Overall, this year’s Broad Ripple Music Fest felt slightly less solid on the front end. With some individual showcases still announcing their final schedules just a few days before the event itself, I found it hard to prepare for such an epically long day of music consumption. I also found myself missing some of the venues not participating in this year’s BRMF (e.g. The Indianapolis Art Center’s picturesque river stage and the cozy, multi-level Wasted Space next to La Jolla). I wished the schedule could have been better level-loaded with less late-evening shows and more offerings earlier in the early afternoon.
Still, though, BRMF is one of the city’s truest musical gems that always does an incredible job of putting our local talent on the pedestal that it deserves. The diversity in showcases means there’s always something for everyone and the selection of both established bands and up-and-comers makes the event a win-win for everyone. Read below for highlights (and a few lowlights) from my evening spent immersed in the local scene.
Indy CD & Vinyl, 3:30
Loyal Divide, an Ohio-born and Chicago-based psychedelic electronic group, were the first sounds of BRMF 2011 that my ears could hear. I arrived at 3:30, hoping to catch the last half of their hour-long performance at Indy CD & Vinyl. To my surprise, the venue was running about 30 minutes behind schedule and I was able to see most of their show.
In this band of “weirdo electro” meets “bluesy, ambient rock”, I was most intrigued by guitarist/vocalist Adam Johnson. His muddled lyrics (nearly impossible to comprehend) escaped his mouth in a smoky moan reminiscent of a "Smells Like Teen Spirit"-era Kurt Cobain. Loyal Divide’s productions bring oddball mystique to the table, while their live instrumentation engages onlookers with awe.
The Mousetrap, 4:30
All three stages were running at The Mousetrap long before the sun set on Saturday, despite having virtually zero late-afternoon guests. Modeled after their hugely successful 4/20 tent party, the three-stage show was the same in concept but differed in design. Instead of occupying the entire Mousetrap parking lot with a large reception tent, this time headlining stage remained inside, while smaller electronic tents made use of The Trap’s front and side patios.
I listened to a few songs from Jessie and Amy, a pair of female acoustic singer/songwriters, and headed back into the village for dinner at Ripple Bagel & Deli - a choice that I felt embodied the grassroots spirit of the Broad Ripple Music Festival quite nicely.
LUNA Music, 5:30
Entering LUNA as Everything, Now! concluded their set (bummer!), I shopped the record store’s aisles for new music while I waited for the next show to begin. Outdoors on the sidewalk, boxes of on-sale CD’s and posters were being rummaged through by bargain-shoppers. A “crate-diggin’ stool” had even been considerately brought out and appropriately labeled by LUNA’s always-friendly and always-chatty staff.
Promptly at six, DMA a.k.a. David Moose Adamson a.k.a. Grampall Jookabox kicked off a 30-minute set. Performing under the three-letter acronym that his initials create, Adamson proved on Saturday that there is still hope for fans of the now- defunct band Jookabox that he once fronted.
As a solo artist, DMA’s music is full of all the things we loved about Jookabox (namely that irreplaceable, lo-fi, freak folksy sound) but also allows listeners to see and hear Adamson on a more personal level. Without the backing of a band, he’s challenged to create more from scratch (e.g. using recorded, high-pitched shrieks and chants from his own mouth played repeatedly to form rhythms). As the lone body on stage, Adamson also takes on the full responsibility of entertaining not just with music, but also constant tribal-like dance and movement.
Rock Lobster, 6:45
I’ve been receiving testimonials about “that group of kids from Bloomington” who make really good music for quite some time and finally had the chance to see them at Broad Ripple Music Fest. Hotfox is self-described as “experimental indie”, but I’d also throw in “garage rock” with a hint of “punk” thanks mostly to a rambunctious vocalist on the far left side of the stage who was easily my favorite feature of the young band of IU students. Hotfox was pretty active, too; half the band ended the final song of the short set lying on the ground playing a long, drawn-out note.
Monkey’s Tale, 7:30
The Monkey’s Tale scores low on the organization scale, both for the door lady who ignored me in favor of whomever was at the other end of her iPhone, and for lack of adherence to their schedule. I arrived expecting to catch the last half of Dell Zell, who I’d overheard people talking about at Luna a few hours earlier. Instead, the indoor stage was running more than an hour behind (waiting on a PA system to arrive, I was told) and a band not even listed on the schedule was playing outside.
That band was Sugar Moon Rabbit and the show they put on forced me to reevaluate my perception of their group. Once previously turned off by frontman Trevor Potts’ skin tight black leather pants and Axel-esque scream-singing at a Locals Only show, I ate my words this time around at The Monkey’s Tale.
Taking a seat for the latter half of the band’s performance, I noticed drummer Joe Kool (c’mon- is that a real name?) standing on top of his bass drum with his backside to the audience. While Kool bent over to bang on the drums with admirable form, guitarist Chris Sarber solidly placed his bare feet a shoulder-width apart in preparation for some major guitar shredding. Bassist J Spellman was rarely stationary, utilizing much of the large outdoor patio stage on which the band performed. Meanwhile, front man Potts spent half of his time behind the mic and half of his time side-stage to let his band mates shine just as bright as he.
Indy CD & Vinyl, 8:00
I made a quick stop for Indy CD & Vinyl’s last performance of the evening- Irene & Reed. The record store had cleared considerably and I could count the audience with the fingers on my hands. Appreciative nonetheless, vocalist Leslie Benson thanked all in attendance for sticking around. The group (Benson, pianist Jason Reed Milner, and jazz bassist Eric Latham) hands down won the award for Broad Ripple Music Fest’s finest dressed act. Benson was the most striking in an elegant, form-fitting black dress complimented with a black cloche hat, sophisticated pearls, and silver Victorian-style jewelry.
As night fell upon Broad Ripple and the lure of BRMF after dark tugged at me, I finally gave in and dismissed myself for a different, livelier show. Irene and Reed’s jazzy, ragtime sound was not at all unpleasant; I only wished they had played earlier in the day at a more fitting venue (like somewhere outside, under the trees, in a park).
Connor’s Pub, 8:15
As I trudged toward Rainbow Bridge in pursuit of Connor’s Pub, I heard the sweet sounds of Slothpop echoing across the White River as soon as I passed the Broad Ripple Fire House. Approaching the stage, I wondered if the band had intentionally coordinated their outfits of solid colors, with a heavy emphasis on teal and black. Either way, it was quite apparent that Slothpop has been working on fresh material, including the debut of a new tune called “Pigeon”, and their loyal fans were gathered in high numbers to devour their slothy popiness.
Connor’s huge tent was set up to utilize a popular music festival tactic: a double-stage affair with platforms at both ends of the performance shelter. This allowed one band to sound check and setup while another band occupied the crowd at the other end.
Harley Poe kicked in immediately after Slothpop. I was excited to finally catch them live, after seeing the name on various bills over the last few years- most notably The Melody Inn. The punk acoustic folk-rock band apparently has a strong interest in horror and repulsion, telling their fans on MySpace, “If ketchup and pig intestines turn you on, and if trashy movies get you wet, then you've found your heroes.”
Harley Poe are a lively bunch - mostly so because of their fast-paced punkabilly rock. So fast, in fact, that the drummer stood behind his kit for most of the show just to keep up. I was disappointed, however, when the band's frontman Joe Whiteford began to express discontent with the crowd just a few songs into the set. Maybe it was part of their weirdo gimmick, but when Whiteford accused the audience of not having any spirit and told Harley Poe virgins “If you’ve never seen us, you should probably watch from somewhere else,” I took it personally. Feeling offended, I left and went to the next tent over to look at handmade craft vendors and listen from afar.
As I left Connor’s Pub, I ran into Dave Brown of The Melody Inn who said he was headed to where I had just come from to see America Owns The Moon. I nodded my head and kept on track with my own agenda, but did so slightly puzzled. Apparently, a last-minute scheduling change had bumped AOTM two and a half hours back from a 7:00 spot to 9:30 to fill a block of time originally scheduled for Amo Joy. I heard America Owns The Moon did an amazing job, too; a friend told me she “flipped out” when they played. Shame on me, I suppose, for preparing my schedule more than a day in advance.
The ES Jungle, 9:15 pm
I encountered more scheduling blunders at The ES Jungle. A band (whose name I can only assume from the agenda was Diarrhea Planet) played well past 9:30 before I gave up on my chances of squeezing in Blane Fonda - a hearty rock’n’roll band from Chicago who was supposed to play from 9 to 10. Instead, I watched gobs of tweens bang around in a haphazard punk rock mosh pit in front of a band whose name loosely translates into “world of shit.”
Aggravated as I was to be missing the only appealing act on The ES Jungle’s BRMF bill, I took a few moments to step back and really assess the situation. Although hardcore punk rock could never be my personal choice in music, I had to admire what was taking place in front of me. These high schoolers were appreciating music on a level that I, at their same age, never even knew existed. As a tween, I barely chose my own albums to listen to, let alone go to live shows in church basements and dance my heart out. Piradical Productions gets huge props for planting that seed and investing so heavily in the next generation.
But that was enough of that. It was time to get back to the Village.
The Ripple Inn, 10:10
I overheard something funky as I drove past The Ripple Inn while trying to find a parking spot. Originally heading towards The Monkey’s Tale, I deviated from my agenda on a whim to see what exactly was up at the Crush Entertainment Showcase. Conveniently, I didn’t even have to go inside to see Bullet Proof Soul; they were on the patio stage and completely visible/audible from the sidewalk.
The fusion R&B band boasts two regular members (singer/songwriter/trumpeter/keyboardist D.Roq and bassist/vocalist Jason Laughner) supplemented by a rotating cast of characters as schedules allow. Though I only caught the last 10 minutes of their performance before a moderately sized dinner crowd on the patio, it was certainly enough to win me over. No sooner than I had propped myself up against a tree to take in the sights and sounds, D.Roq reached the show’s climax and threw down his trumpet, danced a little jig (think “Elwood” during the church scene in The Blues Brothers), and went running down the sidewalk to the front of The Ripple Inn. While the tables of people looked around in hilarious confusion, D.Roq ran through the inside of the restaurant and reappeared to conclude the show- reminding everyone that BRMF directly benefits Girls Rock! Indianapolis and suggested everyone consider a donation to support the organization’s mission.
The Monkey’s Tale, 10:20 pm
One building over, the beautiful and talented Whitney Coleman was singing for a bundled up audience on the chilly Monkey’s Tale deck. Another artist whose work comes highly recommended from respectable figures in the local music scene, I made a determined effort to sample her music on Saturday as well.
The California native has only been in Indianapolis a short time (she moved here in August of 2010 after a five-year stint in New York), but has gained the support of many in our community, as demonstrated by the sizeable crowd that had assembled on the deck. With a confident, soulful voice and genuinely charming personality that shines through in her music, it’s no wonder she’s amassed such a fan base in so little time.
She spoke to the audience during a break between songs; it was a bit about how it’s okay to be fancy, even when you say you aren’t and talked about taking someone out to get their nails done. “But I’m a college student,” she said kind-heartedly, “so I know times are tough. But maybe you could buy a $10 CD from me out of that little black box and I could go get my nails touched up,” she said, half-jokingly. Looking at the clock and realizing I needed to move on, I promised myself I’d take her advice and pick up her new album this weekend; it releases at 45 Degrees downtown on Friday.
I noticed a trend developing as I attempted to figure out where in the Heavy Gun schedule the event was currently at. Not surprisingly, it was about 30 minutes behind schedule. I had hoped to arrive just after the conclusion of the third round of beat battle competition (to see Tony Styxx, Proforms, Freddie Bunz, Oreo Jones, and the final beat battle) but instead descended into the underground venue just as the semi-finals commenced.
As it turns out, I wouldn’t have been able to stay for all that anyways; a sense of claustrophobia came over me after less than 20 minutes inside. There was a long line outside running parallel to Casba’s gated patio and a noticeable wait inside at the admission table as well. The dance floor was shoulder-to-shoulder and totally impossible to courteously move through. Consequently, people made their way through it quite crudely and with little regard for their audience neighbors.
Ace One finished a high-energy, in-your-face set right before Round 3 of the Beat Battle began - invoking raucous dancing, bopping heads, and lots of hands in the air. I had enough time to watch the head-to-head battle between defending champion F.I.R.E. and Lonegevity before the colossal crowd became too much to handle and I had to excuse myself.
Lonegevity first dropped his “cartoon beat”, built on a familiar sound effect from The Price Is Right, along with other cartoon novelties such as honking. F.I.R.E. took the soulful route, leveraging on a trumpet melody that moved him to intimidate his competitor with ghost-like wiggling fingers on the off-beat. After one more battle between the two, a tie was announced and a final head-to-head battle took place to settle the draw.
Tru Nightclub, 11:00
After escaping the dirty, smokey Casba about 30 minutes sooner than expected, I had extra time on my hands before heading to my ultimate destination- 56th and Keystone. I stopped in to check things out at Tru Nightclub, but left just as soon as I peeked into both the lounge and upper level due to empty dance floors and somber vibes.
The Mousetrap, 11:30
Returning to The Mousetrap more than six hours after my original appearance, the establishment had since packed itself for a night of music heavily slanted on the electronic side. Headliner Ill-esha (pronounced like the name Alicia) brought an interesting mix of downtempo, glitch hop, and dubstep sprinkled with bits of drum and bass. Her secret weapon was unquestionably her voice. Ill-esha’s live DJ performance was accompanied by sporadic sessions of song wherein she picked up the microphone and sang to the crowd while her productions played.
Outside, on the front patio tent, DJ Hollow Point offered a slightly more upbeat drum-n-bass smorgasbord to a smaller group of dancers. I figured out the answer to his riddle (a tweet that hinted at something extra special in the works for his BRMF set) when he dropped an energetic run of moombahton- a subset of EDM similar in style to reggaeton and dancehall. Among my favorite in local DJ’s, Hollowpoint is continuously developing his sound by incorporating new and innovative technique. If Saturday’s set is a sign of things to come, I’m on the edge of my seat and hungry for more.
Congratulations to the organizers of BRMF on another great run and sincerest thanks to all performers for being part of such a great day in local music. Without them, there would be no Broad Ripple Music Fest.