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About the Fire

Do you know what it feels like to swim against the tide with no sign of the current subsiding? Does it ever seem like your guardian angel took an extended vacation? About the Fire frontman “Fat” Sammy Clevenger can definitely relate to what it feels like to have every roll of the dice come up snake-eyes.

About the Fire

When his former band Better Off Dead self-destructed after the premature death of a founding member just days after the release of the band’s debut record during the height of their local popularity, Sam disappeared for almost two years into the proverbial wilderness. The loss of one of his closest friends and his band all at once was almost too much for him to bear.

“I drank and I drank and I think I had a job somewhere in the middle there …” Sam says. “Writing our first record was like coming out of a cocoon for me. I had to get my life back on track. This record could not have happened had I not given up drinking.”

Now with a new band and a new full-length album, Rites of Passage: A Study in Failure and Redemption, released earlier this month on Happy Couples Never Last records, Clevenger is ready to make another grab for the brass ring. Featuring long time friend Bob Fouts (from legendary Indianapolis hardcore rockers Burn It Down) on skins, Chris Morrison and Nathan Stambro (from the death metal band Harakiri) on twin guitar duties, and Jeremy “Worm” Dreher (ex-Eyes of Jade) completing the lineup on bass, About the Fire have crafted a sound unlike anything you might expect from any of their other bands. Combining the tried and tested punk vocal melodies of Naked Raygun with the rough edge of a band like Hot Water Music, About the Fire craft songs that plead the case for youthful idealism, even under the often oppressive weight of real world circumstances.

Rites of Passage is a semi-autobiographical concept record based around one man’s journey through the depths of depression and the eventual epiphany that leads to his redemption and recovery. About the Fire pull it off beautifully, combining the sum of their collective experiences to write a record that skirts the conventional labels of what defines punk, hardcore, and emo.

Check them out at the Emerson Theater this Friday, and for a change of pace, their acoustic contribution to the Live from the Free Zone CD compilation benefiting the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization. Future plans include an East Coast tour later this fall.

About the Fire info:

— Clark Giles


The Sights

A mainline between the modern age of garage rock and 60’s kaleidoscope pop, The Sights of Detroit Rock City are on deck to put their name on the lips of the denim-clad the world over. What the band truly has on its side, besides a stockpile of talent, is youth.

Frontman Eddie Baranek is an astute follower and aficionado of vintage pop, Motown and garage records and has paid fitting tribute to his influences with the release of Got What We Want in the spring of 2002 — when Baranek was the ripe old age of 21.

When asked if being younger has been an obstacle for gaining respect or support, Baranek confidently offers, “Of course. But it just makes you a stronger unit. We’ve had to fight harder for respect, but that is fine. We’ve paid our dues, you know? I actually prefer being younger, because when everyone else is 35 I’ll be 26.”

On the Detroit craze of the White Stripes, Von Bondies and Cobras, Baranek holds tight. “When people don’t think it is cool anymore, they’ll go back to drum machines, I’ll still be playing rock n roll and Ray Charles songs.”

The Sights will play on Friday, Aug. 13 at the Patio.

— Danica Johnson


The VilleBillies

The VilleBillies twist hip hop in the vein of Nappy Roots with Southern whiskey rock fare. The Louisville, KY, VilleBillies’ demo goes from rap beats and rhymes with sharded rock to acoustic sing-along reprises and even a co-opted sampling and rework of Steve Miller’s “The Joker.”

Beyond this, their live show, as reputed by, has the doormen turning away hundreds. “It’s a lifestyle, like living-room studios and tattoos in the shape of Kentucky.” That’s what they call keeping it VilleBillie, again according to their website. Imagine a backwoods Kid Rock substituting strippers for a banjo. The jury is still out on the classification. Kentucky Bluegrass fiddle hop?

The VilleBillies will be play The Monkey’s Tale on Friday, Aug. 13.

— Danica Johnson


Up from the underground

Arguably the most unified and self-supporting music scene in the city over the past two years, the Indianapolis hardcore punk scene has experienced a resurgence unseen since the early nineties. Currently, Indy can claim no less than six hardcore bands signed to nationally-known, independent punk labels with dozens of other equally-worthy bands just waiting in the wings. Not bad for a genre where the majority of participants are teenagers.

Still, to many fans of heavy music, the hardcore scene remains very much underground due to bands’ preference for — and often insistence on — all-ages venues, drug-free environments, low door prices and a general disdain for the commercialization of the music industry.

The lineup at this year’s MMS affords the opportunity to see some of the best and brightest rising stars in the Midwest that are currently gaining national prominence.

Hardcore is fairly sparse the first day of the festival, but local melodic punk heart-throbs Project Bottlecap are slated to play an evening set at the all-ages venue The House. Though much closer to the realm of pop-punk and the slower, more mature sound similar to Jawbreaker, Project Bottlecap share a special affinity with the Indianapolis Hardcore scene.

The granddaddy of all hardcore shows for the Summit weekend goes down Friday night at the Emerson Theater. Sponsored by the Circle City’s premiere hardcore and punk record label Happy Couples Never Last Records, the lineup features bands that are currently on the label’s roster or have a release slated for the near future.

Muncie-based grind punkers Phoenix Bodies will open the show. Fresh from their European tour and a show-stopping set at last month’s Dude Fest, their set threatens to bring down the house before other bands get a chance to take the stage.

The dark heathen hardcore of Angelville is up next. They fired their official opening volley last year with their EP release Can’t Go Home (HCNL). On their maiden tour in support of the record, they were involved in a horrific van accident that hospitalized vocalist Johnny V. After a brief hiatus to complete rehabilitative therapy, the band hit the road again last month for another East Coast tour and will be returning home triumphantly to rock your dome this night. Large Marge would be proud.

Following Angelville, the blasting political “Crom-core” of The Dream is Dead is next. Touted by international UK-based metal/hardcore magazine Terrorizer as what “could be the new sound of hardcore and if not, it damn well should be…”, The Dream is Dead are playing their first show at the Emerson with their new lineup. In December, the band leaves for a tour of the Dirty South and then west to tentatively record in San Francisco with an as yet unannounced big time producer for their first full-length on Escape Artist records (Burn It Down, Isis).

Next in line, About the Fire continue their trend of playing heart-stopping melodic punk in the vein of Hot Water Music and push their recently-released full length Rites of Passage (HCNL).

Recently signed to national indie label Jade Tree records, Breather Resist are up from their hometown of Louisville to play their own brand of chaos-core akin to such luminaries as Botch.

Possibly the heaviest band in existence, Premonitions of War (Victory) get their number called to take the stage and pound whatever brain cells you still have left into atoms.

Capping off the night is the one-time reunion show of the flagship band of the Indianapolis Hardcore scene, Ice Nine (see story on page 48).

Things calm down a bit on Sunday but near the end of the evening, you can catch Pizzle at the Melody Inn (21+), Year of Desolation at the Emerson, or the metal/metal-core assault of Demiricous, The Bowels of Judas and Still Remains at the House.

As you surely know by now, a full schedule of all the bands playing the MMS can be found at:

— Clark Giles

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