It wasn’t long ago that a smallish sized building near the corner of New York Street and State Avenue sat lifeless. Located in the Holy Cross neighborhood of Indianapolis, what was formerly a drag bar was then nothing more than an eyesore, with boarded-up windows and an empty parking lot.
After driving past the space for years, GloryHole Records founder Jimmy Peoni decided it was time for a change.
“I’ve always enjoyed putting on shows and was really prone to house shows,” says Peoni, who has booked shows in Indy for years. “I did a few at Radio Radio, White Rabbit and Melody Inn but really liked house shows. I had always looked at the building that was there, and I liked the location.”
With this in mind, Peoni sought to create a venue with a laid-back, house show vibe, opening State Street Pub in May 2015. A longtime supporter of local music, he began booking shows at the Pub with an “If you build it, they will come” approach, knowing that the music community would rally behind his efforts. Now one year later, State Street Pub is set to celebrate its first birthday with a two-night shindig featuring several local acts that have played a part in helping the venue get its feet off the ground.
“I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I’ve been by how the kids have taken to it,” Peoni says of all the support he’s gotten from Indy’s young music lovers. “I firmly believe that if you give off good things, you get good things back, and I’ve always tried to give to the music community here.”
In keeping with the spirit of house shows, State Street Pub aims to keep things DIY, often giving musicians and artists the freedom to make their imaginative event ideas come to life. One of those is the A/V Club nights where local art meets local music for a live audio/visual experience.
“Landon Caldwell, Jordan Allen and I started the State Street Pub A/V Club last year as a monthly event, and it’s been my new favorite side project,” says Jeremy Tubbs, who’s also a cofounder of Fountain Square’s General Public Collective. “It works so much better in a bar. The attention of it in a gallery would feel awkward. Inside the pub, it can just be happening and evolve as people come and go.”
Known to many by his producer name of Clint Breeze, Carrington Clinton
has also started coordinating a series of “Nightly Notable” showcases at State Street Pub that feature local jazz, soul and R&B artists all on one bill. In addition to performing with his own band (Clint Breeze and the Groove), Clinton has welcomed several other notable locals to be a part of his showcases thus far, including Drayco McCoy, Elle Roberts, John Stamps and DJ Little Town.
“The first Nightly Notable show was incredible,” reflects Clinton on the event’s January installment. “The turnout was great, and all the artists killed it. It felt like a packed out, hot and sweaty house show. The energy was electrifying.”
Since moving back from California last year, Landon Caldwell (Creeping Pink, Burnt Ones, Learner Dancer) has worked as a bartender and booker at State Street, ensuring that many of these innovative event ideas make it onto the calendar.
“I like the curatorial approach. I’m into anything that makes a show more than just a couple bands playing rock ‘n’ roll,” he says. With this in mind, he strives to keep all Pub events equally eye-popping. “I want every show to have the magic of the first punk shows I went to as a teenager,” he says. “For that to happen, we've got to be pushing the boundaries of what we consider a show.”
Mark Tester, another member of Burnt Ones, recently moved back to Indianapolis from California and started working for State Street Pub part-time.
“From afar, seeing the consistent visual aesthetic on the posters and the attention to detail in what was being booked at State Street Pub once Landon came back made it seem like something was in the air here,” he says. In particular, Tester believes that State Street has “filled a void in the city as far as what you can do with a bar venue.”
“It definitely feels like a place the city needs, in that it hasn't really gotten swallowed up by some of the genre tropes and expectations venues usually fall in to,” he says. “We are trying to dig into some of the unifying weirdness and outsider tendencies in the city, so we are more interested in cultivating a space that can go from hosting harsh noise to withdrawn folk to lo-fi punk to improvisational and explorative music than we are in getting whatever flavor-of-the-month bands/sounds or hip DJ nights that will fill a room.”
Caldwell also believes that State Street is helping more and more local musicians to feel at home when they’re at the bar too. “We wanted State Street Pub to be a hybrid of a bar venue and a DIY venue, which for the most part, I think we have done rather successfully,” he says. “I feel like that has a lot of appeal to local musicians, so much so that quite a few bands refer to State Street Pub as home.”
In talking with both bands and patrons that frequent the bar, this sentiment is one that is heard time and time again.
“There's a certain expectation and vibe when you enter the doors at State Street Pub,” Clinton says. “It feels homey and welcoming — divey, gritty and most importantly, refreshing.”
“It's run by artists so naturally everything they do is genuinely sympathetic, in-line, and on pulse with the music and arts community,” adds Raw Image guitarist Jacob Gardner.
“It feels like a home to me, and I love house shows.”
Caldwell simply hopes that the Pub can continue to grow at the same rate over the next year. “If we can do that, I can't even imagine what we will be doing,” he says.
If you go:
One Year Anniversary Party with Benny Sanders, Peter and The Kings, Nathaniel Russell, Jorma Whittaker (Friday) and Skin Conditions, GGC Field Manual, Potslammer, Serpent Piss, Miami Mice II, SUS, Raw Image (Saturday)
Friday, May 20, 10 p.m. – Saturday, May 21, 8 p.m.
State Street Pub, 243 N. State Ave.