There's changes afoot in Indianapolis' music venue world. Below, check out the newest rock and roll bar, a DIY venue opening and DIY venue closing.
Mediumship channels musical spirits in Fountain Square
Fountain Square has found itself the center of the universe. This isn't due to a crack in the space-time continuum or the failings of physics, but rather the tireless work of the bands formed within the Indianapolis neighborhood. The bonds are tight, with bands trading members, rotating concert slots and sharing road stories in an effort to transforms themselves and their community.
Last year's CATARACTS Music Festival served as a coming-out event for many Fountain Square bands. They opened their own homes to fans and the curious with great success. But a neighborhood block party can't sustain itself year round, and with the loss of Shared Heritage as a performance space, the Fountain Square noisers have had to adapt.
Hence, the opening of Mediumship. Located at the intersection of Orange and Wright Streets in the Bates-Hendricks neighborhood of Indianapolis, the space founded by Joey Shepard and Jacob Gardner aims to consolidate the neighborhood's diverging interests.
"Mediumship is essentially a vessel in which we can put all of our efforts as a collective," Gardner said. "Although its original function was aimed at being a DIY label, it serves as an equally functional venue and recording studio."
The scope of Mediumship is ambitious and Gardner isn't shy about it.
"By offering recording services, booking, and eventually vinyl pressing to regional and even national artists, we're here to help foster our community by showing people (not literally) there is more than one way to skin a cat."
The all-in-one venue speaks to how engrained music is in their lives, right down to the name itself.
"Generally speaking, Mediumship refers to the practice of "mediums" that mediate communication between spirits of the dead and other human beings," said Shepard. "Therefore, our collective tries to facilitate experiences that cultivate any type of interaction with the spirit world. We try to highlight the inherent magick in coming together for music, collectively changing consciousness for a few hours, and returning home a changed individual."
Gardner and Shepard's cause is noble, dedicated to the dissemination of music - and not just the work of Fountain Square.
Mediumship is also focused on this year's CATARACTS festival.
"We are having one show a month in preparation for this year's CATARACTS," said Gardner. "The next show at Mediumship will be April 5 with Baby Birds Don't Drink Milk, Kevin Greenspon, Vehicle Blues, and Street Spirits. There will also be many events to come around Fountain Square in anticipation for CATARACTS, which will be on September 15 this year.
Shepard succinctly sums up the goals of Mediumship with one last thought: "We want to elevate our environment through the creation and dissemination of music. Lift it up... "
Mourning the loss of all-ages Dojo
All-ages cornerstone the Dojo has shuttered its doors and disbanded its collective for the foreseeable future. After a recently tumultuous bout of money issues, the all-ages, DIY venue is no more.
The venue has, since its inception nearly three years ago, carried with it the tag of "embattled."
After a brief stint on the Eastside next to the Emerson Theater, the venue was booted by the landlord after police and neighbors complained one too many times about noise and "those darned kids!" It was, in fact, a performance by hardcore legends Terror that brought on the final complaints from neighbors.
The most recent incarnation was helmed by scene mainstay John Suiters. Suiters had earned his spot in the hardcore scene by playing guitar in local favorites Axis & Allies and by being the brains behind The 1511, a house venue in SoBro that, until 2010, was the hub of the local hardcore scene.
In summer 2010, Jackie Palmer and Clark Giles were booted from the original Dojo location on the Eastside. With the scene scrambling for a new location, Suiters stepped up to help find a new place.
"The Dojo opening took a lot of hard work and sacrifices," noted Dojo volunteer Matt Aull. "And it seemed great that [Suiters] was so willing to step up."
The second Dojo incarnation opened at 22nd and College Avenue in late summer 2010. At first, only the dozen or so denizens at the core of the hardcore scene were booking shows there. But word spread quickly to other promoters and in no time at all, the Dojo had become the place for small, all-ages DIY shows in the city.
Shows at the Dojo were booked via email requests from promoters. Volunteers worked the venue during shows, controlling the PA, working the door and closing up shop afterwards. With a scant rental fee of $50, almost anyone could afford to book a show there. But even as shows became more frequent and the Dojo became more financially secure, there was trouble at the heart of the operation.
After trouble from the IRS and internal strife, Suiters announced that the venue's last day of operation would be January 12, 2012.
"It is a bummer to see a DIY, all-ages venue that hosted some great shows go down so ugly," said Aull. "And it sucks that the consensus with everyone, including me, is that the Dojo closing was a really good move."
"The Dojo was the only thing in the city that really kept the scene alive at all," said Dojo volunteer and former Bolth drummer James Lyter. "Without the Dojo, we don't have much of anything."
Suiters opted out of explaining his side of the story, commenting only, "I don't want anything to do with it. The Dojo was filling a need. When that need vanished, so did the venue. I'm just so drained lately with all the bullshit. I don't care to talk about it. I just wish more people actually appreciated what it took to keep it open."
Although the drama at the Dojo may have left a bad taste in the mouths of some dedicated Indy scenesters, the search for more all-ages, DIY venues will continue.
The space that La Jolla left behind has a brand new tenant but don't worry, there will still be plenty of tequila.
The Night Porter opened in late January, just before the Super Bowl flooded Indy with scads of out-of-towners.
Steve Markoff, a partner in the new venture, has furnished the space with a portion of his personal concert art collection. The bar is gilded with tickets and backstage passes from shows in Indy and elsewhere and the walls are lined with signed and numbered rock concert prints. But, the real focus is the bar.
Markoff decorated the bar with six huge murals featuring the biggest rockstars from each decade of the last half century; he said choosing the biggest stars was no easy task.
"Big arguments took place," said Markoff. "The bottom of the actual bar is 186 inches long and has six murals dedicated to who my friends and I felt were the single biggest rockstars from each decade, from the 1950s2000s," said Markoff.
The pieces were designed by Indianapolis artist Aaron Scamihorn (a.k.a. Ronlewhorn).
Why the Night Porter? Markoff says it represents a few different things; first, it's the nickname of his favorite singer Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age. It also embodies the type of service the owners want to impart to the guests.
"Historically, a night porter is the person responsible for hotel guests' needs during the late night and early morning hours," said Markoff.
The, operators will take care of their guests needs with a small menu featuring gourmet macaroni and cheese and other comfort food options and a large variety of vodka, whiskey and tequila.
The art adorning the walls and gourmet comfort food are not the only things that will be curated by the new owners. The music is specially chosen for every night at the bar.
The owners plan on hosting a few DJ nights a week, but Markoff's not ruling out the possibility of hosting larger events. The space, mostly empty except for a few scattered high top tables, could easily accommodate over one hundred people standing with enough room for a full band setup.
Indy DJ Action Jackson hosts a dance night called Night Train every Friday evening at 10 p.m. There is no cover for the weekly event, which features indie rock and current dance hits.
"I can't wait for everyone to see the place. It's truly realizing a dream of having my own rock bar and not a cheese ball rock bar!" said Markoff.