Musical Family Tree.com Showcases
Friday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 12
Antenna will perform Saturday at Second Story in Bloomington.
Musical Family Tree.com started as a Web site hosted on Jeb Banner's home computer, but in the past few years it has evolved into the largest online archive of Indiana music, with 123 bands participating.
Now the site is sponsoring a series of shows this weekend in Bloomington and Indianapolis, shows that reunite some beloved names from Indiana's musical past as well as up-and-coming talent.
A 6 p.m. Friday show at Locals Only will feature PJ Christi, Marty Green, BIGBIGcar, Tim Jones and Finn Swingley. A 9:30 p.m. Friday show at the Patio will feature Jorma Whittaker, Chevy Downs, The Gizmos and United States Three.
The series moves to Bloomington on Saturday, where a 6 p.m. show at Double Cross will feature Sophia Travis, The Vulgar Boatmen, The Mysteries of Life, John P. Strohm, The Vegetables and Deep Cricket Night.
Finally, Second Story will host a 9:30 p.m. Saturday show with Sugar Freaks, Glenn Hicks, Uvula, Antenna and Stranded at the Drive In.
It's an ambitious schedule for a Web site that started so humbly just a few years ago. Banner, a onetime member of Brando, among other groups, started the site as a way to preserve the music of his 1990s peers.
He said the site is a success because bands of the era "love the fact their music is accessible to a wider audience. It's a chance for them to release all this material that they've been sitting on for years. There wasn't a format where they could release it without considerable expense. Now they can release it for free. They're not making any money off of it, but at least their stuff is getting heard."
In addition to an archive of free MP3s, the site also acts as an encyclopedia of the music explosion of the mid-1990s in Bloomington and Indianapolis, when bands such as United States Three, Sardina and Antenna came onto the scene.
"The first goal of the site was to archive the music of that explosion," he said. "You had all of these bands who were coming out and doing great music. We were all friends. There was tons of four-track recording going on - the whole low-fi movement was going on. Most bands couldn't afford to press CDs. Cassette tapes were traded around a lot. I just saw a huge need to document this stuff before the tapes started crapping out and people started getting too far away."
John P. Strohm, a key member of Antenna, the Blake Babies and Velo Deluxe, as well as a solo artist, was keen to contribute music to the site once he learned about it.
"I've felt very removed from this musical community since I moved away, and I wanted the opportunity to reconnect," he said from his home in Birmingham, Ala. "I don't rely on music to make my living any more, so I like to share the music with anyone who is interested. There is a real purity about making music available for free.
"The benefit to me is that people will hear these songs that I worked so hard to create and that are so close to me. I made them for people to hear and enjoy, and MFT helps to facilitate that."
Fans of Antenna have been awaiting this reunion show - and so is Strohm. "I've been blessed throughout my professional life to play with some fantastic musicians, but Jake, Freda and Pat Spurgeon are really special to me. I think that Antenna's recorded output is a bit hit or miss, but I think just about anyone who was around will tell you that Antenna was a great live band. There was an energy on stage that was very rare. I hope we can tap into that on Saturday."
Banner said that while the site started as a repository for the music of his friends, he's expanded it to include other original bands that he and his friends enjoy. "I don't think I've even scratched the surface of what's out there," Banner said. "There's so much out there and I want it all. Now, the idea is, let's find the good stuff, whether it's Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, Pravada or whatever, let's get it up there and help foster a sense of scene and community."