Do this for me. Close your eyes and raise your chin toward the heavens. Hold out your hands, palms up. Take a deep breath, and then another.
Can you feel it? A party approaches.
Ah ha! Yes, this party is the super-sized, date-changed, format-adjusted Fountain Square Music Fest. And it's almost here. FSMF takes over the Square Friday and Saturday, with headlining slots from the king of all things party, Andrew W.K. and The Thurston Moore Group.
Fountain Square Music Fest proper – that is, shows at Pioneer, White Rabbit Cabaret, the Hi-Fi and Fountain Square Theater Building – is an assemblage of the Joyful Noise roster, rising indie acts and locals, programmed by a nonprofit of the same name, and by guest curators Oreo Jones and Kyle Long. We've included mini explainers of their picks on page 33. In addition to the official lineup, festival organizers have programmed and commissioned a variety of associated shows, after parties, panels and events. Many are all-ages and free, so even if you can't spring for a fest wristband, there's a reason to head to the Square this weekend.
The cherry on the metaphorical music festival ice cream sundae? Since Fountain Square Music Fest is a registered non-profit, they're splitting proceeds from the fest between local music non-profits Musical Family Tree and Girls Rock.*
We've done our best to be comprehensive in our coverage of the fest, which includes, by our count, 111 bands. Note that set times and even entire event plans are subject to change. Keep apprised of latest schedules and secure tickets at fountainsquaremusicfest.org.
But for now, allow Precious Space Cat and Most Famous Bloomington Resident Lil BUB – performing at the fest via mystical possession of five Bloomington musicians as the Lil BUB Band – to guide you through the next several pages. BUB and cover dude Andrew W.K. go way back. They're musical collaborators of sorts. What instrument does BUB play? Great question. The answer is all of them. In the centerfold of the print edition, you'll find a map and full fest schedule. Pull it out, take it with you and rock on.
A couple of points of order: We're hosting two artist panels featuring Kishi Bashi, Serengeti, Lil BUB and her dude Mike Bridavsky, Freddie Bunz, Oreo Jones, Andy D, Karen from Sound of Ceres and Yonatan Gat in collaboration with Musical Family Tree. These panels are free and all-ages. Also note your humble music editor is a committee member for both Musical Family Tree and Girls Rock! Indy. All photos you see here were provided by artists and FSMF.
My call to action: every time you have the option of seeing Yonatan Gat live, you must take it. Gat is a kinetic guitar master, improvising wildly and replicating studio tracks perfectly in equal measure. The former Monotonix member, now based in New York instead of Israel, brought in bits and pieces from all over the world for his full-length Director. Think Brazilian and Israeli psych rock, African grooves with nods to free jazz, with punk and folk melodies thrown in for good measure. His latest release is an EP called Physical Copy, which dropped six months ago on Joyful Noise, like his last three releases. Bassist Sergio Sayeg, drummer Gal Lazer and Yonatan recorded it in one day at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio Studio in the middle of a tour. Gat describes the process as intensely collaborative with Lazer.
“We went into it with very, very specific artwork, and a very minimalistic approach to everything. I think it a little bit unnoticed because of that, because we didn't really make a big deal about that one. ...I titled it for myself and for Gal the drummer, because the project a lot of the idea of it and the conception was his. It came from his beat and his drums. That was a mutual release from both of us. Sergio of course, plays on it, but I think Gal deserves most of credit for that one.”
"[On Physical Copy] the beats sound like electronic music, but played by a person. I was very excited about that. I think that's a really fascinating thing in rock and roll now, taking those hyper, semi-human beats of electronic music and playing them live with no metronome, with no clicks, none of those digital tools – just being influenced by that world, and bringing it back into the live, authentic version of human beings playing together."
Gat has always chosen to do his "live human experience" on the floor of whatever venue he's playing. It's a holdover from his days with Monotonix. Why?
"I think what I'm looking for is similar, no matter how much time goes by. A lot of the idea is to open people's minds. I feel like sometimes it's our role as artists to remind people that they're free. It's not about being free in the United States, or England, or Europe or Israel or anywhere – people everywhere are free. People in North Korea are free, too. It's a kind of freedom that is in your mind. ... I think by doing a show from a different location like, by performing it so differently, part of the idea is to just remind people that they're free. It's not about teaching people anything. It's about pointing out things that maybe people forget sometimes."
Sludgy Pacific Northwesters Big Business anchor the Kuma's Corner metal stage on Saturday at the fest. The two-piece, featuring Coady Willis on drums and Jared Warren on bass and lead vocals, also moonlight as the drummer and bassist for JNR-signed band Melvins. How do they split their time? According to Willis:
"Get in where you fit in! Melvins are always going to be whatever Buzz and Dale decide to do, so we focus on Big Business as our main band and do Melvins stuff whenever we can. That was always the deal! It's super fun to play with those guys and we're happy to do it whenever the opportunity comes along. ... We worked really hard to figure out how to do it. Now that we have it down, it's fun to come up with new ideas and see how far we can take it! I get to be in a band with my drumming hero, so I don't have much to complain about from now on."
But their focus in 2016 has been all Big Business. Their own label Gold Metal Records will put out a new record later this summer.
"We are planning to have our brand new album out this summer! It's called Command Your Weather and it's being mastered as I type this. We're super excited about it; it was a fun one to make."
Andrew W.K. has many, many jobs. Musician, of course. That one's obvious. Record producer. Radio show host. Existential advice columnist for the Village Voice. Motivational speaker. Self-help book writer and speaker. TV show host. Nightclub owner.
But every job branches out from one central goal: inspire every listener, reader, show-goer, dancer, human being to party harder than they've ever partied. To Andrew W.K., partying is a holy act, cemented on breakthrough first album I Get Wet with "Party Hard," "It's Time To Party," "Party Til You Puke" and other completely bananas, fabulously entertaining, major key metal music. If you look at his entire, gigantic body of work a few themes emerge: radical self-acceptance and imperative devotion to the party that is life.
He talked me through a few of his jobs on the phone at the end of last month. The King of Party is loquacious and gracious with his time, so there's much more to this interview coming at you soon.
As an advice columnist for the Village Voice's column Ask Andrew W.K.
"[One of the ] common questions revolves around a life choice. Being at a crossroads, or having a particular desire or dream in mind, and wanting to make that big move that takes one closer to that destination, and not knowing exactly how to go about it. I think I answered a couple along those lines in the beginning, and that was enough. ... I try to pick questions that are a little less personal and a little more universal."
As a podcast host of America W.K.:
"I try to avoid current events for the most part and topical situations and just try to grapple with the most fundamental ideas that I could come up with. Which are not hard to come up with – just go with the basics and try to turn into them. I didn't really do any planning, for better or for worse. I for whatever reason just wanted to be able to talk about these elemental facets of day to day life and just go into it. No interviews, no guests. Just me and the listeners."
As a record producer and collaborator:
"I've never worked with anyone and not had it be extremely painful. It's just like exercise in a few ways; there's good that comes out of that pain. The most musically rewarding person I've ever worked with is an artist named Aleister X. From the first moment I ever heard his music, it felt like it was meant to be. I was meant to hear this. I exist for this. It exists for me. One of those magical moments that only happens a handful of times in life, if that. Like it was destiny. That's been, again, extraordinarily challenging and painful, but very, very rewarding and inspiring. The kind of music that I like, to find one other person who is making music like that, going for these certain places and doing it in ways that I would never think of is just about as good as it gets."
As a BUB collaborator:
"I had been semi-familiar with her through the photos and what not on the computer. I was invited by Vice to film a brief holiday featuring BUB. That was the first time I actually saw her in person, got to pet her and interact with her as well as Mike [Bridavsky, BUB's owner]. That was a great privilege. From there I was fortunate enough to do some other projects thanks to Mike, and I would hope, Bub, instigating. I've always been very moved by their invitations because I don't think it's something they take lightly. ... I know that they're very deliberate with their choices, and the fact that they've included me in their adventures has been a great privilege."
As a musical lover:
(Editor's note: All right, not a job, per se, but something we at NUVO HQ take seriously.)
"[Jesus Christ Superstar] was one of the first rock instrumentation albums that I heard a lot of, because one of my friend's moms listened to it a lot. I was pretty blown away by the whole thing, just really from the first time I heard it. ... I loved the way people sang in that; I love that the voices have so much personality. I think tastes are constantly changing in musical production and right now for whatever reason, we're in a mode that the unique character of an individual's voice is considered less important than their ability to sing in a style that's perceived as good. I really like the rawness that was present in musicals at the time. People were allowed to develop their own voices, and encouraged. It was important that you had a voice that sounded like you, like a person. I like all the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals; I like Cats quite a bit. There's just great melodies in there. Phantom of the Opera, to a lesser extent, but there's great moments in there and some great sounds. I like the way that he used keyboards in there, and not just pianos. ... There's just strong moments all the way through."
Kishi Bashi — switch the spaces around and you've got his legal name, K. Ishibashi — accomplished something great at Fountain Square Music Fest already: convinced JNR label head Karl Hofstetter to join him on drums for his Lou Barlow-covering-straight-to-lathe session. That session is open to FSMF VIP ticket holders, but Ishibashi will of course play another set, taking the stage this time solo.
But when he returns for InFusion Fest in April, he'll (fingers crossed) play his newest release with Time for Three. That release is called String Quartet Live, his orchestral twist on a live album release. This type of reformulation is something that comes naturally — although not without great time investment — to the classically trained violinist and Berklee College of Music film scoring major grad. He told us:
"One of the things I definitely wanted to do — one of my short term goals — was to branch out into orchestral things, have an orchestra playing behind me. It's a luxury. It's really expensive to arrange for that kind of thing, and it takes a lot of time to have that vision. But I think a lot of my music lends itself to that arrangement. So it was a natural step. I also did it to stick out a little bit. A lot of bands release live albums and change up the arrangements, but they might even include strings. ... Instead of strings behind a strumming guitar, I wanted the strings to have the pulse underneath it. I'm familiar with that genre because I used to play violin, so I know how to write for it. It was a natural step. String quartet writing is the first step before you get into larger ensembles. If you can do the work for the string quartet, it instantly translates to string orchestra, and it's another smaller step to full orchestra."
What's next in the Kishi Bashi instrumentation evolution? Ishibashi promises a new album by fall (also out on Joyful Noise) with plenty of harpsichord, plus divine inspiration from keyboard master Stevie Wonder.
"[The new record, coming out later this year on Joyful Noise Recordings] is pretty electronic. It's going to be a shock — hopefully a good shock. It's pretty upbeat. There are strings in it, but it's not dominant, I wouldn't say. I'm actually going to play a lot more keyboards. I'm gonna try to do like a Michael McDonald sort of thing. [laughs] Maybe Stevie Wonder. That sounds cooler, actually. To say that I'm going to try some Stevie Wonder stuff is pretty ambitious, because he's really amazing. But so is Michael McDonald!"
We'll leave you with a bonus adorable anecdote about his violin-playing daughter:
“She's 10. She's pretty good for her age. I don't know if she's a motivated prodigy or anything, but she has the raw talented. She's super good. She's also singing and dancing, making little music videos on her phone.”
Cat Martino phoned from Paris where she was recovering with coffee from a late night in the studio, creating something that may become an album, or an EP, or something totally different. Her album In The Wilderness – her first full-length, released on Joyful Noise in April of 2015 – was in collaboration with Sven Britt, who's since departed the project. Martino says she always saw Stranger Cat as an outlet to bring in a variety of collaborators. She says that after serving as a collaborator and performer on albums by Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Van Etten, and Son Lux. (Stevens returns the favor with drums and synth work on In the Wilderness.) So while you may not be familiar yet, Martino's voice has marked some of the best indie albums and tours of the last five years. It's time for her to be recognized on her own – and Joyful Noise provides the platform. It's basically a love fest over there. Here's what Martino says of JNR:
"For us all to come and just have some label bonding through karaoke and music [is great]. Every time I go through Indianapolis and play at their space it's this really warm, family-feeling event, kind of the feeling of the label, which is really nice. I think it's an awesome idea to do that with all of the bands on the label.
Martino's solo shows have previously included dynamic costumes.
"The idea is to invite the person in the room on a journey, and that being creative and emotional and cathartic. That's how I think of my music. I was doing, for a while, costuming with Stranger Cat. I was thinking of the show of being a transformative journey for me, and maybe in best case scenario, for the audience member. But I'm not always doing that anymore, and I'm not sure if I will or won't do it in Indianapolis because I only like to do it when it feels really authentic, otherwise it just feels like something I'm doing. If I'm not in the mood that day or it doesn't feel like I want to do it, then I'd just rather be in plain clothes. In any case, I would hope that it's sort of a cathartic emotional journey, but I like the idea. New York audiences, sometimes they're too cool to dance. [I like] the idea that someone would be inspired to move their body during the set, and that would somehow be cathartic for them, to dance their worries away. The songs are still emotional songs."
One of those emotional songs is "Fig Tree," written after spending a day with her father Vito Mario Martino, and talking about his experience as an Italian immigrant to the United States.
"My dad is a warm man, but he's stoic in some ways. It was really beautiful when I played him the song for the first time, he had tears coming down his face. It was so, so beautiful and sweet. At the end, he was like, 'You're talking about my mother!' I think I'm happy that the song did what I wanted it to do."
Consider your next cassette purchase set. You need a copy of Liz Janes' Slow City, out now on Flannelgraph, and a little piece of local music heaven. With Clinton Hughey (guitar), Burd Philips (bass) and Dan Fahrner (drums) aside her, Janes sculpts alt-country clay on a pop wheel, with a little heavenly prayer thrown in for good measure.
When I rang up Janes a few days before her album release, I asked her how she made this perfect little gem of a record.
"Clinton Hughey is an engineer and has always had a home studio. We recorded the whole band live at his house. The way it was set up, we were all in one room playing with each other. My vocal and guitar were going direct; and then the room we were in was micing the drums; the bass amp was in another room in the garage; the guitar amp was in another closet. They were all isolated, but were we together. After we captured the live band performances, I had to go back into the studio to redo my guitar and vocals. We decided to do that at Postal [Recordings] with Tyler Watkins.
And why tape? Two-fold: 1) Cheap! 2) Holding something physical just feels so damn good, don't you think?
“We wanted to do a cassette because I'm just at an age in my career where I'm not willing to go into debt for vinyl. This is also my first self-release, so I didn't want to both too much with the physical, since sales have switched over to digital so quickly. To me it's kind of sad. I already miss the huge messy pile of CDs and tapes in the passenger side of my car. I miss having stuff to hold and look at. Managing data files is so boring and tedious. … I really miss the artifact. I love that cassettes are getting popular, because I still have a tape player. They're so affordable. They're affordable to buy, they're affordable to make and sell. I love that they're back.”
Confession: Roberto Carlos Lange's show at the Hi-Fi in October lured me into a complete and total trance. The hour or so flew by, my feet glued to one spot in the middle of the floor for the entire duration. Lange's grooving electro-organic beats and sweet, easy vocals are accompanied with gently drifting tinsel creatures, shaking and shimmering their way across the stage. It's quite a scene. Lange finds locals to slip into the tinsel mammal costumes at each show, so over the course of a few years, he's performed with dozens and dozens of shaking and shimmering dream beasts, all cloaked in sparkles and moved by the music.
When I spoke with Lange in October, he expressed his appreciation for Indianapolis and the people living and working here; unsurprisingly FSMF curator Kyle Long is the active ingredient to bringing him back. Lange says, of our fair city:
"Honestly, when you travel so much, there's places that kind of stick to you and there's places that don't. Indianapolis has been great. Besides having people that are connected directly to me through releasing my music, I've just met people, like Kyle [Long, NUVO columnist] and Michael Kaufmann [former head of Asthmatic Kitty Records] who have been just real friends. People who represent the city in a way that inspires you to live in your own city. They make it feel like they're doing something, and you're like, "Yeah, that feels good." You want to participate and contribute however you can in that energy. That's what's special about Indianapolis to me, to have those kinds of people there, to have relationships with those people and have them in my musical world."
Lange's latest release is Island Universe Story, a collection of selected works from Lange's three Island Universe Story tapes, released from 2012 – 2014, and packaged with some of the shedded tinsel from the dancers' costumes that so enchanted me.
David Cohn dreams big. And in multiple universes. To entirely grasp the multiple characters he's created and written for during his variety of hip-hop releases as Serengeti, we'd recommend setting aside a biggg chunk of time to do some listening, first to Dennehy (Lights, Camera, Action!), released in 2008, then Kenny Dennis, then Kenny Dennis III and finally his release with Anders Holm as Perfecto, You Can't Run From The Rhythm. Then you'd begin to understand the wild and weird alternate universe of Kenny Dennis' Chicago, as told by Serengeti, a.k.a. David Cohn.
The Perfecto EP ends with the 17-minute long track "The Labrador," which Kohn envisions eventually as a theatrical performance, finally moving his audio characters into the tangible world. And even though Perfecto was released with the caveat that it was the "latest and final odyssey in the life of Kenny Dennis," I don't think it's over for Kenny. His story isn't done.
"I have so many dreams with ["The Labrador"], to do a theater piece. It goes from the Rafal character, telling his story under a spotlight, and then morphing into one of the Perfecto songs with him in it and a costume change with dancer. Just one song, then it goes back to the story of it, then back to the song, then back to the story. The piece that would run in some type of theater, and would be like an hour long. It would be like entertainment theater. I would love to do stuff like that ... but I don't really have management, or someone besides myself that would think like that, make some interesting stuff happen. ... One day, I would like to."
"It's so fun to do these little things, so I do have some ideas for Kenny. But I don't know. You don't want to be a crazy person. One side of it is like, 'Well, I'll keep on poppin' them out.' But that's sort of crazy. On the other hand, they are fun, and they do do a certain thing for me emotionally, these Kenny things, which I'm tied to. On one hand, I wanna call it quits, just because the whole appearance of it. On the other hand ... this is my guy! So why not? I do have some plans, some stuff I've written with some people as far as other media involved with Kenny. Not just tunes."
In envisioning life as Kenny, Kohn collaborated recently with Joyful Noise artist Yoni Wolf on an album called Testarossa and with fellow Chicagoan Open Mike Eagle on a project called Cavanaugh.
“Me and Yoni have a project coming out in May or something like that. We'll be going on the road for that thing, maybe two little runs. Then some other stuff, too. Next up is the Yoni Wolf stuff. We'll see how that goes … [Me and Mike] met up during two weeks out in L.A., and this whole thing came together. We just did it in a couple of weeks. We did it, and then two months later it comes out, a month after that, we toured it. We did the Southwest, we did the Mid-Atlantic South, the Midwest, and Europe, and now it's done! It's just completely done! It felt so good. I've done all these projects, with family and friends, and it was great, I thought, a great time. The record came out, and we never toured it, just sat by. All these Kenny records … it's so open-eneded. But with Cavanaugh, we made it, it came out, we made a show that's indicative of that record, and then it was done. And that felt really good.”
If you're only familiar with Kimya Dawson's work via the Moldy Peaches songs on the Juno soundtrack, well, I won't blame you. But I will take this moment to educate. Dawson's been an essential part of the anti-folk scene for going on two decades. Her list of collaborators would take more space than this little box could reasonably hold, so I'll hit the highlights: she's best known for her work with Adam Green as the Moldy Peaches; with Aesop Rock as The Uncluded; and with Leo Bear Creek as Antsy Pants.
And lots of Bloomingtonites have found their way onto her tours and in her songs: Paul Baribeau and Matt Tobey (see him Friday in the BUB Band!), most notably. She's also put out music via Bloomington label Plan-It-X Records and jammed out with Lil BUB. Basically, I'd like to adopt Kimya as an honorary Hoosier at this point.
But the song of hers that's affected me most, out of all the zillions of songs, has no collaborators or additional musicians. "At the Seams," a song Dawson says was years in the making, in support and honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. She says:
"I write songs because they help me process the things about the world that would otherwise overwhelm me. I have found that that helps me, it helps others, and it can make a difference. Writing songs has saved my life. I don't know why other people make music. I'm sure everyone has their own reasons. I don't want to tell anyone what their responsibility is as an artist. I would love if everyone felt truly moved enough by these issues to create work around them but we'd end up with a bunch of half assed watered down 'protest' songs if people felt they HAD to write them. I'm super into soft rock because it takes me out of all that stuff. I appreciate some pretty non-topical stuff. I don't need every white boy feeling obligated to write about their role in relation to the black experience. I think everyone needs to get involved in fighting injustice, just not necessarily in song form. Sometimes I perform 'At The Seams' live. It depends on how resilient I am feeling. I have been learning that it isn't good for me to go into the dark places every night if I'm not feeling strong."
Dawson also spends time writing music "for kids" – I put that in quotes because she says the only thing that really separates music for kids from music for NOT kids is dropping some curse words – and other than that it's really for everyone, including her own kid, Panda.
"Most of my songs for kids are a bit shorter and sillier and I don't say fuck. Other than that it's all really for everyone. Panda isn't a fan of the kind of music I make. She is 9. She likes pop. Like Taylor Swift and The Weeknd. Now that she is getting older, I do keep her in mind and I might approach things a little differently now. Like I'm probably not gonna talk about fisting if she is at the show. Poop? Likely. Periods? Maybe. Sex stuff? Not so much."
MIKE BRIDAVSKY / LIL BUB BAND
Artist panel guest and cover star Lil BUB is a lucky bub. Her dad is the uber cool Mike Bridavsky, savvy pet dad, owner of Russian Recording and supporter of special needs animals everywhere, plus a long-time Bloomington-based musician. He answered some quick questions for us right now, but will answer many more at our panel on Saturday at Pioneer.
Who is the BUB Band?
"Matt Tobey of bands such as Good Luck and Memory Map. He wrote all this music (with BUB's help), and is playing guitar. Lewis Rogers of Busman's Holiday is playing the synthesizers. Bob Shaw, who also plays in Zuul, High Spirits, and It Burns, and who also happens to work on Team BUB helping out with all her endeavors, plays the bass guitar. Mark Edlin plays drums in this band, and in many others such as Diederick Johns, Spissy, and The Underhills. And me, Mike Bridavsky. I played in bands such as PushPull, Memory Map and The Sands."
What does BUB's dude do?
Answer: Run Russian Recording, play in Memory Map, The Sands and PushPull. He says: "Anyone can record at the studio! Unfortunately, between the time that goes into 'BUB stuff' and becoming a dad, I haven't had much time to make records at the studio. With that said, my New Year's resolution has been to make more records this year. Just today I booked an old Bloomington standby, the Sump Pumps, and I have to say I'm pretty excited about that. The last time I recorded them was in my old space in Brown County, more than ten years ago. That's crazy."
What's a favorite memory of playing as PushPull? (Editor's note: We fondly remember a crazy show at the old WIUX house in Bloomington in 2008 or so...)
:I've actually been reminiscing about Push-Pull quite a lot lately. My fondest memory is probably the recording of our first record, HELLO, SOLDIER!!! — it was recorded shortly after I opened Russian Recording out in the woods of Brown County, and it was the first full record I'd recorded of my own band, and the first time I was able to spend exactly as much time as I needed on the completion of a record."
What do cats like BUB need?
"I'll be honest, the answer to this question is very long, and would probably take up many pages if I answered it properly. Being involuntarily appointed as the facilitator of the most influential feline in the world has completely changed my life in every way. It has taught me everything about animal advocacy, and I now find myself doing work that I never imagined I'd be doing before. The most urgency lies trying to tackle the overwhelming problem of overpopulation of cats, which can only be solved by educating people about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets, by encouraging people to adopt, and through Trap, Neuter, Release programs."
What's the rest of 2016 look like for the Bridavskys?
"The year is full of BUB trips and appearances - we'll be visiting Toronto, Tallahassee, San Francisco, and LA between now and June. We're also working on a really incredible BUB platformer/shooter game for mobile devices, which might be the coolest BUB thing we've ever created."