The ES Jungle
Friday, April 13
Normally, as a journalist, I try to keep myself removed from the story I am writing. But during The ES Jungle's final show on April 13, I simply could not do this.
After discovering Piradical Productions and the all-age shows they put on in one of their earliest venues, The Underground, I started to really feel like I was becoming part of some kind of community. The first time I realized this was when I was watching positive pop punk band Highway Magic play a set; I was singing along to one of their songs while I was arm to shoulder with Pirad co-founder Stephen Zumbrun and several other sweaty kids. Zumbrun's arm was held so tight around my back and shoulders, squeezing me with affection while we screamed along. I began to feel accepted by these people, which was a great feeling. After that, things started feeling like much more than a community. It started to feel like family.
These same feelings started to resurface during The ES Jungle's final show. The Broad Ripple venue was home to Piradical Productions for four years, always managing to stay afloat amidst zoning violations, angry neighbors, and disrespectful show goers, (who caused those neighbors to become angry in the first place). After relocating to Pirad's current headquarters, The Hoosier Dome, this situation is what caused the squeeze on The ESJ its ultimate closure. After the venue remained empty throughout the winter, Zumbrun and company decided to give the ESJ closure with one final show.
Spirits and emotions ran high for the show. Nine bands were featured on the bill, and each band or some of its members had a special connection to the ESJ. But no other band on the bill exemplified the spirit of the ESJ's final show and the community it helped to build than Indianapolis Forever.
"We are all friends here. We are all family," said Zumbrun from the stage.He doubles as the front man for the band. "This set is all about friends and stage dives."
The young crowd responded with such frenzy for hardcore punk band Indianapolis Forever, singing along to the words they knew, and stage diving and moshing with vigor when they didn't know the lyrics. Zumbrun stage-dove while performing, singled out one person to scream lyrics at point blank range from their face, and spent more time in the crowd than on the stage itself; he did anything to get the crowd moving and involved with the musical performance happening in front of them. Zumbrun knew the ESJ was a special place, and he did his best to give it the special, proper send-off it deserved.
Horror-core act Brooklyn Vampire and punk trio Subatomic started the show off, playing blistering sets and getting everyone moving and excited for the evening ahead. Subatomic was one of several bands on the bill who got their footing as a band at the ESJ. Another band who owes their successes to date to the venue was Earthbound, a high school ska group who won last year's High School Battle of the Bands, which was hosted at the ESJ by Piradical Productions. Their music evokes ska staples like Streetlight Manifesto and The Aquabats, They're one of the few bands in Indianapolis who consistently get better with every show, as evident by the crowd's response of skanking on stage with the band. Pop-metal acts Don't Call It A Comeback and The Day After are also both bands who played their first shows at the ESJ. Their songs had ample opportunities for sing-alongs, which helped create intimate moments throughout the show, as the audience would crowd the microphones on the stage to make their voices heard while linked shoulder to shoulder and arm to arm together.
The night reached its highest emotional point during pop punk band It's All Happening's set. Front man Mitch Vice's songs tend to be a love letter to the scene, the people, and the community he grew into. After starting off the set with a silly-string party that covered the stage and the band themselves in the slippery substance, It's All Happening played their most appropriate scene-loving song, "Looks Like We're In The Rock Business," a song about the venue they too, got their start in.
"Let's build a stage and lights, and show this town tonight," goes the chorus, which saw nearly the entire stage flooded with fans screaming along in unison. "This is our family, you can't take that from me."
During the song's outro, Vice could be seen screaming in frustration and in tears as It's All Happening finished their final set in the venue. In one of the highlights of the night, Vice closed out the set by playing a somber but optimistic new track called "I'm Not Gonna Lie, I Have The High Score," a tribute to Piradical Productions he wrote earlier in the week for the show.
"We put up a stage. It's not the best stage, but it's our stage, and it's all that we know," Vice sang as the crowd looked on quietly and with full attention. "We booked all the shows. They weren't the best shows, but they were our shows, and they were all that we knew. Let's see how this goes."
The final set of the night belonged to a reunion show from one of the first staples in Piradical Productions history, Highway Magic. After playing their final show last year before the members moved on to form It's All Happening with Vice, the band got together to play one more set for the ESJ's farewell show, where they performed the entirety of their last record. It was a nostalgia rush for long time Pirads and Indianapolis all-ages show-goers, and felt like a fitting end to the night and the era the venue had ushered in.
Overall, the musicianship in the performances weren't the best quality for most of the bands involved, but none of it seemed to matter to anyone in attendance, as the event felt less like a show and more of a celebration of the venue most in attendance came to know and love. The final event of the night was the destruction of the ES Jungle's stage. Just like the story went all night, the stage belonged to everyone there, and as Zumbrun and crew dismantled it and distributed the remaining pieces to anyone who wanted them, Vice's words from earlier in the night seemed prescient.
"It doesn't matter where the stage is, where the four walls surrounding us are. Wherever we are all together, those four walls become our home."
Scott's words, thoughts, pictures and podcasts also appear on Indianapolis-based pop culture blog PopTometry.