Weekend of music

 

Maybe there’s bigger weekends for music this year, depending on your tastes, and there’s apparently a big camper-friendly festival coming up as well, some nonsense called Bonnaroo. But Saturday is one of those days when you can’t walk around downtown without running into an outdoor stage: the Indy Jazz Fest at Military Park, the Independent Art + Music Festival at the Harrison Center and Circle City IN Pride at University Park. Jazz Fest sees the return of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard — who’s taking it easy on his chops after injuries forced him off the stage — and a headlining set by R&B crooner John Legend. The Independent Art + Music Festival boasts an exhaustive lineup of vital local musicians — Rob Dixon and Triology, Mandy Marie and the Cool Hand Lukes, Mudkids, Mardelay — and visual art by over 20 local artists, including site-specific outdoor sculpture by Michael Hale that explores the architectural history of the Harrison Center. Circle City IN Pride is not only a chance to see floats and flag corps; it also hosts some of the best community bands and choirs, the biggest outdoor drag show this side of Raceway Park and dance diva headliner Kristine W. Take your pick, or bike, walk or run between all three.

A legend and a trumpeter healed

Indy Jazz Fest

Where: Military Park

When: June 13-15

Hours: Friday, 6-10:30 p.m.; Saturday, 3-11 p.m.; Sunday 3-9 p.m.

$25 per day, $65 for a three-day pass

* Tickets available online at  www.indyjazzfest.net

John Legend

Saturday, June 14,

9:30-11p.m.

John Legend knows that he’s taking the spot at Indy Jazz Fest that was originally booked for Aretha Franklin.

“No pressure. I’ll sing ‘Respect.’ Just kidding. I’m a big fan of her and wouldn’t try to attempt her stuff,” Legend said.

Like Franklin, his music life began at church, where the audiences are tougher than the Today Show or that show that rhymes with idle.

“I’ve been playing ever since I was a child and with my family and at church. That’s a crowd where they’re used to having people deliver,” he said.

Legend became known for some high-profile appearances. He sang on Lauren Hill’s “Everything Is Everything,” Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name,” Jay Z’s Black Album, plus his work association with Kanye West.

“It wasn’t the type of transition that people usually think of. It was a session artist getting a big break. I don’t look at myself as a session artist. I’m an artist who helps other artists. At that time, though, I didn’t have my own record out,” he said.

That all changed in 2004 when Get Lifted was released and became a smash hit. The album featured songs produced by Legend, Kanye West and will.i.am. Snoop Dog appeared on “I Can Change.” “Ordinary People” and “Used To Love U” became chart hits. That album earned him eight Grammy nominations. He won three (New Artist, Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Ordinary People” and R&B Album).

“It wasn’t bigger than I suspected. I had already made a prediction to Vibe magazine that I would sell 3 million records. People thought I was arrogant, I understand. That’s what I wanted to sell and expected to sell. I knew I had to work for it. At the end of the day, I knew it was going to happen. Hey, I went for it and I believed,” he said.

His follow up, Once Again, is another collection of pop, soul, sensuality and heart (“Where Did My Baby Go?” “Save Room,” “Coming Home,” “Heaven Only Knows,” “Show Me”).

“I just kept experimenting with different sounds. It was more nostalgic, a reflective of the mood I was in at the time,” he said.

Earlier this year, he released the concert DVD Live From Philadelphia, which Legend said would be a preview of what folks attending IJF will see.

His next album, Evolver, will be released this fall. Legend said this album would have a bigger and more anthem feel to it

“As you’ll hear on the next album, I continue to expand and evolve as an artist. I hope to keep doing that for the rest of my life. I wanted to make different musical choices. This will be more sense driven. In a lot of ways I’m still the same songwriter and singer. The difference on this album will be sonically. The energy is more evolved, thus the album’s name. Part of it was in my mind to make the transition from being a theater artist to an arena artist,” he said.

Legend said this is not the first time he’s performed at a jazz festival and he hopes jazz purists will also be turned on by his sound.

“I’ve been at Montreux and I know I’m not a jazz artist. I love jazz. I’ve seen rock acts at what’s called jazz festivals. Amy Winehouse and I played a festival together in Germany. I love seeing soul artists at these festivals. Most fans have a wide musical taste. In that case, it makes sense. It’s all about the groove. There will be plenty of music for people to enjoy,” he said.

 —Matthew Socey

Freddie Hubbard

Saturday, June 14,

6:15-7:15 p.m.

As a Grammy winner and NEA Jazz Master recipient, 70-year-old trumpeter Freddie Hubbard has reached a point in his career and life when’s he become more introspective. During a recent interview, Hubbard, a former Indy native, was more relaxed, patient and candid than in his younger years. He tells how he damaged his upper lip in the early ’90s, an injury that has kept him off the stage for much of the past two decades.

“I was in the Blue Note in New York,” Hubbard explains. “I was soloing over a big band and it was cold in there. That night it was so cold in there, I didn’t have a chance to warm up. It got so bad but I was having trouble before then.

“It was like the same thing Louie Armstrong had,” Hubbard continues. “He had a big old scab there. I had mine cut off. I went back to work too soon playing jazz. You know, after a couple of nights, it opened up again. I was playing too hard but I was working all the time.” 

Does Hubbard still aim for those high notes? “Naw, naw, I don’t mess with that.” Hubbard says he’s playing in a shorter and softer style similar to cool jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. “I do a little bit, it all depends on how I feel. Yeah! I am playing more smoothly now.”

Hubbard gives young trumpeters some tips to avoid the same damage to their chops: “I would tell them to always warm up, play your scales. I would run out there and hit it hard. You see the elasticity of your chops, you have to warm them up, it has to vibrate. I thought I was a superman.”

Hubbard just recorded with an octet for an album, New Colors, on his Hip Bop label.

“David Weiss arranged all of my tunes,” Hubbard explains. “Yeah man, he’s bad. These young kids on it are bad, man.” Hubbard has also branched out into doing clinics and a little teaching on the West Coast.

The June issue of Down Beat Magazine has Hubbard on its cover with no grey hair. “I dyed my hair,” he admitted. “You know what, I think I am going to let it go grey but I am not really ready to let it go grey yet.”

When Freddie Hubbard steps on stage this weekend, it will be his first major appearance with his quintet in four decades. He said that he’s ready to perform in his hometown and looking forward to the show.

—Chuck Workman 

A low-key, relaxed showcase 

Independent Music + Art Festival

by Josh Flynn 

Courtyard at the Harrison Center for the Arts

1505 N. Delaware St.

Saturday, June 14,

11 a.m.-10 p.m., free, all-ages 

IMAF Schedule

11-11:30 a.m. Mudkids

11:35 a.m.-12:05 p.m. Highway Magic

12:10-12:40 p.m. Pillars and Tongues

12:45-1:15 p.m. Resting Rooster

1:20-1:50 p.m. Nowlin-Mulholland Quintet

1:55-2:25 p.m. Jascha

2:30-3 p.m. The Way it Is

3:05-3:35 p.m. The Lord of the Yum-Yum

3:40-4:10 p.m. Tin Cup Gypsy

4:15-4:45 p.m. Rob Dixon and Triology

4:50-5:10 p.m. Mandy Marie and the Cool Hand Lukes

5:15-5:45 p.m. HenriHenrietta

6:25-6:55 p.m. Missing Six

7-7:30 p.m. Wolfy

7:35-8:05 p.m. The Impossible Shapes

8:10-8:40 p.m. State

8:45-9:30 p.m. Mardelay

Over the past seven years, the Independent Music + Art Festival has established itself as one of the best places to hear and see the best in local art. June 14 brings the annual showcase back to the Harrison Center, filling the day with local music and art.

“IMAF is about giving local bands and artists a chance to show themselves, a chance to show what they’ve accomplished,” says Sarah Grant, in her first year of coordinating IMAF. “It’s a low-key, relaxed showcase of local artists and musicians. We want to promote them. We want to help them promote themselves.”

It’s been a long process for the Harrison Center volunteer and her advisors to assemble this year’s festival, beginning with sorting through band submissions, then finding sponsors, getting permits, stages and sound equipment. “I’m very thankful there are so many people who care about IMAF and are willing to help me. We have an advisory board that keeps input coming in from all over and all different types of people.”

There is also the matter of bringing in visual artists. “We have artists who start calling us in February asking when they can reserve their space,” Grant says. “It’s a laid-back environment for artists. We take donations for exhibition space so artists who are just starting out are able to have an affordable space to show their work. And since we don’t have booths it’s very interesting to see how they display their artwork.”

One artist Grant is particularly excited about is Michael Hale, whose work will be on display at the outside gallery. Hale has created giant vinyl thought balloons that will be attached to different locations in the Harrison Center that have been renovated over the years. The thought balloons will tell what architectural style was used in the renovation and also give insight into the history of the building.

This year there will also be an activist aspect to IMAF featuring the Sold Project, an organization combating worldwide child prostitution. “This year the Sold Project is going to have booth space and will run a video about their mission,” Grant says. “They’re also going to have a mini art exhibit for sale with the money going to help the organization.”

Finally, there is the music. Eighteen bands are scheduled to perform with local rock band Mardelay headlining the event at 8:45 p.m. Hip-hop favorites the Mudkids kick off the multigenre lineup beginning at 11 in the morning. What follows is an eclectic mix ranging from Muncie glam rock band Everything Now! to Bloomington psychedelic folk rock quartet the Impossible Shapes. There is the melancholy keyboard pop of Wolfy and the absurdist experimental work of Chicago’s the Lord of the Yum-Yum. Hidden in the midst of all the talented musicians, set for a 4:50 p.m. performance time, is a real gem: Mandy Marie and the Cool Hand Lukes.

Mandy Marie

Mandy Marie and the Cool Hand Lukes are Indianapolis rockabilly sensations. Originally members of the country band the Freightliners, in late 2006 they found themselves in a quandary when their lead singer decided to leave the band. Mandy Marie Luke didn’t want to stop playing with upright bassist Mo Foster, so, after some discussion, she decided to step in as lead vocalist. “I’d never sung in my whole life and I thought, ‘I guess I’ll give it a try,’” she remembers. Eleven days later a nervous Luke took the stage.

The success she has found isn’t limited to Hoosier borders, and it’s allowed her to intermingle with the music history she grew up with in Branson, Mo. Prior to the Cool Hand Lukes in April 2004, Luke won a Country Music Television contest allowing her to spend the day with country star Marty Stewart. She hung out with the musician before a show, helped sound check the instruments and ultimately played guitar with Stewart during his performance. Since the Cool Hand Lukes took off, she has been part of Nashville, Tenn.’s Spirit of the Outlaws, an online magazine that also organizes music shows where indie artists perform with Waylon Jennings’ backing band. This gave Luke the chance to perform with another childhood idol, guitarist Eugene Moles. Growing up and wanting to learn the guitar, Luke so frequently watched a videotape of Moles playing with Merle Haggard that she wore the tape out. Luke eventually recorded a track with the group for the first Spirit of the Outlaws compilation CD.

Luke and her bandmates are also preparing to debut their own album, $600 Boots, which is entering the final stages of production.

Luke looks forward to taking the stage at IMAF for a third consecutive year. “I love that festival,” she says. “Since I’m not from here there are two things that really make me proud to live in this city. One is IMAF and the other is Tonic Ball.

“My favorite part is just getting to spend the day listening to other bands,” she continues. “That’s the only bad thing about being a musician. One of my favorite things in the world is getting to see bands. And because you play so much you don’t always get to go see shows. The music scene in Indianapolis is great. Compared to St. Louis, people are really supportive. There are good bands here.”  

Making music in a nurturing atmosphere

Indy Pride Festival 

Circle City IN Pride Parade

Where: University Park

When: June 14, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Free, although donations are requested

Circle City IN Pride Festival

Where: Massachusetts Avenue to Vermont Avenue to University Park

When: June 14, 10 a.m., Free 

by Scott Shoger 

Indy Pride, Inc. conducts activities year-round: education and social programs for the GLBT community, scholarship programs for GLBT students. But the highlight of the year remains this Saturday’s Circle City IN Pride festival and parade. If the rain holds off, as it did last year after several wet years previous, organizers expect over 30,000 people at University Park.

This year’s music headliner is dance-pop singer Kristine W, who will take the stage before a crowd energized by the preceding act, a gigantic drag show that Indy Pride co-chair Brad Plunkett calls a crowd favorite. Before that, the parade offers the chance for a wide array of performers from throughout the Midwest to strut their stuff. There’s color guards (Flaggots Ohio from Columbus, the Pride of Indy Color Guard), a community marching band, some twirlers (Chicago ROTC, or Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps) and a whole bunch of floats. Over 60 organizations will march in all, stepping off at 10 a.m. from the corner of Massachusetts and College avenues, and ending up in University Park around 11 a.m.

Once in the park, more community musical groups — the Pride of Indy Band and Indianapolis Men’s Chorus — take the stage, along with Indy performer Holly Petree and an all-male Madonna tribute band from St. Louis appropriately named Mandonnas.

The festivities stretch a week, with a kick-off party June 11 at Greg’s hosted by the fashionable Pride Bag Ladies (an HIV and AIDS fundraising organization dating from the early ’80s), a fashion show June 12 at Talbott Street, a benefit for LGBT youth organization Indiana Youth Group June 13 at the Indiana War Memorial and the concluding “T-Dance” June 15 at the Metro.

Additionally, June 11 at the Phoenix Theater from 7-8 p.m., Indy Pride and other GLBT organizations will host a town hall meeting to discuss the need for a GLBT community resource center in Indianapolis. According to Plunkett, “Pride, as an organization, is at the point where we feel this is something we could potentially undertake. But the community goes through moments of strength and weakness, and we don’t know if this is a time when a community center would be useful and if people would get involved.”

Two groups serve as informal community centers of their own: the Pride of Indy band program and women’s music promoters Indy Indie. 

Indy Indie

Five years ago, Cathy Schneider and Joyce Walker were fed up. They saw so many great female musicians at the annual National Women’s Music Festival (a sort of mecca for women’s music), but none of them ever came through Indianapolis. “We were missing a whole lot of culture and a whole lot of great talent,” Schneider thinks back. “The women’s community in Indianapolis doesn’t have a bar or a restaurant, so we felt a need for a community.”

So they thought that they’d start a house concert series. But after a surprisingly successful first show, the house proved to be too small. So they moved things to a clubhouse in their neighborhood, figuring they could clear up a little more space while maintaining that sense of intimacy and domesticity. After a few shows at the clubhouse, Walker gave their series a name, Indy Indie, and five years later, they host shows throughout the city, including venues like Key Cinema, the Out Word Bound bookstore and the Legend’s Lounge on Talbott Street. Indy Indie is hosting a pre-Pride concert at the Legend’s Lounge June 13 featuring Trina Hamlin and Martine Locke.

Schneider and Walker, who have been partners for eight years, agree that working as a couple has gotten much easier, especially since organizing shows has also gotten much less complicated. The division of labor breaks down thusly, according to Schneider: “She’s the brains and I’m the beauty.” But seriously, Walker handles the Web site and organization, Schneider deals with booking, managers, cooking and emceeing all the shows. Schneider’s emcee skills are in demand: She recently introduced performers at a woman’s music festival in Henderson, Ken.

Typically straightforward and with a Texas drawl, Schneider emphasizes why she puts so much work into the series: “Life without art, it just sucks.” And then elaborates, “When I’ve been at work for a period of time, I can go to one of these shows and relax. It feels like I’m connected to all these places that I’ve been and that they take me with them to all the places that they’ve been.”

Even when Indy Indie hosts festivals, they keep things down-to-earth, calling their yearly one-day fest the “Big To-Do,” because, according to Schneider, “at heart, it’s just a party like usual.”

Pride of Indy Band(s)

On a Tuesday night in the spacious basement of Broadway United Methodist Church, about 30 musicians on woodwind, brass and percussion gather to woodshed showtune medleys, working through major themes from The Producers, Hairspray and Phantom of the Opera. The talent level is that of a well-practiced community band, with a few cracked notes here and there, and pernicious key signature and tempo issues. “Everybody hold up your pens — the mistakes you make, you only make once,” yells out the director, who occasionally plays high school band director to the crowd of adult professionals, though not professional musicians.

This is the Pride of Indy Concert Band, one part of the state’s only instrumental program for LGBT (and LGBT-friendly) musicians, along with a marching/pep band, a jazz band and woodwind and brass ensembles. Since a premiere performance in the 2005 Indy Pride parade by the marching band, the organization has picked up 50 musicians (scattered throughout the groups) and played throughout the city, including outdoor shows at Garfield Park and a show with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for a Mardi Gras concert (playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” in the style of a New Orleans second line).

French horn player and board member Travis Tester was instrumental in putting together that first performance in 2005 and has been active in the band since.

“My goal for this ensemble is to be out in the community more, and not just the GLBT community, but in the greater Indianapolis area in general,” Tester says. “You know, we’ve got our foot in the door by doing things with Homeward Bound homeless walk, but we want to keep progressing to that sort of thing, so that we can show to the community that, again, we’re working professionals and we’re just like them.” Tester notes a recent performance by the pep band at Macaroni Grill as a good example of community outreach.

Some band members are, of course, a little rusty when they return to playing regularly (as are their instruments). Natasha Dowell played alto saxophone in that first band and has since become a board member. “I probably hadn’t played in eight years and it’s taken me a while to actually get acclimated again. But she and I are good friends again.”

Tester says that the range of skill levels isn’t a problem. “And the cool thing, too, with the ensemble is, with some of us who have been playing for so many years, for those that come in and haven’t played, I think it’s a nurturing atmosphere,” he explains.

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