Twas the dog days of summer and all through Naptown
People traveled to where the new records are found
The albums were wrapped 'neath the Rock tree with care
In hopes that Release Fest will soon be there
Forgive our bastardization of Clement Clarke Moore's classic holiday poem, but we've got the a bad case of the Yuletide spirit. That's because for fans of local music in Indianapolis, Christmas comes in July.
Last year Shine Indy put on its first Release Fest, giving the Farewell Audition, Coup D'e Tat and the Chicago Typewriters the opportunity to own the big stage at the Vogue, at a show celebrating the release of each band's new album. The show, organizers say, was an unqualified success, bringing brand new local music onstage with displays by local visual artists, a one night microcosm of how much Indianapolis' arts communities have to offer.
For a second incarnation, Shine Indy recording engineer Ryan Gibbons knew they had to find a way to up the ante, so they doubled it. On Friday, IAMLION, No Pit Cherries, Brother O' Brother, Sugar Moon Rabbit and Brad Kleinschmidt take the stage, with Gypsy Moonshine along for the ride to entertain VIPs before the show. Each band will showcase never-before-heard music, much of which has been more than a year in the making.
“Every band involved put a lot of their souls into these projects,” Gibbons says. “What Release Fest does is [get] them the audience they deserve at what I consider to be one of the best rock venues in the country. To someone who hasn't been to an Indy show, I would say more than anything you're going to have a lot of fun.”
One band making big waves in particular is Brother O' Brother, coming off their recent title-winning performance in at Birdy's Battle Royale finals in May. The band put the final touches on Show Pony, their second locally produced album, and they've been ready for Indianapolis to hear it for a long while.
“We agreed to it back in December, before we even had the Battle Royale on our radar,” says Chris Banta, who sings and plays guitar in the duo alongside drummer Warner Swopes.
And though they're on their second album – many of the bands participating this year are releasing their first recorded songs — that's only got them more excited to hear releases from the rest of the bill.
“I noticed when I was looking at the poster for No Pit Cherries, they've been around for four years and this is their first album.” Banta says. “This is our second album only because from the word 'go' we had an EP out. It was important to us from that very first show to have something to put in peoples' hands.”
Sugar Moon Rabbit, have Sounds of the City, a love letter to the city of Indianapolis, to showcase from the Vogue stage. Their third album is an effort to forge a new sound from the influences that have formed their earlier work, and if lead singer Trevor Potts is to be believed, when they unleash the songs for the Release Fest crowd it will be electrifying.
“We plan to light the Vogue stage on fire,” he jokes. “Seriously though, we always have surprises in store, and the audience always plays a crucial role in our shows. So with their help, there's no telling where the celebration may lead. Also, this will be the only night we'll be playing the new album in its entirety, so it will be an unforgettable night.”
Others on the bill are looking at this show as an opportunity to expand from solo to full band shows.
“I normally play a lot of solo acoustic shows, or those as a duo or trio where every song is written from a one-guitar, one voice world,” says Brad Kleinschmidt, who will debut his EP Gone at the show. “I recorded all these songs as a full band, to maximize every last ounce of emotion in these tracks. I hope Release Fest is the start of a new beginning when it comes to booking more full-band gigs in the future.”
One thing that stands out is that, for the folks at Shine Indy, loving music is a full-time job on top of the other jobs they do to make a living. And for the most part, Gibbons says, every dollar they make goes back into Shine Indy, an investment in our city's musical stock market. His fingerprints are all over the show, having produced No Pit Cherries' album Pressure front to back, as well as new material from Gypsy Moonshine. And, he says, if we are willing to do our parts there's no limit to where Indianapolis can go nationally.
“Buy the merch, share the music wherever you can, request the music on local stations,” he says. “I feel the big thing that needs to happen is we need to start getting music on corporate radio stations because the audience is so wide. I feel that is a necessary evil to get the bands into the ears of the public and get our music into other markets. Look at breakout scenes like Seattle in the '90s! It was the songs that made all that happen, and the vibe was singular. We need a breakout album or song, and everything else will fall into place.”
For Aaron West, lead guitarist of No Pit Cherries, that breakout album can't be too hard to find.
“With all these great bands around it's easy to set a bill that has something for everyone,” he says. “There are so many shows we see around town that are just as good as the national acts, if not better. As for Release Fest, you've got four of Indy's best artists sharing the stage with us. That ought to be enough to get you off the couch right there!”
With so many bands debuting new material, it seems the bands themselves are often just as excited to hear what the other bands can bring to such an overstuffed table.
“We're excited to see all the acts,” says Aaron Sprowl, guitarist for IAMLION. “We saw Brad [Kleinschmidt] play for the first time a couple weeks ago and loved it. We have played with No Pit Cherries in the past and they put on a hell of a show. Everybody knows what Brother O' Brother brings to the table. And after seeing Sugar Moon Rabbit's new video, we're excited to see them perform the track live. It's going to be a very diverse event.”
“We have something great going on here in Indy,” Gibbons says. “The music continues to grow, and the amount of talent in our city limits is so thick it's difficult to move. The people in this town are what keeps the whole thing going and growing. And you're probably going to be surprised in that bands are stepping up their games as songwriters, concocting shows you won't forget when you walk out the door of the venue.”