Festival season is upon us, but you don't have to travel far for a great lineup. There's one in our own backyard.
The second annual Mutant Fest takes place Saturday July 11 at The Back Door and The Blockhouse in Bloomington. It's the second year for the fest, but technically a Bloomington debut; the first occurrence was in Louisville last year.
Festival founder Meagan Scruggs said the turnout to last year's festival was quite a bit smaller than she expected, but despite the disappointment, she knew immediately after that first festival that Mutant Fest needed to happen again.
"It was an overall fun experience, and I just kind of learned from it," she said.
So when Scruggs made the move to Bloomington, she brought her idea with her.
Alex Molica and Jared Coyle, founders of the concert promoter/record label/house venue Crush Grove, invited her to start booking shows and live in the Crush Grove house, and they joined the effort to bring Mutant Fest back for round two.
This year, bands will perform at both The Back Door and The Blockhouse, with sets starting at staggered times so someone is always playing.
Scruggs said she knew from the beginning that The Back Door would be a good place to host the festival, and they started looking into The Blockhouse when it opened at the beginning of the year. She said The Blockhouse had just successfully hosted the Bloomington Peace Festival at the end of April, so they agreed to host Mutant Fest shortly after.
The Hemingers are the only Mutant Fest veterans to play again this year on a lineup Scruggs sweated over. Finally getting her first choice band Timmy's Organism on the bill was a high point for Scruggs in the festival's planning.
"I always thought he was, like, the number one mutant," she said about the band's frontman Timmy Vulgar.
Last year, he turned down her request to play at the festival, but she said he finally relented after she persistently asked about playing this year.
Mutants like Timmy Vulgar are the intended audience for Mutant Fest, Scruggs said.
"It's for the movers and the shakers, the creepers, the crawlers, the underground dwellers and the rock'n'roll goners," she said. "It's just for the out-of-place and the not normal."
Scruggs said when she put together the lineup for the festival, she wanted to put together a festival that she, a self-described "true believer in rock and roll," would enjoy. She wanted an afternoon and evening of uncompromising rock to give to rock lovers.
Even more, Scruggs said she wanted to showcase her favorite Midwest rockers.
"I want Indiana to be put on the map for rock and roll," she said. "I want it to be true again, so I got as many Midwest bands as possible. I think my heart is in the Midwest."
Kyle Gross, drummer and vocalist in The Brothers Gross, said he thinks it's great to gather together so many bands from the region. He said he's especially excited to see new bands alongside the old standbys.
One of those old bands is Mutant Fest's capstone. Scruggs said she got in contact with legendary Hoosier protopunkers The Gizmos on a whim.
When she heard The Gizmos wanted to return to Bloomington to record a new EP after last year's reunion of the original 1976 lineup, she said she reached out to two of the band members about Mutant Fest.
Eddie Flowers, one of the band's lead vocalists, said the festival is the only show The Gizmos currently plan on playing in 2015. Most of the band is scattered across the country working regular jobs, he said, so getting everyone to take time off and get to the same place is a hard task.
The Gizmo's manager set up a GoFundMe to raise money for the band's transportation and recording costs, but they only raised part of the money for transportation. Still, Flowers said they will figure it out.
"It's great when we get together," he said. "That's what was really cool when we finally did this. In our minds, we didn't know. We were, like, 'How's this going to work?' And I think it works really well. I don't think it comes off like a bunch of old guys trying to be teenagers."
Gross and Jessic Wabbit, guitarist and lead vocalist for The Girls!, both said they're excited to see The Gizmos play. Gross said the band is a good example of the Midwest sound of raw protopunk.
Flowers said the band never meant to be a Midwest band, though. It just happened.
Flowers lived in Alabama at the time the original Gizmos lineup recorded their three EPs, and he would drive up to Bloomington for the band's recording sessions. The location just happened to be Bloomington, and the bands they were listening to for inspiration, like the MC5 and The Stooges, just happened to be from the Midwest.
"I think we were, but we weren't," Flowers said about being a Midwest band. "I guess we were the first Indiana punk band, even though we were not exactly from Indiana."
Whether they were or not, The Gizmos left a legacy of punk music that stuck to influence new generations of Midwest rockers such as The Brothers Gross.
Beyond the music, Scruggs said she wants to have some food vendors at the festival such as Uel Zing Coffee and Gimmie Sum Moe. With a large crowd expected and a plan for swimming pools, she also recommends wearing a swimsuit.
"You're probably going to come out gross in sweat or filled with water or something," Scruggs said.