The narrative of punk rock is one of cycles. There are full moons and there are new moons. There is high tide and there is low tide. There is the dry season and there is the wet season.
Right now, I am happy to say, the Indianapolis scene is in the middle of high tide. A wet season. A monsoon. The fertile silt of youth has given birth to a plethora of new bands, new house venues and new promoters.
Riding the crest of this current tide are bands like Pessoa, Big Things, PissArtist and Male Bondage as well as promoters like James Reuter and Jake Amrhein.
Despite having just over a few years’ experience in concert promotion, Reuter and Amrhein have both contributed directly to the vibrancy of the current scene.
While they dabble in punk, hip-hop, pop and hardcore, both promoters have been huge supporters of skramz, or emo revival. For both, the indie-skramz quartet Pessoa seems to be a common inspiration. Having grown up in Avon, Amrhein was familiar with Pessoa’s previous incarnation, Henry Can’t Die, and was good friends with the members through high school.
“The first show I ever booked,” says Reuter, “was Pessoa with Suffix and Coma Regalia.”
After the Pessoa-Suffix show, Reuter immediately starting getting requests from local and touring bands asking that he set up shows for them.
“These were bands I wanted to see,” says Reuter, “and no one else was booking them, so I said 'I’ll book it’. It’s better to just go ahead and do it than wait for someone else to do it.”
For Amrhein, his expertise as a promoter came from booking shows for is own bands. “It wasn’t long,” says Amrhei, “until I realized that I wanted to do something like this for a living.”
After just over a year of promoting shows, Amrhein has organized dozens of shows as well as two high-profile fests at The Hoosier Dome and Indy Hostel, respectively.
For this weekend, Amrhein has organized one of the highlights of the summer: the three-day Super Mega Slam Fest at the Indy Hostel. With a little help from his friends (and Reuter), Amrhein has been able to gather just about every up-and-coming local band, as well as dozens of out-of-town bands who want to be a part of the bountiful scene that he has helped to create.
The genesis for the Super Mega Slam Fest was a show in Bloomington for Florida-based band, You Blew It!. The show was so successful that the band suggested that Amrhein book a fest in Indianapolis. Taking their suggestion to heart, Amrhein asked You Blew It! to return.
“What was going to be a one or two day affair,” Amrhein says, “turned into this weekend-long, 30-plus band event that it is.”
While Amrhein and Reuter are findign success in the scene right now, there are still changes that they would like to see happen in the city. Amrhein, for one, would like to see a reduction in rental fees at local venues.
“I feel as though revenue can be made without strangling the pockets of kids or bands that try to book shows. I would make a law that venues could charge no more than $100 to book a show or $150 max on a weekend show with national acts,” he says. “There are other ways to generate income to pay rent and to profit off of.”
Despite the high rental fees for venues like The Hoosier Dome and The Emerson, Amrhein and Reuter are booking stellar shows and putting Indianapolis back on the DIY punk/hardcore/emo map. If the Super Mega Slam Fest — which features killer locals like Pessoa, No Coast, Rodeo Ruby Love, Vacation Club and PissArtist as well as impressive touring bands like Dowsing, Like Bats and, of course, You Blew It! — doesn’t make you proud to be a punk in Indiana, then nothing will.
“There are so many bands doing great things right now in Indianapolis and Bloomington. People are kidding themselves if they don’t see it happening,” said Amrhein.