For Mike Angel and Patrick Burtch, Virginia Avenue Music Fest has always been much more than a music festival.
“We’re trying to push a notion to people that there are bands out there that don’t have name recognition who are still great,” says Angel, who also fronts the much-loved Indianapolis band Bigfoot Yancey. “You just gotta look a little bit. I mean, we all know it, being in the scene, but there are a lot of outsiders that don’t realize how great the underlying music scene is here.”
For this reason, the 2018 Virginia Avenue Music Fest is carrying a tagline of “Discover the Undiscovered” in hopes that music lovers will become more aware of music from right here in their state.
Now in its fourth go-around, Virginia Avenue Music Fest will span five days this year, with a total of 170 performances taking place up and down Virginia Avenue in that time. Like previous years, the event is all-ages (excluding HI-FI) and completely free.
Those who have attended the festival in previous years may have noticed its name change from Virginia Avenue Folk Fest to Virginia Avenue Music Fest. According to Angel and Burtch, this change was made to avoid some confusion. “We got a lot of people thinking that we were strictly folk, but what we always implied was folk as in people, as in the dictionary definition of folk,” Angel says. “It was always diverse musically.” As a result of the name change, however, Virginia Avenue Music Fest will have its most all-encompassing lineup yet, complete with hip-hop, jazz, rock ’n’ roll, soul, and just about everything else in between.
“I noticed in the submissions we got from bands that we didn’t get nearly as many folk artists,” Burtch says. “We’re more diverse than we’ve ever been, which I like because my taste is diverse, and Mike’s is too.”
Another very notable addition to this year’s festival is the inclusion of three panel discussions happening between Wednesday and Friday (May 9–11). Coordinated by Square Cat Vinyl employee and longtime music lover Jeff Nordyke (with sponsorship support from Roberts Cameras), this year’s panel topics include concert photography, Indiana record labels, and music and social justice. Although the musical performances will still be at the heart of Virginia Avenue Music Fest, Nordyke and company thought it’d be great to offer attendees a little something more in 2018.
“We were brainstorming and just talking about making it a little bit like a SXSW thing, where we talk about music too,” Nordyke says. “We have all of these great performances, but we’ll give it a little something more where people can learn and hopefully network.”
Although he is certainly looking forward to all three of the panels, Nordyke admits he is most anticipating the music and social justice panel at The Green Room. To help him with the panel, Nordyke reached out to Kyra Jay of Indy10 Black Lives Matter, who helped put it together. In addition to Jay, others featured on the music and social justice panel include Michelle Anastasia (MelaNation Indy), Alexis Bennett (Indy10 Black Lives Matter), Satchuel Cole (DONT SLEEP), and Leah Humphrey (Indy10 Black Lives Matter).
“I’m just a standard white dude in his mid-30s, but I have this stage where I want people to be able to get their message out,” Nordyke says. “So I reached out to some friends and got in touch with Indy10 Black Lives Matter and talked to Kyra Jay [activist and organizer with Indy10]. I was like, ‘Hey. I’ve got this stage. I’ve got this time and this message that I want to get out. But it’s your message, so can you do this? What can you do, and what can I do to help you?’ She just took it and ran with it.”
With this panel, as well as the others, the Virginia Avenue Music Fest crew hopes to continue to build on what their festival can offer its community. “There are a lot of great things happening in Indy music,” Nordyke says. “There are a lot of great musicians, and there are a lot of people that care.”
Going forward with Virginia Avenue Music Fest, the goal is to continue pushing this momentum forward. “Let’s see what we can do,” Nordyke says. “Let’s see what people know. Let’s see who we can meet, and then let’s see where we can take the scene.”