Review: Diary of a Night at BRMF 

click to enlarge Loyal Divide, seen here performing at The Mousetrap, kicked off this reviewer's night at Indy CD & Vinyl. - PAUL F.P. POGUE
  • Loyal Divide, seen here performing at The Mousetrap, kicked off this reviewer's night at Indy CD & Vinyl.
  • Paul F.P. Pogue

Overall, this year’s Broad Ripple Music Fest felt slightly less solid on the front end. With some individual showcases still announcing their final schedules just a few days before the event itself, I found it hard to prepare for such an epically long day of music consumption. I also found myself missing some of the venues not participating in this year’s BRMF (e.g. The Indianapolis Art Center’s picturesque river stage and the cozy, multi-level Wasted Space next to La Jolla). I wished the schedule could have been better level-loaded with less late-evening shows and more offerings earlier in the early afternoon.

Still, though, BRMF is one of the city’s truest musical gems that always does an incredible job of putting our local talent on the pedestal that it deserves. The diversity in showcases means there’s always something for everyone and the selection of both established bands and up-and-comers makes the event a win-win for everyone. Read below for highlights (and a few lowlights) from my evening spent immersed in the local scene.

Indy CD & Vinyl, 3:30
Loyal Divide, an Ohio-born and Chicago-based psychedelic electronic group, were the first sounds of BRMF 2011 that my ears could hear. I arrived at 3:30, hoping to catch the last half of their hour-long performance at Indy CD & Vinyl. To my surprise, the venue was running about 30 minutes behind schedule and I was able to see most of their show.

In this band of “weirdo electro” meets “bluesy, ambient rock”, I was most intrigued by guitarist/vocalist Adam Johnson. His muddled lyrics (nearly impossible to comprehend) escaped his mouth in a smoky moan reminiscent of a "Smells Like Teen Spirit"-era Kurt Cobain. Loyal Divide’s productions bring oddball mystique to the table, while their live instrumentation engages onlookers with awe.

The Mousetrap, 4:30
All three stages were running at The Mousetrap long before the sun set on Saturday, despite having virtually zero late-afternoon guests. Modeled after their hugely successful 4/20 tent party, the three-stage show was the same in concept but differed in design. Instead of occupying the entire Mousetrap parking lot with a large reception tent, this time headlining stage remained inside, while smaller electronic tents made use of The Trap’s front and side patios.

I listened to a few songs from Jessie and Amy, a pair of female acoustic singer/songwriters, and headed back into the village for dinner at Ripple Bagel & Deli - a choice that I felt embodied the grassroots spirit of the Broad Ripple Music Festival quite nicely.

LUNA Music, 5:30
Entering LUNA as Everything, Now! concluded their set (bummer!), I shopped the record store’s aisles for new music while I waited for the next show to begin. Outdoors on the sidewalk, boxes of on-sale CD’s and posters were being rummaged through by bargain-shoppers. A “crate-diggin’ stool” had even been considerately brought out and appropriately labeled by LUNA’s always-friendly and always-chatty staff.

Promptly at six, DMA a.k.a. David Moose Adamson a.k.a. Grampall Jookabox kicked off a 30-minute set. Performing under the three-letter acronym that his initials create, Adamson proved on Saturday that there is still hope for fans of the now- defunct band Jookabox that he once fronted.

As a solo artist, DMA’s music is full of all the things we loved about Jookabox (namely that irreplaceable, lo-fi, freak folksy sound) but also allows listeners to see and hear Adamson on a more personal level. Without the backing of a band, he’s challenged to create more from scratch (e.g. using recorded, high-pitched shrieks and chants from his own mouth played repeatedly to form rhythms). As the lone body on stage, Adamson also takes on the full responsibility of entertaining not just with music, but also constant tribal-like dance and movement.

Rock Lobster, 6:45
I’ve been receiving testimonials about “that group of kids from Bloomington” who make really good music for quite some time and finally had the chance to see them at Broad Ripple Music Fest. Hotfox is self-described as “experimental indie”, but I’d also throw in “garage rock” with a hint of “punk” thanks mostly to a rambunctious vocalist on the far left side of the stage who was easily my favorite feature of the young band of IU students. Hotfox was pretty active, too; half the band ended the final song of the short set lying on the ground playing a long, drawn-out note.

Monkey’s Tale, 7:30
The Monkey’s Tale scores low on the organization scale, both for the door lady who ignored me in favor of whomever was at the other end of her iPhone, and for lack of adherence to their schedule. I arrived expecting to catch the last half of Dell Zell, who I’d overheard people talking about at Luna a few hours earlier. Instead, the indoor stage was running more than an hour behind (waiting on a PA system to arrive, I was told) and a band not even listed on the schedule was playing outside.

That band was Sugar Moon Rabbit and the show they put on forced me to reevaluate my perception of their group. Once previously turned off by frontman Trevor Potts’ skin tight black leather pants and Axel-esque scream-singing at a Locals Only show, I ate my words this time around at The Monkey’s Tale.

Taking a seat for the latter half of the band’s performance, I noticed drummer Joe Kool (c’mon- is that a real name?) standing on top of his bass drum with his backside to the audience. While Kool bent over to bang on the drums with admirable form, guitarist Chris Sarber solidly placed his bare feet a shoulder-width apart in preparation for some major guitar shredding. Bassist J Spellman was rarely stationary, utilizing much of the large outdoor patio stage on which the band performed. Meanwhile, front man Potts spent half of his time behind the mic and half of his time side-stage to let his band mates shine just as bright as he.

Indy CD & Vinyl, 8:00
I made a quick stop for Indy CD & Vinyl’s last performance of the evening- Irene & Reed. The record store had cleared considerably and I could count the audience with the fingers on my hands. Appreciative nonetheless, vocalist Leslie Benson thanked all in attendance for sticking around. The group (Benson, pianist Jason Reed Milner, and jazz bassist Eric Latham) hands down won the award for Broad Ripple Music Fest’s finest dressed act. Benson was the most striking in an elegant, form-fitting black dress complimented with a black cloche hat, sophisticated pearls, and silver Victorian-style jewelry.

As night fell upon Broad Ripple and the lure of BRMF after dark tugged at me, I finally gave in and dismissed myself for a different, livelier show. Irene and Reed’s jazzy, ragtime sound was not at all unpleasant; I only wished they had played earlier in the day at a more fitting venue (like somewhere outside, under the trees, in a park).

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