Every month or so, Indy’s own musical jack-of-all-trades Christian Taylor (of bands America Owns the Moon and Homeschool) rounds up some of his favorite local musicians for a low-profile singer-songwriter showcase at the Melody Inn. This month's roundup featured the band Psychic Feel, members of The Kemps, Shawn Woolfolk of Household Guns, Mark Harmless of Small Arms Fire, and of course, Taylor, playing with a loosely associated group he likes to call Scene Elders.
It seemed like everyone in the Melody Inn on Wednesday was either a musician or the guest of a musician, making it feel almost like a private event. In a way, it was. Taylor hardly publicizes the event, so the audience ends up being mostly fellow musicians out to support their friends. However, for anyone who is a local music junkie, this monthly event is an absolute must-see. It’s a chance to see some of the best of Indy’s musical talent in a stripped down, close-knit setting.
Among a talented and varied lineup, Psychic Feel definitely stole the show. This trio brought a really powerful, psychedelic-alternative sound full of thick, slow basslines, fat chords, distortion, and torturously winding solos. I found it impossible to sit still while watching these guys play and succumbed to that instinctive desire you occasionally feel at a good show to get closer to the music. Their songs seem to simmer for a while in a kind of depressed, low-slung, grungy zone before breaking into guitar explorations that take off into another dimension of time and space.
Opening up the night was Mark Harmless, the drummer for Small Arms Fire, and Shawn Woolfolk of Household Guns. Harmless played a cover of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages,” and John Prine’s “Paradise,” (“Daddy, won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County…”) as well as a number of his own compositions. Woolfolk, who usually rocks a fast-paced alternative groove, stripped things down and went completely acoustic. Accompanied by his drummer, Dave Hall, Woolfolk broke out a smoother, more soulful collection of his own compositions, including one called “Burgundy” (“When I met you/the day the world stopped/something’s got to give in”) that he wrote during a trip to Indy from his native Los Angeles.
Local favorite The Kemps had two representatives to play solo sets. Lead guitarist and singer Jared Birden plugged in with his big green Epiphone strapped high up on his chest and opened with a cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria,” the ultimate garage rock song and exactly the kind of thing Birden was born to play. Birden has a totally cool stage presence and is always fun to watch; with his head hung low, hair hanging down over his guitar, which is tucked almost up into his armpit, he shakes and jerks frenetically to the rhythm of whatever he’s playing. He seems so lost in the music that he almost isn’t even aware of the crowd. After "Gloria," he busted out a cover of a Beach Boys song, as well as a few of his own.
Fellow Kemp Tyler Bowman, who plays drums in the band, took a different tack with his set. Sitting atop a barstool with his acoustic and crossed legs, he seemed much more a '50s beatnik than a '60s garage rocker. He sang his own compositions with a smooth, high-pitched timbre to his voice. He was using his voice as an instrument at times, and at others busting out some arrestingly deep lyrics, such as on the song “This Town” (“I’m too young to belong to anyone/and too old to be taken”).
Taylor wrapped things up, taking the stage at about 1:30 a.m. to the applause of the somewhat weary handful of folks who had remained for the whole show. Taylor opened with one of his classics, “Rain Falls Up.” Curly-haired and wiry, he rocks the beats a little harder, his high-pitched voice coming out as a whine as he croons his poetic but accessible lyrics; Taylor channels Neil Young at times. (“I felt the chill in the air/so I fed my chair to the fire/were those tears real that I cried/or did I just get smoke in my eyes?”). Sadly, it seemed like Taylor’s performance suffered due to the time (2:00 am) and the little life left in the room. Even his drummer and trumpet player/bassist seemed a little less than enthused as the set wore on.