Music venues for all ages 

Let's start with a peek at my process.

I spend a large chunk of each week writing the music section calendar that you find at the back of each issue. Each edition of Soundcheck includes about 90 events and runs about 3,000 words. There's no doubting it: There's a ton of music happening in Indianapolis weekly.

I'm 25, only four years removed from that sinking feeling familiar to most young music fans: the one you get in the pit of your stomach when a band you absolutely adore comes through town, only to play at a 21+ venue. It is, truly, a huge bummer.

But even in the four short years since I aged into the club and bar venue scene, Indianapolis' all-ages scene has changed drastically. So, in the spirit of that change, we're profiling the owners and operators of spots around town that are open to all ages. The venues we've profiled run the gamut of new, historic and multipurpose. Yes, most of the Live Nation-operated venues in town (The Lawn, Old National Centre, Klipsch) are all-ages. However, this profile series focuses on smaller, locally owned and operated all-ages venues. We also did not include the plethora of house venues that are scattered all over Indy. Our reason for that is two-fold: first, because these venues are occasionally operated without the knowledge of landlords; and second, because we've got to stop somewhere, don't we?

On to the venues.

- Katherine Coplen
click to enlarge GPC has too many co-founders for one Polaroid - RYAN "CHIVES" PERKINS
  • GPC has too many co-founders for one Polaroid
  • Ryan "Chives" Perkins


Neighborhood: Fountain Square

Capacity: TBD, as space develops

If you're on Virginia Ave. during the day, you'll see the chalkboard sign: General Public Collective is open. The space, run and co-founded by six friends: Abby Goldsmith, Jason Pittenger-Arnold, Rachel Peacock, Jeremy Tubbs, Jessica Lykens and Lisa Jackson, is open during the day so visitors can peruse the gallery, which features new work monthly, and shop a healthy collection of zines, vintage clothing and music.

But it really comes alive at night, during the many poetry readings and movie screenings that have graced its floor over the last year — and the music. Some of the best local music shows of the last year have gone down at GPC, including album releases, video premieres, stacked local shows and First Friday events galore.

It's all going according to plan.

"GPC was established to support emerging artists within Indianapolis and then bring outside national and international artists to Indianapolis," Pittenger-Arnold said. "After a year, that mission really hasn't changed much. We've been granted this privilege of being about to do that full-force."

Last October's First Friday was their official opening date in the Virginia Ave. spot that formerly housed Joe's Cycles.

"Having it all-ages is a really important facet of [GPC]," Peacock said. "I grew up in Indianapolis ... and I remember trying to go to shows all the time, and so rarely being successful. It really sucked. Being underage in this town for a long time was kind of shitty. ... I'm really happy that spaces like [Hoosier Dome and others] exist now."

GPC is a long, narrow space split halfway by a bookcase that divides the gallery from a shared artist workspace. Equipment is added as frequently as new gallery art, including several new printers. They say they plan to start publishing zines in-house very soon. ("Everyone's built up ten zine ideas by now, so it's probably going to be a freak out when everything gets going," Goldsmith said. "Probably will be. We'll be covered in paper," Pittenger-Arnold agreed.)

The founders say they've planned 2015's exhibiting artists through August. They host about five events per month, a schedule that has slowed down a bit since the beginning after, "we realized we want all events to be thought out and specific," Goldsmith said. "We maybe want to have fewer events, but make sure [each is] very well thought out."

Although they say this year has not been without its share of difficulties, co-founders say they're not afraid of the financial burden or time constraints of co-running the space.

"I think this project is going to sustain itself for as long as we want it to," Peacock said. "We're very lucky that we made this happen at the time that it did. There was such a need for it. I feel like artists flocked to us."

"We do have plans to open it up a little bit more," Goldsmith says. "We've talked about having open meetings ... where we open to the community. Since we've began, so many people have offered their time and so many people have offered to volunteer."

It's been a good year for GPC — for attendees (like me) and the co-founders, too. "One of the more rewarding things I've ever done was being involved with this," Peacock said.

click to enlarge Stephen Zumbrun - RYAN "CHIVES" PERKINS
  • Stephen Zumbrun
  • Ryan "Chives" Perkins


Neighborhood: Fountain Square

Capacity: "intimate"

The Hoosier Dome has been one of the mainstays of the Indianapolis all-ages music scene for almost five years. The Fountain Square venue is the home of local all-ages booking company Piradical Productions, currently preparing for its ninth year of hosting all-ages shows in the Circle City. Though helmed by founder Stephen Zumbrun, Piradical Productions has cemented its place in the Indianapolis music scene with the help of Zumbrun's friends, a dedicated street team and word of mouth supported by the roster of musical acts they have hosted.

Amongst the various people Zumbrun is excited to have on his team is Nathaniel Wolos, owner of Open Shut Buttons and founder of Radder Day Rides. Wolos heads the street team of young, eager volunteers who spread the word of the all-ages venue, while also helping to run the door and sell concessions.

"He's been a great addition to our venue and his excitement for all-ages music has helped us continue to put on fantastic concerts for local and national bands," said Zumbrun, noting that the volunteer team is always looking for new members who are willing to help the venue.

One of the more popular acts to take the stage of the Hoosier Dome is Nashville power pop group Diarrhea Planet. After recently selling out a show at the Dome, Zumbrun notes that Diarrhea Planet frontman Jordan Smith was wearing a Hoosier Dome hoodie.

"He had been wearing his Hoosier Dome hoodie as they toured all over the country and he was talking about how well known the Hoosier Dome was becoming nationally," said Zumbrun. "People would talk about how their bands had played here and had a great time or about how when they come to Indy, that's where they want to play."

After Piradical Productions struggled to keep a space for the first several years of operations, the Hoosier Dome has finally become an all-ages venue Zumbrun is excited to call home. As Piradical Productions draws closer to its 10-year anniversary, Zumbrun hopes to continue building a national reputation of what Indianapolis and the Hoosier Dome itself has to offer touring bands traveling through the Midwest.

"It's so great to be able to run the same venue in the same place for almost five years," said Zumbrun. "We're really able to get our name out there for having great shows and booking bands the local music scene is excited to see."


Neighborhood: Fountain Square

Capacity: 200

Why does the DoItIndy Radio Hour broadcast from inside Fountain Square's Grove Haus?

"It sounds beautiful and it looks amazing, so the artists and the audience are always happy in that respect," broadcaster MP Cavalier said. "There is something to be said for the all-ages component. When they do the monthly Saturday Eclectic Market it's very gratifying to be able to take my kids into the Haus to hear the bands play. And for us, as broadcasters, we can have bands like The Breakes [a band with all members under 21] on the show and they don't have to deal with the bullshit of waiting outside in the rain until set time."

The converted church, owned and operated by Carrie and Mark Ortwein, opened as the Grove Haus in January. They've hosted a handful of concerts and weekly DoItIndy radio broadcasts, plus contra and swing dancing every week, art exhibits, theatre, artists markets and music lessons.

On December 21, Bob Barrick's band Coyote Armada will release their new album How Not To Be Lonely at the Grove Haus.

"It wasn't too long ago that I was in the same boat as a lot of these all-ages venues' audiences. Growing up in Noblesville, I wanted nothing more than to see the Old 97's when they came through the Vogue, but it was always out of my reach," Barrick said. "That experience, or lack thereof, really limited the extent of my exposure to intimately set, live performances."

He picked the Grove Haus for his band's album release for that reason.

"With this show at the Grove Haus being a holiday benefit concert for Shepherd Community, it's really important to me that listeners feel welcome to bring their families along to join in on the celebration," Barrick said.

In their second year of operations, the Ortweins will add a lighting system and begin renovations that will result in a VIP area (currently a choir loft) and a Green Room (currently a men's bathroom). Carrie says they may pursue a license to sell beer and wine, but the Ortweins don't plan on becoming 21+ any time soon.

"It works two ways, having all-ages spaces," she said. "Young musicians themselves can get more experience playing in front of people and they can also catch other musicians that they may never get to see in other venues. It's important to a city's music scene because it has the potential to 'bring up' a strong set of musicians. If you want a strong music scene in our city, you need to start that cultivation at younger ages."

click to enlarge John Zeps - RYAN "CHIVES" PERKINS
  • John Zeps
  • Ryan "Chives" Perkins


Neighborhood: South Broad Ripple

Capacity: 100, inside and outside

"I'll be looking for a new location more geared towards a show space," John Zeps says about changes to his record shop in 2015. "And maybe even doing rehearsal rooms and a collective of homegrown businesses."

The community vibe (pun intended) the shop has channeled in the last year has grown out of interest and necessity. Bringing in vendors like United State of Indiana and Lux & Ivy has brought a more diverse crowd into the shop that had previously featured mostly physical copies of heavier music and guitars for sale. Over the last year, Vibes has played host to a few dozen in-stores, including a rollicking, packed GloryHole Records showcase on Record Store Day in April.

The location may change, but the music he loves will stay the same. "I've always been passionate about metal, hardcore and this gear thing. I still want us to be that store."

He'll highlight live music at his new space (if Vibes does end up moving), as well. Collaboration between artists, musicians and even other shops is a priority for Zeps, too.

click to enlarge Joe Fawcett is developing Kismet - RYAN "CHIVES" PERKINS
  • Joe Fawcett is developing Kismet
  • Ryan "Chives" Perkins


Neighborhood: Bates Hendricks

Capacity: TBD, as space develops

One of the very newest all-ages show spaces in Indy is Kismet, run by Joe Fawcett. He has big goals for his new space, on S. East St.

"I want people to come to support and engage in earnest creative expression and discussion," Fawcett says. "The venue will be equipped to digitally record as many performances as possible, both audio and video. I want the space to facilitate creating content that can be published online in an accessible way in order to contribute to the conspicuousness of our local culture. Eventually we'll sell local art and band merch."

Fawcett has experience with all-ages spaces, including a Fountain Square spot, Maltese Tiger. That space, which hosted the Musical Family Tree New Music Showcase this fall, is currently rented out to performers as a rehearsal and recording space. He envisions hosting between four to eight shows per month at Kismet, which has hosted a combination of hip-hop, punk and rock shows since opening this fall. He'll add more if it's sustainable – and it will stay all-ages.

"I know there are a lot of creative and passionate people in Indianapolis who don't want to wait until they're 21 to get started performing and attending shows," he said. "All-ages spaces provide a place for that exposure to happen."

— Katherine Coplen

click to enlarge Karl Hofstetter's label is on the move - RYAN "CHIVES" PERKINS
  • Karl Hofstetter's label is on the move
  • Ryan "Chives" Perkins


Neighborhood: Fountain Square

Capacity: TBD, as space develops

Joyful Noise is on the move.

The label, long-loved by physical media fetishists, first set up shop in Suite 207 of the Murphy Art Center, but slowly reached its tentacles into other rooms on the second floor, including space for a record store and a storage/workspace. This winter, founder Karl Hofstetter tells me, the label will make an even bigger jump: taking over several rooms on the second floor. Don't fret: they're keeping a space for (often) super low cost, (always) all-ages shows.

Hofstetter says it was about "six months ago when Rachel [Enneking] took over" booking shows for the space. "We try to make all of our shows pay-what-you-want," he said, of recent shows in the space." They have to donate something, but it can be a penny. All the money, 100 percent of it goes to the bands," he said. "We want to keep it special and intimate. ... We're not a traditional music venue or bar, more of just an intimate, special show kind of place.

Expect larger events from the label in 2015, too.

"We have an idea to create an annual summit of sorts, where we would have all of our bands come into town once a year," he said. "Part of it would be internal business, but we would also have a panel component ... and also a show component that we would probably do at venues in Fountain Square."

— Katherine Coplen

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Katherine Coplen

Katherine Coplen

Always looking for my new favorite band. Always listening to my old ones, too. Always baking cakes. Always collecting rock and roll dad quotes.

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