will respond.
And then I will spend the rest of my evening debating whether to head down and check out the show, or stay home and beat myself up for not going. But either way, I know there will be another one coming up in the next few days (oddly enough, after I finished writing this piece I got a text message about a last-minute show going on there).
However, with that said, one show I definitely did not want to miss was this past Friday’s Record Birthin' Freakout—basically a triple album release party—featuring Bloomington-based Apache Dropout, and Fountain Square’s own Crys and Learner Dancer. The three bands are connected by a number of different factors: they all have Bloomington roots and have each put out vinyl through Indy's Glory Hole Records. Each play variations of the fuzzed-out psych rock that is flourishing in Fountain Square and pockets of the underground music scene all over the country.
They share something else too. All three bands also recorded their albums with John Dawson at the controls, at Magnetic South Studio in Bloomington.
Sitting on the porch with Landon Caldwell and Joey Shepard, of Learner Dancer and Crys, respectively, we discuss Dawson’s influence on their recording processes. When I ask whether their latest albums benefited from Dawson’s help, versus recording and mixing on their own, their expression of mutual agreement is so enthusiastic it makes me crack up.
“Absolutely,” says Shepard. “John understands our sensibilities. He’s been in to psychedelic music longer than us. In the mixing process he becomes another part of the band, basically.”
Caldwell heartily agreed. “When we were mixing the record he was usually a whole step ahead of me,” he said. “John didn’t just record these records, he produced them.”
Before the show, Dawson himself performed an opening set which I wasn’t able to catch. I arrived as Learner Dancer was in mid-set, Caldwell with his face painted like a Native American, singing with his eyes rolled back into his head like he was in a trance, channeling spirits from another dimension as the rest of the band dripped sweat and drummer Peter King stripped down to his boxer shorts. What I loved about their set was how they blurred the lines between songs, running them together until they built up to my personal favorite “Dark Glow."
Apache Dropout also delivered a killer set. This band runs a little bit more toward the pop end of the psychedelic spectrum, oddly fitting since the other member of the usual Mediumship trio—Vacation Club—play a more pop-influenced sound. Apache Dropout fought the heat for an hour or so, dropping one or two songs that seemed to be known word-for-word by the crowd who were jumping and dancing so much that the hardwood floor was buckling.
Crys turned-in the performance of the night. Playing in near total darkness, speckled by a dizzingly fine pattern of green and red pin-sized lights, they wrung out whatever sweat the audience had left in them. With Mitchell Duncan playing his second set on guitar (he’s also in Learner Dancer), Vacation Club’s Sam Thompson on keys, Jacob Gardner on rhythm guitar, and Shepard on drums, Crys played with an almost supernatural level of energy. For me the highlights of their set were “Hanging Ten at the Dawn of Time,” and one of their more krauty songs toward the end of the set that was played so fast I thought for sure Shepard was going to spontaneously combust at the drum kit.
Look for full reviews of that album, as well as Apache Dropout’s Bubblegum Graveyard, and the Crys and Learner Dancer split cassette in NUVO soon.