For years, Indianapolites have had to drive up to Chicago to catch the bigger punk acts. It seems that bigger bands like Alkaline Trio, Bad Religion and NOFX have no interest in playing our humble little big city. Even mid-level bands seem to bypass this place. Is Indianapolis simply too close to bigger markets? Or is there simply something wrong with Indianapolis?
In defense of the scene
According to Toby Jeg, founder of soon-to-be-legendary Chicago record label Red Scare Industries (www.redscare.net), the problem lies with the city itself. Jeg’s statements started out pretty factual and straight forward. “You guys have a couple dozen loyal people that attend the house shows and that’s great,” he commented on the Pop Punk Bored (a nationally renowned pop-punk message-board). “That probably makes up the entire punk scene in the whole metropolitan area.” His comments escalated in intensity as he explained why bigger bands bypass the city. “There’s just no scene and no audience … [Indianapolis is] all but verboten in the minds of touring bands and booking agents.” He even goes as far as to dub our fair city “the New Orleans of the Midwest, just with less culture.” The final blow came when Jeg lambasted the “two-bit house shows” in our “one-horse town.” Ouch.
Maybe there is some truth to what he says. Maybe the Emerson will never host a Rancid or Against Me! show, but the critical part about the Indianapolis scene is, without a doubt, our “two-bit” basement shows. Smaller bands from all over the Midwest (and even the country) can come to Indianapolis and play to bigger crowds than they ever would in Chicago or New York. Indianapolis doesn’t suffer from the over-saturation of bigger cities with more developed scenes.
Also, Indianapolis is a great place for regional acts to snowball a fanbase and eventually get big enough to play solid shows in Chicago. The Dopamines, for instance, are a pop-punk band from Cincinnati. If they played a show in Chicago, they might not even pull a single person. In Indianapolis, on any given night, they would pull at least 20 people.
I hold nothing against Jeg for his (sometimes provoked) comments, but there is no reason to discredit a scene that is an important part of the national punk rock food chain. He should try going to a Bolth show and telling 150 sweaty kids that their scene doesn’t matter.
In case you missed it, the farewell party for the Underground was a huge hit. Actually, most people didn’t even realize that it was the last show at the Underground. Hellcat Records reggae heavyweights The Aggrolites pulled out all the stops and delivered an incredible set to a more than enthusiastic crowd.
The evening began with Latin-ska upstarts La Guerra del Mixton. It was a breath of fresh air to hear Spanish sung in the Underground. Next up were the Green Room Rockers. Their set was truly inspired and they played to a loving crowd of roughly 200 people. The Kodiaks, from Louisville, delivered a stirring set of emotional folk-ska. Imagine if the Specials covered “Dirty Old Town” by the Pogues. Yeah, it was that good.
The Aggrolites took the stage around 10 and delivered one of the most powerful sets to ever grace the holy walls of the Underground. The smooth roots-reggae/ska sound was filtered through a screen of punk rock aggression and attitude, which made it all the more danceable. The crowd was swollen with love and sweat and the band was clearly feeding off of it, playing each song with more intensity than the one before. As the band finished their encore, the crowd trickled away into the night.
The Underground is gone for now, but the scene marches on. As long as there are kids who want more than Billboard Top 40 charts and Clear Channel playlists (and have a sense of community) there will always be a scene.