Even Homer Nods opened the night with an incendiary set that may qualify as one of their best shows to date, thanks in part to the five-piece's new members, drummer Casey Tennis and singer/frontwoman Sarah Ferguson.
Throughout their set, which contained some new songs and some reinterpreted ones from their eponymous EP, it was evident that Even Homer Nods has achieved a new level of synergy as a group.
On songs like "Eulogy for the Living" (opened with a delightful little melodica tune), "Van Dyke Sing-Along" and "Chinatown," Ferguson's dynamic vocals and animated stage presence perfectly complemented singer/guitarist Patrick Bower"s own signature style.
One of the city's best rhythm sections anchored and intensified each song, making for a performance that carefully toed the line between total control and utter abandon.
After such a brilliant, compelling set, Chicago's Sleeping At Last (Interscope) nearly put me to sleep. If this bland, unimaginative and anemic crap is what's getting signed to the majors these days, give me indie labels or give me death.
My time during this set was much better used going down the street to get some sorbet, which I finished just in time to catch another under-sung Indianapolis band, the Pieces. I last saw them opening for Bardo Pond, and Friday's set was even better, characterized as usual by Vess Ruhtenberg's staccato guitar, Devon Ragland's amiable, laid-back drumming and Heidi Glick's solid, yet agile bass playing.
Standout songs included "What You Want," "Wide Open Doors" and "Robots with Guitars." Besides being an awfully good bass player, Glick gets extra points for stamina, as she stayed on stage to play a second set with fellow Some Girls members Juliana Hatfield and drummer Freda Love, who, as you will recall, played together as the Blake Babies a decade or so ago. The three have been recording together down at Echo Park, and this tour follows on the heels of Hatfield's Gold Stars, a 20-track retrospective of her work spanning eight albums released from 1992 to the present.
Most of the set's material came from Gold Stars, and Some Girls seems better suited to the material than the bands with whom Hatfield originally recorded the songs. If you read my reviews even occasionally, you know that I adore rock trios, and Some Girls was no exception, wowing me with their impeccably balanced, refined sound on Hatfield"s older songs, like "Everybody Loves Me But You," "My Sister" and her biggest hit, "Spin the Bottle," as well as lesser-known material such as "Somebody Is Waiting For Me" and a previously unreleased new song, "Your Eyes."
After 16 years in the music business, Hatfield is a model of professionalism and an excellent performer - my only complaint about her set is that, even on a couple of great solos, it seemed as though she was holding something back.
I would have been happy if the night had ended right there, leaving me to bask in the warm glow of Some Girls" sound, but alas, it did not. Kill Hannah, another baffling major label boy-band from Chicago, soon drove me from the Patio with their style-over-substance industrial pop. The band boasts a hugely devoted following in Chicago, and Jim DeRogatis has lauded their "subversive, My Bloody Valentine-style sonic terrorism," but all I heard was a band that needs to spend less time on their hair, and more time writing decent songs.
Had it not been for Kill Hannah"s truly deplorable set, I would have stuck around for Here Come the Mummies, the Nashville funk band whose true identities are concealed by their B-movie-style mummy garb. I was content, though, to go home singing the praises of our talented local musicians, and hoping that Indianapolis audiences will continue to support them now that the summit is over.
Miracles happen at the Emerson
While some venues reported light attendance on the first night of the Midwest Music Summit - shame on you who didn"t go see The Slurs, The Birdmen and lesser acts at the Vogue - the Emerson was surprisingly full on Thursday.
Nash, from Newark, N.J., surprised the crowd with a jumpy nu-metal sound, but few converts were made. You don"t come into the Emerson, which is full of under-21 musical purists, with a hybrid-metal sound.
The crowd swelled from 75 to 150 by the time Dizeazed took the stage. Already a strong live act, the three young women who make up this band have improved markedly in the last year. Drummer Dannie Frank, a tom-tom smashing queen, has an Animal (from the Muppet Show) influenced way of playing. The only other local drummer who"s as crazed as her on stage is Drunko's Steve Pratt. Dizeazed played older cuts such as "Freaky Neighbor" alongside newer, more complex songs.
Much of the crowd split after Dizeazed, but those who hung around were impressed later in the evening with Crash Poet, a Chicago-based band with a heavy, straight-ahead metal sound. They reminded me of a more Rage Against The Machine-influenced version of Indy's Spil. The crowd loved Crash Poet. And thanks to one of the band"s friends, most in attendance went home with a free CD of their music.
Miracles happen every night at the Emerson Theater, and Thursday"s MMS showcase was no exception. The under-21 crowd doesn"t need to complain; the show Thursday was as good as any nightclub's that evening.
A scattered view
The Midwest Music Summit left little to be desired other than stronger attendance and power-napping stations. The showcases, afterparties and panels made this past weekend a non-stop roller coaster of content, venue hopping and exercises in time management. All that, fueled by the pursuit of finding great music and free beer.
Opening the conference was the opening party at the Patio prefacing the jaunt to the Vogue for the IMN/Benchmark showcase. Attendance at the Vogue ended up being a gradually-gathered puddle of people throughout the night.
Will Hoge played yet another strong set that featured several of the new tracks on their upcoming Atlantic Records release due out in October. Very few performers have the natural ability to consistently put on a great live show. With Will and Company it"s cellular.
The Slurs play in a completely different genre than Hoge, but also ignite the capacity to sweat a crowd into their songs without relenting.
Enter the Birdmen of Alcatraz. The vibe moving from Indy's biggest-drawing new talent to that of the city's legendary rap metal heroes was electric. The Birdmen completed the circle by proving why they are important to Indy's music scene. They rocked out to a full house.
Friday was a day of great content within the panels and a full night of shows across town. Groove Truck Productions Patio Showcase was an incredible success.
Even Homer Nods emerged from their short in-town hiatus with a couple of lineup changes that have really heated up their sound and added a depth that made them irresistible. Their future full-length album is highly anticipated.
I missed the newly-inked Kill Hannah, which allowed me to trek to Birdy's to see RockFour. Indianapolis is truly privileged to have them pass through town again. They played another inspiring set on Birdy's familiar stage.
The second consecutive afterparty held at Ventilator Studio was pressure-packed with people who were treated to The Slurs, LMNO and an encore cover set by RockFour that started at 4:45 a.m. Saturday was another eight hours of content-rich panels and demo critiques, leading into many time-worthy shows that evening.
Shun at the Emerson Theater was a show recommended to every A&R rep in town with good reason. They're an emotionally-charged rock band out of Nashville that has limitless potential. Look for them to do big things in the not-too-distant future.
From the Emerson it was on to the Cozy for the most complimentary bill of the weekend. Loretta, Chicago's Matthew and Cincinnati's Saving Ray: love one, enjoy them all. The word is definitely out on Loretta. It took some effort to negotiate through the crowd to get to the front of the stage to see their set.
After successfully doing so, I noticed my feet were positioned in between the stage monitors without any room to back up. Matthew played an all too short, but satisfying set. They are another band that can be expected to hit maximum exposure soon with a video now on MTV2 and an intense touring schedule. Saving Ray is like the fraternal twin to Loretta. They are distinctive from each other, but definitely share a family resemblance.
I couldn"t tear myself away from the Cozy. This for me was what the summit was all about: showcasing huge talent to a full house of people energized to see where original regional music is heading. -Danica Johnson (Moxy)