Music venues for all ages


Let's start with a peek at my process.

I spend a large chunk of each week writing the music section calendar that you find at the back of each issue. Each edition of Soundcheck includes about 90 events and runs about 3,000 words. There's no doubting it: There's a ton of music happening in Indianapolis weekly.

I'm 25, only four years removed from that sinking feeling familiar to most young music fans: the one you get in the pit of your stomach when a band you absolutely adore comes through town, only to play at a 21+ venue. It is, truly, a huge bummer.

But even in the four short years since I aged into the club and bar venue scene, Indianapolis' all-ages scene has changed drastically. So, in the spirit of that change, we're profiling the owners and operators of spots around town that are open to all ages. The venues we've profiled run the gamut of new, historic and multipurpose. Yes, most of the Live Nation-operated venues in town (The Lawn, Old National Centre, Klipsch) are all-ages. However, this profile series focuses on smaller, locally owned and operated all-ages venues. We also did not include the plethora of house venues that are scattered all over Indy. Our reason for that is two-fold: first, because these venues are occasionally operated without the knowledge of landlords; and second, because we've got to stop somewhere, don't we?

On to the venues.

- Katherine Coplen


Neighborhood: Fountain Square

Capacity: TBD, as space develops

If you're on Virginia Ave. during the day, you'll see the chalkboard sign: General Public Collective is open. The space, run and co-founded by six friends: Abby Goldsmith, Jason Pittenger-Arnold, Rachel Peacock, Jeremy Tubbs, Jessica Lykens and Lisa Jackson, is open during the day so visitors can peruse the gallery, which features new work monthly, and shop a healthy collection of zines, vintage clothing and music.

But it really comes alive at night, during the many poetry readings and movie screenings that have graced its floor over the last year — and the music. Some of the best local music shows of the last year have gone down at GPC, including album releases, video premieres, stacked local shows and First Friday events galore.

It's all going according to plan.

"GPC was established to support emerging artists within Indianapolis and then bring outside national and international artists to Indianapolis," Pittenger-Arnold said. "After a year, that mission really hasn't changed much. We've been granted this privilege of being about to do that full-force."

Last October's First Friday was their official opening date in the Virginia Ave. spot that formerly housed Joe's Cycles.

"Having it all-ages is a really important facet of [GPC]," Peacock said. "I grew up in Indianapolis ... and I remember trying to go to shows all the time, and so rarely being successful. It really sucked. Being underage in this town for a long time was kind of shitty. ... I'm really happy that spaces like [Hoosier Dome and others] exist now."

GPC is a long, narrow space split halfway by a bookcase that divides the gallery from a shared artist workspace. Equipment is added as frequently as new gallery art, including several new printers. They say they plan to start publishing zines in-house very soon. ("Everyone's built up ten zine ideas by now, so it's probably going to be a freak out when everything gets going," Goldsmith said. "Probably will be. We'll be covered in paper," Pittenger-Arnold agreed.)

The founders say they've planned 2015's exhibiting artists through August. They host about five events per month, a schedule that has slowed down a bit since the beginning after, "we realized we want all events to be thought out and specific," Goldsmith said. "We maybe want to have fewer events, but make sure [each is] very well thought out."

Although they say this year has not been without its share of difficulties, co-founders say they're not afraid of the financial burden or time constraints of co-running the space.

"I think this project is going to sustain itself for as long as we want it to," Peacock said. "We're very lucky that we made this happen at the time that it did. There was such a need for it. I feel like artists flocked to us."

"We do have plans to open it up a little bit more," Goldsmith says. "We've talked about having open meetings ... where we open to the community. Since we've began, so many people have offered their time and so many people have offered to volunteer."

It's been a good year for GPC — for attendees (like me) and the co-founders, too. "One of the more rewarding things I've ever done was being involved with this," Peacock said.


Neighborhood: Fountain Square

Capacity: "intimate"

The Hoosier Dome has been one of the mainstays of the Indianapolis all-ages music scene for almost five years. The Fountain Square venue is the home of local all-ages booking company Piradical Productions, currently preparing for its ninth year of hosting all-ages shows in the Circle City. Though helmed by founder Stephen Zumbrun, Piradical Productions has cemented its place in the Indianapolis music scene with the help of Zumbrun's friends, a dedicated street team and word of mouth supported by the roster of musical acts they have hosted.

Amongst the various people Zumbrun is excited to have on his team is Nathaniel Wolos, owner of Open Shut Buttons and founder of Radder Day Rides. Wolos heads the street team of young, eager volunteers who spread the word of the all-ages venue, while also helping to run the door and sell concessions.

"He's been a great addition to our venue and his excitement for all-ages music has helped us continue to put on fantastic concerts for local and national bands," said Zumbrun, noting that the volunteer team is always looking for new members who are willing to help the venue.

One of the more popular acts to take the stage of the Hoosier Dome is Nashville power pop group Diarrhea Planet. After recently selling out a show at the Dome, Zumbrun notes that Diarrhea Planet frontman Jordan Smith was wearing a Hoosier Dome hoodie.

"He had been wearing his Hoosier Dome hoodie as they toured all over the country and he was talking about how well known the Hoosier Dome was becoming nationally," said Zumbrun. "People would talk about how their bands had played here and had a great time or about how when they come to Indy, that's where they want to play."

After Piradical Productions struggled to keep a space for the first several years of operations, the Hoosier Dome has finally become an all-ages venue Zumbrun is excited to call home. As Piradical Productions draws closer to its 10-year anniversary, Zumbrun hopes to continue building a national reputation of what Indianapolis and the Hoosier Dome itself has to offer touring bands traveling through the Midwest.

"It's so great to be able to run the same venue in the same place for almost five years," said Zumbrun. "We're really able to get our name out there for having great shows and booking bands the local music scene is excited to see."


Neighborhood: Fountain Square

Capacity: 200

Why does the DoItIndy Radio Hour broadcast from inside Fountain Square's Grove Haus?

"It sounds beautiful and it looks amazing, so the artists and the audience are always happy in that respect," broadcaster MP Cavalier said. "There is something to be said for the all-ages component. When they do the monthly Saturday Eclectic Market it's very gratifying to be able to take my kids into the Haus to hear the bands play. And for us, as broadcasters, we can have bands like The Breakes [a band with all members under 21] on the show and they don't have to deal with the bullshit of waiting outside in the rain until set time."

The converted church, owned and operated by Carrie and Mark Ortwein, opened as the Grove Haus in January. They've hosted a handful of concerts and weekly DoItIndy radio broadcasts, plus contra and swing dancing every week, art exhibits, theatre, artists markets and music lessons.

On December 21, Bob Barrick's band Coyote Armada will release their new album How Not To Be Lonely at the Grove Haus.

"It wasn't too long ago that I was in the same boat as a lot of these all-ages venues' audiences. Growing up in Noblesville, I wanted nothing more than to see the Old 97's when they came through the Vogue, but it was always out of my reach," Barrick said. "That experience, or lack thereof, really limited the extent of my exposure to intimately set, live performances."

He picked the Grove Haus for his band's album release for that reason.

"With this show at the Grove Haus being a holiday benefit concert for Shepherd Community, it's really important to me that listeners feel welcome to bring their families along to join in on the celebration," Barrick said.

In their second year of operations, the Ortweins will add a lighting system and begin renovations that will result in a VIP area (currently a choir loft) and a Green Room (currently a men's bathroom). Carrie says they may pursue a license to sell beer and wine, but the Ortweins don't plan on becoming 21+ any time soon.

"It works two ways, having all-ages spaces," she said. "Young musicians themselves can get more experience playing in front of people and they can also catch other musicians that they may never get to see in other venues. It's important to a city's music scene because it has the potential to 'bring up' a strong set of musicians. If you want a strong music scene in our city, you need to start that cultivation at younger ages."


Neighborhood: South Broad Ripple

Capacity: 100, inside and outside

"I'll be looking for a new location more geared towards a show space," John Zeps says about changes to his record shop in 2015. "And maybe even doing rehearsal rooms and a collective of homegrown businesses."

The community vibe (pun intended) the shop has channeled in the last year has grown out of interest and necessity. Bringing in vendors like United State of Indiana and Lux & Ivy has brought a more diverse crowd into the shop that had previously featured mostly physical copies of heavier music and guitars for sale. Over the last year, Vibes has played host to a few dozen in-stores, including a rollicking, packed GloryHole Records showcase on Record Store Day in April.

The location may change, but the music he loves will stay the same. "I've always been passionate about metal, hardcore and this gear thing. I still want us to be that store."

He'll highlight live music at his new space (if Vibes does end up moving), as well. Collaboration between artists, musicians and even other shops is a priority for Zeps, too.


Neighborhood: Bates Hendricks

Capacity: TBD, as space develops

One of the very newest all-ages show spaces in Indy is Kismet, run by Joe Fawcett. He has big goals for his new space, on S. East St.

"I want people to come to support and engage in earnest creative expression and discussion," Fawcett says. "The venue will be equipped to digitally record as many performances as possible, both audio and video. I want the space to facilitate creating content that can be published online in an accessible way in order to contribute to the conspicuousness of our local culture. Eventually we'll sell local art and band merch."

Fawcett has experience with all-ages spaces, including a Fountain Square spot, Maltese Tiger. That space, which hosted the Musical Family Tree New Music Showcase this fall, is currently rented out to performers as a rehearsal and recording space. He envisions hosting between four to eight shows per month at Kismet, which has hosted a combination of hip-hop, punk and rock shows since opening this fall. He'll add more if it's sustainable – and it will stay all-ages.

"I know there are a lot of creative and passionate people in Indianapolis who don't want to wait until they're 21 to get started performing and attending shows," he said. "All-ages spaces provide a place for that exposure to happen."

— Katherine Coplen


Neighborhood: Fountain Square

Capacity: TBD, as space develops

Joyful Noise is on the move.

The label, long-loved by physical media fetishists, first set up shop in Suite 207 of the Murphy Art Center, but slowly reached its tentacles into other rooms on the second floor, including space for a record store and a storage/workspace. This winter, founder Karl Hofstetter tells me, the label will make an even bigger jump: taking over several rooms on the second floor. Don't fret: they're keeping a space for (often) super low cost, (always) all-ages shows.

Hofstetter says it was about "six months ago when Rachel [Enneking] took over" booking shows for the space. "We try to make all of our shows pay-what-you-want," he said, of recent shows in the space." They have to donate something, but it can be a penny. All the money, 100 percent of it goes to the bands," he said. "We want to keep it special and intimate. ... We're not a traditional music venue or bar, more of just an intimate, special show kind of place.

Expect larger events from the label in 2015, too.

"We have an idea to create an annual summit of sorts, where we would have all of our bands come into town once a year," he said. "Part of it would be internal business, but we would also have a panel component ... and also a show component that we would probably do at venues in Fountain Square."

— Katherine Coplen



Neighborhood: Little Flower

Capacity: 400

Big changes have come to the historic Emerson Theater this year.

"Some of these improvements include a brand new PA, a brand new lighting system, an improved stage, the addition of a drum riser, a new paint job, and several other small changes," Ashleigh Morgan, said. "We have begun to add more and more large shows, hosting a wide range of regionally, nationally, and internationally touring artists of all genres."

With all of this revamping, Morgan knows there is still a ways to go. "We also have several other cosmetic changes and improvements to make to our venue," she said.

Having operated as an all-ages space since 1993, the Emerson Theater draws all styles of acts, including hip-hop, EDM, indie, punk, pop punk, metal, hardcore, metalcore and more. Front of house staff member Sam Kirby sees this expansive draw of acts as a result of the Emerson's commitment to exclusively throwing all-ages events. He explained, "Having an all-ages venue in Indianapolis gives us the ability to diversify the different genres of shows and packages that come through the city, and ultimately gives us the ability to please a larger audience."

"Helping new musicians develop their bands and music is a vital part of developing the local scene here in Indianapolis," Morgan says. "We feel that by operating as an all-ages venue, we are contributing to new bands growing in this scene."

­— Seth Johnson


Neighborhood: Old Northside

Capacity: 200

Earlier this year, Indy Indie Artist Colony Gallery Director Bobbie Zaphiriou decided to start up an in-house event called Sound Check, designed to showcase the talent of the residents living in the apartment complex's 72 units.

"It's a quasi-vaudevillian open mic night showcasing the neighbor's talents, whether it's one of the house bands, a solo singer-songwriter, a stand-up comedian, poet or essayist, or even somebody with some mad shadow puppet skills," she said. "The point was that the people wanted and needed a space to hear and be heard, see and be seen."

Much to Zaphiriou's delight, the success of these events "opened the floodgates of interest from groups and individuals who wanted to use the space for music and performance," allowing the gallery to also serve as an all-ages venue. Initially, bands would just accompany Indy Indie's First Friday events (the post rock act Shipwreck Karpathos was the first of these, according to Zaphiriou). However, the number of concerts increased, with the space hosting a wide variety of musical performers thanks to the help of New Noise Entertainment, Galt House Records and the residents of the Colony.

Looking forward to 2015, Indy Indie plans to continue providing monthly events and opportunities for audiences and performers both young and old, offering them with the creative hub they're looking for.

"Indy Indie wants to bring meaningful experiences in all of the arts to as many folks as are open to receive them," Zaphiriou said. "Whether it's an 8-year-old whose life is changed by getting to watch a drummer go to town 10 feet from their face, or a young band who can finally land a gig beyond their basement because they were given an opportunity, these lives are positively affected and we're all about that."

— Seth Johnson


Neighborhood: South Broad Ripple

Capacity: 90

Hot off the heels of a rare solo Ben Watt show at the Hi-Fi a few weeks ago, LUNA Music is deep in its 20th anniversary celebrations, which owner Todd Robinson kicked off with a surprise low in-store in October.

"We have quite a few in the offing and are waiting, moment-by-moment, to see how the timing will work out," Robinson said. "We've already dropped a hint about Mark Kozelek playing at the shop, in 2015 — probably mid-spring.  If all goes according to plan, we'll have a total of seven (or so) 20th anniversary events/shows.  A live recording could even be released for Record Store Day!"

The store generally hosts about 25 in-stores per year, but Robinson & Co. are peppering their calendar with surprise shows to celebrate LUNA's anniversary (including, he mentions, possibly their first one in the middle of the night). Robinson also plans to continue to work with Laundromatinee to film and record in-stores.

"[Being an all-ages space] gives the under-21 crowd a chance to immerse themselves in a true, live experience (not behind a screen) — perhaps planting the seeds of enjoying live music and, importantly, inspiration that they might want to become a musician/performer, too," Robinson said.

— Katherine Coplen


Neighborhood: South Broad Ripple

Capacity: 50 inside, 120 outside

"Getting to experience a wide range of cultural events from a young age sets a great precedent for years to come," Paul Humes, Indy Hostel general manager, said when NUVO reached out to speak about the Broad Ripple hostel-cum-show-space.

"We even have under 21 artists who play here as well, Katie Krauter being a great example.  Her show last year brought in a bunch of her school friends and the event was full of young energy and excitement."

The SoBro-area hostel recently renamed the rooms in the house – Vonnegut, Letterman, Monument, Monon, Florence, Speedway, each designed with local art and a bit of history from the namesake – and they're making changes to their musical offerings as well.

"We are bringing in new local acts this year as well as trying to team up some acts from around the country," Humes said. "We have a new pre-sale system and are open just a bit later on show night, 11 p.m."

Indy Hostel hosts about three shows per month in the winter; in the summer, bands relocate outside to the backyard stage, which can accommodate many more. But their blockbuster events are August's Indy Folk Fest and October's Harvest Fest.

"During this year's Indy Folk Fest, we used the backyard and connected alleyway and had an awesome turnout of over 400," Humes said.

— Katherine Coplen


Neighborhood: Irvington

From tiny youngsters to elderly women, the Irving Theater's programming aims to serve a multitude of creative needs for those of every age, explains venue owner Dale Harkins.

"Today we had a gift fair, tonight we do Rocky Horror, and tomorrow we've got country music, so it bounces all over the place," he said via phone on a busy Saturday.

When Harkins took over the Irving back in 2006, he admitted he didn't really know what he was going to do with the space. But one day, while cleaning the building out, a young band looking for somewhere to play a show approached him. Since then, the venue has hosted more and more live music, welcoming local groups as well as internationally touring ones. In being able to support the endeavors of so many young adults (whom he also refers to as kids) Harkins has found a great deal of satisfaction.

"These kids are coming in and they're traveling the world," he said. "It's neat to have the venue be a part of that rise to stardom, fame or whatever they're looking for."

From pop punk to hip-hop, the Irving's stage has welcomed all kinds of genres over the years. Still though, Harkins hopes to improve upon his show-throwing abilities even more, saying, "I guess my goal all along has been to just do the shows better."

Looking forward, Harkins is aware of the challenges that face his space — ones that he believes both larger and smaller venues are battling. Nevertheless, he plans to continue throwing all-ages events, having seen how much it has meant to the community over the years.

"The kids need a place to go — a good, clean, safe place to hang out — and I think it's neat that we can provide that," he said. "I think we fill that need, and I think we do it fairly well."

— Seth Johnson


Neighborhood: Broad Ripple

We reported on the purchase of Indy CD and Vinyl by Annie and Andy Skinner and Eric Davis 11 months ago, including their extensive renovations. During their overhaul, the trio made sure to prioritize live music with a new, bigger stage and better sound. So naturally, it's been a big year for shows for the store, including monthly showcases curated by Musical Family Tree and free, daylight showcases from national acts before their nighttime shows at venues that are frequently 21+. (They also snagged a Best of Indy win in the category of Best Local Record Store.)

"We have no plans to change anything next year," Andy Skinner said. "We are very happy with our big new stage, full sound, and monthly MFT showcases and monthly Kids Day! Possibly we will be having more national acts perform, but really we are quite happy being an asset to the music community in our current state."

Up next on that big new stage: breakout sister duo Lily and Madeleine – who are both under 21 themselves.

— Katherine Coplen


Neighborhood: Far Westside

Capacity: TBD, as space develops

It's been just a little under 11 months since far Westside venue Westgate opened its doors and stage to local music. It's nearly survived the one year mark. So what's up for 2015?

"As we're going to continue to do shows and things like that," Dimitri Morris says of his space, "We're also going to be doing gallery art, things of that ilk. We're going to continue to do Let's Do Lunch [with Oreo Jones] and a lot more live sessions, where we get bands to come in and record. Diversifying from doing shows and putting out tapes, broadening the creativity of the space as a whole."

(Editor's note: Music editor Katherine Coplen and Oreo Jones host a weekly radio show together on Alt1033.)

Season Two Coming Soon! 🍝🎤📼📹📡📺🇺🇸💸

A video posted by Let's Do Lunch with Oreo Jones (@ldlwoj) on

Morris estimates about 60 percent of the space is used and about 15 percent of attendees are under 21. It's all very fluid, an open creative space that's constantly in flux.

"[DIY music venues] give [Indy] variety," he said. "To be able to have a spot where pretty much anybody can come listen to music and be able to connect with people that enjoy what they do musically makes a big difference. It's really exciting to have a space where we can do that as well as allow people to feel like they can come in here with ideas and be creative. A lot of venues are just venues and don't really do anything other than that. To be able to have a venue where you can move the stage around, have creative space where you can have a TV and different things like that, it really diversifies and opens up what the city can become, as well as what the space can become."

It hasn't come without challenges.

"I feel like we lent our ear to a lot of people's ideas," Morris says of 2014's efforts. "Indianapolis has a lot of idea men, but not a lot of people who like to follow through. It's been interesting trying to siphon through what needs to be done, who is around and capable of pulling certain things off. What's stuff that we can put into a folder for things to do later, people to check up on later.

— Katherine Coplen


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