It was a busy day in Indianapolis on Saturday, and for the Independent Music + Art Festival at the Harrison Center for the Arts, the competition was fierce. Less than five miles away, Jazz Fest ran all day, no doubt drawing some potential concertgoers. Death Cab for Cutie’s set at White River State Park began at 8:40, cutting into headliners State and Mardelay’s sets.
From a logistics perspective, IMAF was as perfect as could be. The festival’s two stages were a stone’s throw from each other, and the time between each set rarely pushed five minutes. The music was almost always top-notch as well.
Bloomington-based art-psyche outfit Resting Rooster put on an ecstatic show, drenching their avant pop in buckets of reverb and ear-piercingly loud guitar histrionics. The band’s previous incarnation as an art trio obviously informs the band’s performance, but the band never seems incoherent or unfocused.
“A lot of people have seen us in the past as three-piece — just three guitars,” singer/guitarist David Bower said. “It was really fun and we really learned a lot doing — we really developed as guitar players and learned how to communicate with each other. But we decided we really wanted to find a way to communicate with the audience more.”
While the interplay between guitarists isn’t quite Television-caliber, guitarists David and Joseph Bower and Cyrus Resur do a good job of complementing each other. The excessive reverb sometimes makes it difficult to distinguish between parts, but the band never quite overplays its hand.
The most interesting act of the day was emcee and performance artist Lord of the Yum Yum.
Yum Yum’s act — a blend of tape looping and vocal sound effects —mixes classical, pop cultural and opera influences.
It’s also unbelievably hilarious. Count him as the only man to successfully segue from “Ode to Joy” to “The Flintstones.”
Perhaps most incredibly, Yum Yum’s crowd only grew as his set continued. Most performers with a style this abrasive and weird would drive off audiences. This is obviously a testament to his engaging persona and impish wit. A grade school teacher by trade, Yum Yum’s charisma remained the glue that held his set together.
“Over the years I started losing more and more inhibitions about performance,” Yum Yum said. “Slowly but surely, I thought it would be interesting to revert back to childhood influences.”
The Way It Is is just one man on acoustic guitar, accompanied by a boom-box that pounds out complementary drum beats à la David Byrne in “Stop Making Sense.” It works pretty well. While the boom-box trick is pulled straight from Byrne’s book, The Way It Is is much more a Mountain Goats type. He’s got that sweetly oft-kilter voice that lead Mountain Goat John Darnielle does so well — and his lyrics sentimental, but never cushy, definitely recall some of Darnielle’s best.
Mandy Marie’s group stuck out like a sore thumb at the mostly younger, definitely hipper crowd at IMAF. To make matters worse, she’s playing the kind of rock ’n’ roll that forms the basis for every rock-based group since 1954, but which no one really listens to anymore.
Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Elvis — it’s all there.
But she does it really well. Really well.
There’s something that can be said for mining the genesis of rock ’n’ roll history like this. Almost 60 years on, it couldn’t possibly sound less relevant. Yet it is.
It helps that Marie’s band is a crack unit, and that she’s no slouch herself.