Indianapolis music lovers: it's time to get weird. Yes, the Cataracts music festival is back for the second year in a row and bigger — much bigger. This year the festival has been scheduled alongside the first ever Fountain Square Grand Prix bicycle race, and the organizers of the two events—Jacob Gardner (Cataracts) and Joe Cox (FSGP)—have combined their energies to create a perfect storm of awesomeness for music fans, bike racing fans, and for the city’s fastest-growing cultural district.
With two days of music, Cataracts will showcase more than 50 bands from around the city and the region. The first day of music, Aug. 17, will happen in the parking lot of the Murphy Arts Building and will be headlined by Margot and the Nuclear So & Sos. The second day of music will take place at a cluster of four houses on E. Morris St., just steps from the Murphy in Fountain Square, with simultaneous sets every half-hour from 1:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., as the FSGP races circulate nearby. Whether you’re a close follower of Indy’s thriving music scene or you’ve never been to a show, Cataracts is the time to come down to Fountain Square and get a dose of the region’s most innovative and weirdest rock and roll.
Why should you go?
It’s free. The festival is a not-for-profit event organized primarily by Gardner, a musician himself, who has been performing and booking shows in Indy for the past seven years. Take money out of the picture and suddenly you’re left with an event organized around one simple premise: the love of good, weird, arty music. Gardner knows almost all of the Cataracts bands personally and spends most of the year — and his own money — organizing the festival.
Secondly, in terms of a local, home-grown cultural event, you can’t get more real than Cataracts. House shows are a hugely important part of Indy's music scene throughout the year. The festival brings together all of the best bands from around the neighborhood, the city and the region, into an atmosphere that's more like a raucous college party than anything else.
“I like house venues because they’re compact and you get people squeezed in there,” Gardner says. “There’s something magical about that and I think it really appeals to people.”
Perhaps more importantly, Cataracts and FSGP represent an opportunity to participate a weekend that will be a great moment for Fountain Square and for Indianapolis.
“It’s not just a bike race or a music festival,” said Cox, owner of Joe’s Cycles and organizer of the FSGP. “It’s a symbol that Fountain Square has arrived as a cultural district. The race organization, music arrangement and food and beer options all come from the neighborhood.”
Cox, who was also instrumental in providing support for Cataracts, has been working on getting the FSGP together for nearly a decade and purposely scheduled it the same weekend as the MotoGP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in order that his race, and the neighborhood, could benefit from the international publicity that will be focused on the city that weekend.
“We have the opportunity to be known internationally as a progressive, growing neighborhood,” he says.
The entire Saturday lineup will take place at four houses within 100 yards of each other. Two of them — Debbie’s House of Noise & Laundry and The Dave Cave — are next door to each other. Skull Manor and Jasona Beach are each just a stone’s throw from each other on E. Morris St.
Friday’s lineup leans a bit more toward folk and straight-up rock and roll, while Saturday’s 40-band, 10-hour blitzkrieg is almost purely focused on psych-rock and art-rock; it's innovative, edgy stuff that doesn’t fit neatly into categories and is not always necessarily meant to please. To put it simply, Cataracts is your chance to get exposed to a year’s worth of shows in two days.
Still unsure about whether to turn up for the festival? Take it from Gardner.
“The most beautiful part about it is that everybody [in the neighborhood] is so friendly and so nice, and we’ve worked really hard to keep it that way,” he said. “There’s no reason not to come.”
Please refer to the Facebook event pages for each event for more details and exact addresses.
Murphy Arts Building Parking Lot
1:00 p.m. — Organ Grinder — Fountain Square-based brother-sister team deliver an arty, eccentric take on stripped-down folk; an angelic voice with an intricately entrancing guitar.
2:00 p.m. — Beer — Indy-based experimental band have a bit of the Black Keys in them, with an electronic twist.
3:00 p.m. — Bed — Reincarnation of the Indy-based folk band Accordions; “The fevered dreams of a band learning to use its new body,” says Jacob Gardner.
4:00 p.m. — Hammer Screwdriver — Folk tribute project playing the compositions of local musician Paul Cobb, who passed away last year.
5:00 p.m. — Christian Taylor & Homeschool — Taylor is an FS music scene elder and musical jack-of-all-trades; poetic lyrics and rich, folk instrumentation recalls Neil Young at times
6:00 p.m. — Bonesetters — Indy-based folk- and alternative-influenced rock and roll and heir-apparent to the raw, emotionally revelatory rock of Margot.
7:00 p.m. — KO — New project of Kristen Newborn, front-woman for recently defunct and much missed Indy-based Slothpop.
8:00 p.m. — Oreo Jones — Hip-hop impresario is a local legend and recipient of NUVO’s Best of 2012 category for hip-hop. Need we say more? See our cover story from July 25th.
9:00 p.m. — Pravada — Indy-based power pop group fronted by Jesse Lee, former member of Margot.
10:00 p.m. — Margot & the Nuclear So and So's — Perhaps the single best-known band to come from Indy; playing emotional and hard-edged alt-rock
DEBBIE'S PALACE OF NOISE & LAUNDRY
1:00 p.m. — 2150's — Former Jookabox member Benny Sanders leads this FS-based rogues’ gallery that has just popped up in the past few months
2:00 p.m. — Creeping Pink - A musical all-star team, composed of members of various FS-based psych bands; Saturday will be their second live performance ever.
3:00 p.m. — Teenage Strange — Solo project of former FS-based garage champions The Kemp’s guitarist Jared Birden.
4:00 p.m. — Psychic Feel — Droney, far-out guitar rock weirdness by FS-based journeyman guitarist Mitchell Duncan of Crys and Learner Dancer
5:00 p.m. — Jovontaes — Death dirge outfit out of Lexington, Ky.; “Hints of sludgy jams and motorik tendencies” — Sam Thompson
6:00 p.m. - Thee Open Sex- Bloomington-based psych rockers and alumni of Magnetic South studios
7:00 p.m. — Learner Dancer Return Arkestra — FS-based psych rockers and member of Mediumship collective; they create alternate worlds with mind-bending guitar and heavy drums.
8:00 p.m. - Crys, Heavy Hanging Sun — FS-based band with an affinity for extended weirdness kraut-rock freakouts; members of Mediumship collective.
9:00 p.m. - Vacation Club — Bubblegum pop with psychedelic fuzz; Tommy James & the Shondells meets Timothy Leary and a cattle prod; member of the FS-based Mediumship collective.
10:00 p.m. - Burnt Ones — San Fran-based psych- and garage-rockers return to their home city; jangly guitars and hard beats combined for organized chaos that will make you lose your shit.
1:30 p.m. — DMA — David Moose Adamson, Indy-based founder of Jookabox (RIP) brings a one-man mashup of hip-hop, electronica, and sardonic humor
2:30 p.m. - Tight Genes- These chaps come all the way from Orlando, Fla. Playing good ole stripped-down, grimy garage rock. They joined Vacation Club on a recent tour.
3:30 p.m. - Ancient Slang — Bloomington-based noise punkers keep it weird with heavy beats and eerie, distorted, repeating riffs that sear the brain.
4:30 p.m. - The Hecks — Two-part garage rock band from Chicago, played at Mediumship over the summer.
5:30 p.m. — Marmoset — Local lo-fi alt-rock legends are one of the longest-running acts in FS and tantamount to royalty on the local scene
6:30 p.m. - Bigcolour — Chicago-based psych-rockers transport you back to the psychedelic '60s and forward, into the future, with complex electronic instrumentation
7:30 p.m. - Magic Milk- Hailing from Chicago and describing themselves as: “a new band about disappointment and terrible friends... that you can dance to.”
8:30 p.m. — Lazy — From Kansas City, Mo. playing gothic, lo-fi and punk rock that will make your skin crawl one minute and your head bop the next.
9:30 p.m. - Expo 70 — Internationally touring act originated in L.A. in ’03 and has run the gamut from kraut, to prog- and synth-rock; They've been compared to Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Pink Floyd
10:30 p.m. - White Mystery — First time in Indy for this notoriously loud red-headed brother-sister duo from Chi-town; definitely one of the “can’t miss” acts of the festival
1:00 p.m. - Hen- FS-based duo combines music, performance art, comed, and absurd garb for some goofy good times
2:00 p.m. - Death Tram — Noise rock and mind-bending fuzz from Champaign, Ill.
3:00 p.m. - Slushy- “Bubble gum sun drop pop” from Chicago. Think surf rock, rockabilly, The Kinks, The Troggs, tambourines; one of our personal “Can’t miss 'em” acts of the festival
4:00 p.m. — The Orchidales — Three piece shoegaze/garage outfit from Gaston County, N.C. has been called a “surfy trash-fi translation of the Brian Jonestown Massacre.” Well, alrighty!
5:00 p.m. — Energy Gown — Chicago-based psychedelic/noise rock from another dimension of space and time; recent visitor to Mediumship
6:00 p.m. — Lushes — Experimental/synth-rock duo from Brooklyn who play “the kind of glitchy, electronic shit that makes you involuntarily convulse along in time”
7:00 p.m. — Pomegranates — All the way from Cincinnati, they’ve been compared to The Flaming Lips, Broken Social Scene and of Montreal but, whatever — you be the judge
8:00 p.m. — Plains/Holy Youth — Guaranteed to make you question everything you knew about life, love, and existence or your money back.
9:00 p.m. — Gap Dream — Hey, they’re from Cleveland, so you know they’re good. Are they psych-rock, glam pop, synth-rock? Yes, yes, and yes. And they’re from Cleveland.
10:00 p.m. — Tammar — Bloomington-based synth rock band with an improvisational bent have been called “Talking Heads revivalists”; latest album Visits given a 7.7 by Pitchfork.
1:30 p.m. — Normanoak — Bloomington-based musician Chris Barth, former frontman of The Impossible Shapes, plays acoustic rock and folk.
2:30 p.m. — The Mutations — Country-twanged surf rock from Knoxville, Tenn.; you’d have to actually go back in time to find music any surfier
3:30 p.m. — Ramma Lamma — Super-fun punk and power pop outfit from Milwaukee; big loud rock with KISS-like stabbing chords and outrageous riffs
4:30 p.m. — Purple Seven — Featuring members of Open Sex. We can't find out anything else about them, so consider them your Cataracts mystery flavor act.
5:30 p.m. — Smoking Nurse — Knoxville, Tenn.-based band playing “Insterstellar music with guitars and drums.”
6:30 p.m. — The Soft Opening — There’s nothing soft about the far-out psych-rock of this Asheville, N.C.-based band; instead it’s stripped down, deliberate, and mind-altering
7:30 p.m. — Scammers — Kansas City, Mo.-based electronica band bold enough to name an album Magic Carpet Ride, but Steppenwolf this ain’t. Band claims to make “manic pop crooner goth.”
8:30 p.m. — Three Man Band — Glory Hole Records alumni from Knoxville, playing heavy '60s-influenced psych-rock.
9:30 p.m. — TV Ghost — Lafayette-based band closed Cataracts last year; eerie, twisted, goosebump-inducing rock that's a perfect horror film accompainment.
10:30 p.m. — Natural Child — Nashville-based band play straight-up blues- and country-influenced rock; they tried to release first LP on 4/20 last year but in true stoner fashion, it was late.