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2015 in Review: Another Year of Fantastic Local Shows
Posted January 11, 2016 by Seth Johnson

Now that we’re a few weeks into the New Year, Seth Johnson decided to call upon some of his fellow Indiana music pals, asking them to reflect on their favorite local shows from 2015.

Seth Johnson, Local Arts and Music Writer

Creeping Pink’s Album Release Show, Aug. 14 at State Street Pub

I spent many nights at Jimmy Peoni’s State Street Pub in 2015, but this one stands out above them all. To kick off the album release festivities, Indianapolis music legend Jorma Whittaker tore through an excellent set of songs new and old, warming up the audience for an entrancing performance from Landon Caldwell and Creeping Pink. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend giving Creeping Pink’s Mirror Woods a listen because it’s a gem. And make sure you catch a show from them in 2016 too.

Chreece, August 29 in Fountain Square

I vividly remember waking up on the morning of Chreece and feeling like I was a child waking up on Christmas morning. This feeling of bliss continued throughout my entire day, too, as I witnessed Fountain Square be transformed into a hip hop heaven. From Pope Adrian Bless at Joyful Noise Recordings to Tony Styxx at Pizza King, I was overwhelmed with joy as artist after artist impressed. In addition to the talent on hand, it was also incredibly beautiful to see the unity of Indiana’s hip hop scene firsthand. The festival went off without a hitch in its very first year, and I wholeheartedly believe that’s because of the very special community of hip hop artists we have living in this state.

S.M. Wolf and Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, November 7 at Pioneer

In the past few years, I’ve fallen in love with both of these bands. So when I heard they were playing together for the very first show at Fountain Square’s Pioneer, I could barely contain my excitement. On top of all that, the show also happened to coincide with the release of S.M. Wolf’s debut full-length, Neon Debris, ultimately making for one helluva night.

 

Katherine Coplen, Senior Editor and Music Editor with NUVO Magazine

Diane Coffee with of Montreal, October 22 at Deluxe in Old National Centre 

Sometimes when I'm at a great show, it feels physically impossible to wipe the giant, toothy smile off my face and when I get home, my face literally hurts from smiling so hard. When I tore my glance away from the stage and looked at people attending Diane Coffee's show at Old National Centre, I saw big, silly grins on every single face. That’s because this show was a goddamn DELIGHT, my friends. When Shaun Fleming burst into the chorus of "Green," I think my heart exploded into a thousand tiny pieces. 

Squirming Album Release with Fourth Wife, Sky Thing, Rob Funkhouser and John Flannelly, March 27 at General Public Collective

All right: yes, I am close personal friends with both of the dudes in Squirming, Taylor Peters and Harlan Kelly. Yes, I may be G-Chatting with one of them as I type this. But this show would make it on my best local shows of 2015 even if I hated their guts, because it was just shockingly weird, and included props and screaming and freaky spoken bits, and all kinds of other twisted, dark stuff that fits neatly into the band's intricate narrative backstory — if you can convince them to explain the ins and outs to you some time, do it — and appeals so deeply to the 14-year-old me that stayed up all night reading true crime novels with a flashlight and freaking myself out. 

Mike Adams At His Honest Weight with Shannon Hayden, January 14 at The Hi-Fi 

I saw what feels like approximately ... one million shows at The Hi-Fi this year, and officially decided my favorite space is hanging over the ledge right next to whichever awesome sound dude is running sound. (Sorry, wonderful sound dudes.) I can see over everybody's heads and there's a little spot to dance. That's where I parked for Mike Adams At His Honest Weight’s set in January, and let the majestic live version of his truly excellent Best of Boiler Room Classics roll over me. But for Shannon Hayden, I had to be up close to take in all the looped cello wizardry happening. (She's releasing her new album at The Hi-Fi on January 14! Don't mess up and miss it!).

 

David Lindquist, Entertainment Reporter with The Indianapolis Star

Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, April 18 at Luna Music

Mike Adams combines the rock 'n' roll evangelism of Guided By Voices' Bob Pollard with the earnest musicality of Jay Farrar. The combined effect is irresistible, with Adams approximating soft-shoe dancing in between visits to a micro keyboard supported by a storage-container lid. One of Record Store Day's biggest audiences heard infectious pop masterpieces "Findings of Feeling, Findings of Fact" and "The Bright Line."

Brian Deer, November 20 at Radio Radio

Credit Brian Deer for claiming "Born to Run" and "Thunder Road" on this year's Tonic Ball stage devoted to Bruce Springsteen covers. Wearing an earthy rocker's plain white t-shirt, Deer executed a vulnerable warble on "Thunder Road" and grasped the full-on euphoria of the "Born to Run" sing-along. Accompanied by Joshua Silbert's bold work on saxophone, Deer brought arena-sized thrills to a small venue.

Andy D, Nov. 4 at Deluxe in Old National Centre

Indiana's king of left-field rap warmed up the crowd for New Orleans "Queen of Bounce” Big Freedia. At first, uninitiated audience members gasped when curvy Andy D stripped out of his t-shirt. Then they gasped when he unfurled one of the best couplets in Hoosier hip hop history: "I like my movies like I like my women: short, low-budget and independent / I like my films like I like my ladies: funny, action-packed and made in the '80s." And it's difficult to imagine that anyone other than Andy wears a fanny pack while rhyming about the 26th president. "When it's time to party, I call the Bull Moose," he rapped on "Teddy Roosevelt (Part One)."

 

 

Rob Peoni, MFT board member, Local Arts and Music Writer

Chreece, August 29 in Fountain Square

When Seth Johnson asked me to contribute some writing to his year-end shows roundup, my mind started to retrace the many great shows I saw last year. I go to a lot of shows – like usually 2 to 3 a week. Despite this aural overload, one event stood apart among the dozens of shows I attended in 2015: Chreece. By any measure, the inaugural Chreece hip hop festival was a success.

Chreece sold out of tickets before the sun had set over Fountain Square on August 29, 2015 — with hip hop fans of all ages filling five venues and an outdoor performance space to capacity, with smiling faces spilling into the surrounding streets. Chreece contained an energy and spirit the Fountain Square neighborhood hadn’t witnessed since Cataracts festival flooded Morris Street in 2012.

I spent a healthy chunk of Chreece lending a hand at Joyful Noise Recordings’ performance space in the Murphy Building. I was chatting with local guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Derek Johnson at some point during the afternoon. He asked, “Who came up with the name Chreece?” To which I responded, “Oreo Jones, of course.” Johnson’s response was profound. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “It’s just so beautiful. It goes beyond a name, and really sets the decorum for the day. This day is about cheers and peace – nothing else.” Johnson was right.

In the months leading up to Chreece, we received some not-so-subtle pushback from the Fountain Square neighborhood and business owners in the form of veiled racism. No one objected to the event outright, but everyone seemed nervous about the crowd the event would attract. “Hip hop?” tugs collar, “What kind of crowd are we inviting to our neighborhood?” seemed to be the general consensus. It’s important to remember, that a few short years ago hip hop artists had less than a handful of venues in town they could play with any regularity – Local’s Only, Melody Inn, Coaches – that’s about it.

While I’m thrilled with the rise in prominence of Indy’s hip hop scene that Chreece represents, I’m even more excited about the success story that Chreece represents for Musical Family Tree as a young nonprofit. Chreece is MFT in action: assisting an artist (Oreo Jones) in executing on his vision, building an audience for an underserved segment of Indiana music, providing a platform for the next generation of Hoosier musicians, and so on. I would challenge any arts organization to put on an event of the size and scope of Chreece with less than a $10,000 budget. This simply doesn’t happen. I hope people took notice, and I hope it leads to more opportunities for MFT and Indiana musicians in the future.

 

Kyle Long, DJ, Journalist and Cultural Cannibal

Moor and the Northmen, November 28 at The Hi-Fi

Moor and the Northmen (listen to a sample track here) did a guest spot at my monthly Highlife at the Hi-Fi party with Sweet Poison Victim in November. I was totally intoxicated by their sound, as was most everyone else in attendance. It seems almost unfair to call Moor and the Northmen a reggae band, as their art is more complex. There's a heavier edge to their work, with loud/noisy guitar stabs hovering above their hypnotic Jamaican rhythms. For me, Moor and the Northmen's work recalls the darker sounds achieved by some of the iconic pioneers of reggae in the 1970s, like Tappa Zukie or Keith Hudson. Moor and the Northmen provide a solid reminder as to why so many early punk and new wave bands turned towards Jamaican music for inspiration. I expect to see this group's name popping up on a lot of concert bills during 2016 as more and more Indianapolis listeners get acquainted with their captivating sound. 

Pavel and Direct Contact, September 19 at Fiesta Indianapolis

Personally, I think Pavel Polanco-Safadit is the most exciting musician currently working in the Indianapolis scene. Pavel is a pianist. He was born in the Dominican Republic and his frenetic keyboard work channels the maniacal energy of that country's famous musical export merengue. Pavel's work is most commonly filed away under the Latin Jazz category, but his band covers a lot of musical terrain from funky boogaloos to wild unrestrained mambos. It's absolutely thrilling to watch Pavel attack the piano in performance. He literally thrashes and claws at the instrument, smashing the keys with his feet periodically in almost-violent fits of musical inspiration. But Pavel also excels on the other end of the dynamic spectrum, beautifully articulating quiet lyrical passages flush with nuanced tonal colors. During the performance I witnessed last September at Fiesta Indianapolis, the softer side of Pavel's musical personality was most evident during a salsa-fied interpretation of Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo's famous "Concierto de Aranjuez". Don't miss an opportunity to checkout Pavel and Direct Contact.

Amanda Reyna and Escolta 13, January 13 at Chispas

Over the last few years the Mexican-American music scene on Indy's Westside has grown into what is quite possibly the largest live music destination in Indianapolis. The majority of the action is driven by touring bands, everything from L.A. Chicano rappers, to heavy metal bands from Spain, to the gamut of Mexican pop/folk styles. For me, the only downside of that scene has been its failure to produce a homegrown local act of major consequence. But Indiana-based accordion player Amanda Reyna is changing that. I caught Reyna's band Escolta 13 at the massive Chispas music venue on Lafayette Road last January. Local bands seldom get a headline spot there, as it's no easy feat filling up the cavernous club. But Reyna pulled it off. Reyna specializes in performing Norteño music with its hodgepodge blend of German and Polish rhythms mixed with Spanish song traditions. Reyna and her accordion bring a lot of charisma to Escolta 13's rugged Norteño sound. I definitely recommend catching this band if you're interested in exploring Indy's Westside music scene.

 

Rita Kohn, Senior Writer with NUVO Magazine and Author/Playwright

Performers at off-the-beaten-path venues particularly lifted my soul throughout 2015. In the mix of outstanding performances at the “biggies” — ISO, Clowes, Center for the Performing Arts, Jazz Kitchen, even Central Library, etc. etc. — we expect 110%. When you get 120% at a walk-in spot, it’s mighty nice, and it’s even nicer when the folks who run the venues happily stitch together funding so there’s some compensation for players.

At the Second Sunday Music Series at Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, both the melodic restructured Shawn Goodman group and the Klezmer Band directed by Andrew Lyon particularly impressed. The latter brings together a wide age range of players, 16 to 60s. Filling a corner at Flat 12’s Bier Garden as part of Indy Jazz Fest, guitarist Joel Tucker’s quartet crossed the line into amazing insights of taken-for-granted-standards. And it’s into the next level of new that Butler University’s Neighborhood Concerts take us, particularly with premiers of works by young, emerging composers who embrace daring like it’s old time.

Yes, I’ll remember the stunning APA Jazz finals just a year ago, the joyful David Baker tributes, local artist breakouts at Cabaret at Columbia Club, the cup-runneth-over Jazz Festival week, and the rousing Owl Studio Showcase, yet the “free” moments will resonate into the deep recesses for an even stronger time.

 

 

Danielle Look, General Manager of Do317.com, Former Music Editor of Indy Mojo

The Main Squeeze with Audiodacity, December 12 at The Vogue

From the time it was announced, this was anticipated to be an emotional event. Just one night prior, The Main Squeeze (a Bloomington-founded, Chicago-transplanted funk rock band) played their final show in The Windy City before dropping down to say goodbye to their Indianapolis family the next evening. It was a bittersweet two-night run as the band bid adieu to its Midwest home and packed up to relocate on the west coast in the New Year.

And then, tragedy struck as news of the passing of Jose Perez flooded through the local music community on the morning of Saturday, December 12, 2015. An avid supporter of the local scene, active promoter for Indy Mojo, and all-around blissful person — Jose’s unexpected passing instantly filled everyone with sorrow who’d ever had the distinct pleasure of knowing him. 

But, as they say, the show must go on. And it did. And the friends of Jose who mustered the courage and strength to venture out that night found solace in the warm embrace of each other’s arms. Grief-stricken eyes were met with compassionate gazes. Hugs were abundant and extra-long. Both bands paid tribute to Jose by acknowledging the important role he played in our local music community, followed by songs dedicated in his honor. 

Parting is, truly, such sweet sorrow.

 

Ben Shine, Journalist and Director of Communications at Indianapolis Art Center

S.M. Wolf and Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, November 7 at Pioneer

I wrote a lot about S.M. Wolf’s record release show for Neon Debris on my blog with Sky Blue Window, and it was maybe the best show I saw all year. To condense: the whole time I was at this show, I kept wishing everyone I knew who loves a powerful performance by a band at the top of their game and is ready to do something really big had come with me in my Uber.

 Sir Deja Doog, November 7 at Indy CD & Vinyl

I’m entranced and mystified with all things Sir Deja Doog. I was obsessed with Love Coffin, the fictional story of Sir Deja Doog, who’s fear of dying alone motivates him to find a partner to take with him in the afterlife and the resurrective (I made that word up but c’mon, it fits) power of true love. But I’m also fascinated with the real Doog’s (Eric Alexander) rise from brain surgery and certain death to pen new songs he’d debut that day for a small group at Indy CD & Vinyl.

Tonic Ball 14, November 20 in Fountain Square

For the first time in eight years organizing the Tonic Ball, I freed myself up from carrying amps and wrangling musicians to be able to use my all access pass to slip in and out of venues to see all my favorite performers. This year’s highlights: Caleb McCoach’s hair-raising version of Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” Andy D and ensembles’ version of Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero” and ESW’s 12-minute, full on rager of Beck’s “Loser” with only a sax, bass and drums.

 

Nate Utesch, Art Director with Dead Oceans, Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian, Musician with Metavari

Sedcairn Archives, June 11 at Joyful Noise Recordings

I believe this was only my second time seeing Sedcairn Archives — although his (their?) Mammoth Cave record had been virtually on repeat since it came out a few months previous. Watching an electronic musician deconstruct their music for performance is a "show" in itself and these dudes never ever disappoint.

 

 

Pink Balloon Band, Aug. 1 at The Brass Rail (Fort Wayne)

Howling and melodious and its maximum! These dudes are from Warsaw, and I couldn't wait to pack my li'l body into "The Rail" for their album release show. If your ears weren't ringing and you weren't singing along to every word, you were thrown into the street.

Tamas, September 12 at Pinestock Music Festival (Churubusco)

2015 marked Pinestock's fifth annual appearance at "the middle of nowhere, Indiana." Hundreds of campers, a 30+ foot bonfire and two days of live music. Unabashedly, Pinestock is always littered with Indiana bands so choosing a favorite Indiana performance is tough. This year, Tamas took the cake for me. I hadn't actually heard them before the show so I was glued from the start. Math-y, aggressive and gorgeous — can't wait for what's next with Marion, Indiana's Tamas.

 

John Flannelly, Local Musician and Curator

Memory Foam, She Does is Magic, and Jon Autry and the Naval Avionics, February 14 at Grove Haus

The huge open room at the Grove Haus adds enough echo to make any performance feel like a beautiful dream. This show was a highlight for me because it was my first date with my fiancé Bree (she was a backup singer!), but it was cool to see the other moving parts: Memory Foam at what felt like their largest amount of members, She Does Is Magic with a new album in tow, and a homecoming show of sorts for Jon Autry and the Naval Avionics. I'm a sucker for holiday shows, and this one fit its theme to a tee.

Weird Vibes 3: A Dozen Spring Babies, March 21 at Vibes Music

This was a full day of exciting, vibrant displays of creative energies and diverse performances that showed many sides of the brilliant, unique minds in our local community. Rare gem after rare gem revealed themselves in the middle of a full-blown party celebrating the gift of new music and warm weather with nothing but love all around. It was the perfect venue, the perfect performers, the perfect people helping out behind the scenes, the perfect audience, the perfect storm to interact with the many people and ideas that get me excited about music in Indiana.

(Disclaimer: I booked this show, but there were many hands that helped make it happen. It was one of my favorite concerts ever.)

 

 

Cartoon Research Laboratory, Recurring and mostly at General Public Collective

Last year saw the birth of many great recurring local showcases (Cosmic Microwave Radio, Highlife at the Hi-Fi, Spark, etc.), but when I think about which one made me think the most about where Indiana's local music and arts community can go in the future, it was the Cartoon Research Laboratory: a fantastic idea from Erin K. Drew that had local yokels curating themed sets of cartoons to be presented on the big screen on Saturday mornings with accompanying cartoon-themed breakfast food. I've been in the school of thought that anything can be music for a while, but this series opened me up to the idea that anything can be a local “show.” A great idea with creative intentions and community involvement should be given the same consideration as a concert, and if it substitutes the medium of music for food and cartoons, that makes me wonder, what awesome thing can we think up next?

 

Jay Brookinz, Producer and Founder of the Jay Brookinz Battle League

Uprising, May 9 at The Hall (Downtown)

(Performers: Alkemy, Biz Strother, Cyrus Youngman & The Kingfishers, Davu, Dream Chief, Tony Styxx, New Wave Collective, Indiana Chief, Brooks the Prophet, Channey Massey, Sapiens, Axiom Collective, Jeron Braxton, Xei the Ghost, Jo Universal, Zachery Le’on, Ozzie, TRILLI and DJ Stylistic)

A multi purpose festival bringing together different vendors and musical acts had one of its strongest years yet. A plethora of new and established artist rocked the halls of The Hall, and it was one of my favorite events I attended this year. Events like this show you the diversity available in our Indianapolis scene. Danica Monet and co. have created one of the most unique platforms I’ve ever witnessed. 

Jay Brookinz Beat Battle 7, August 22 at The Vogue

(Performers: New Wave Collective, Ace One and Flaco)

This was the seventh Beat Battle that I’ve thrown and the start of the Jay Brookinz Battle League. I wanted to expose the audience to a wide range of Indy hip hop acts, new and established. That’s what the beat battle has always been about from the beginning. The first act was New Wave Collective, which blew my mind the first time I saw them perform at Writer’s Block (shout out to Bringing Down The Band). The trio of Fresco, J-Ice and Don Chambers are a breath of fresh air to the Indy scene. Their live show is energetic, furious, and most importantly fun. The next performer is a staple in the Indy scene. Ace One is the closest you can get to unleashing an angry grizzly bear on stage. Backed by DJ/producer Isis and his Strong Roots family, Ace ripped through a barrage of adrenaline-fueled hits. Last but certainly not least was the headliner Flaco — one of the hardest working, fearless independent artists in Indy — backed by super crew Bored. Flaco flames any stage he touches. I’ve seen him perform multiple times and every time feels fresh. This time was no different, perfect mosh music. The kick off to the #JBBL was insane and if you haven’t been to the battles go to Facebook and check out Indy’s first battle league

Chreece, August 29 @ The Hi-Fi

(Performers: Mick Jenkins, Ghost Gun Summer, Maxie, Cas One, Kobra Kai)

Chreece had over 50 performers but since I was the stage runner for The Hi-Fi’s stage I’m just going to focus on that stage. Let me start off by saying this was the greatest show in Indianapolis hip hop history. It was magical. Over 1,000 attendees congregated upon the Fountain Square streets. By the time the Hi-Fi stage opened it was at capacity within the first 30 minutes. Kobra Kai kicked off the show and it was the perfect start. These guys are rock stars and turned The Hi-Fi into a party off the bat.

Next up was my long time friend Cas One from Evansville. Cas is a stage veteran that has rocked stages all across the country with some of hip hop’s underground elite. He has an interactive performance and always engages with fans in between raw introspective lyrics.  I’m glad Indy got to see Cas in action, and I hope he plays again in 2016. Maxie took the stage after. Maxie is like a general in the Indy hip hop scene. A role model for any artist looking for a blueprint on how to do music and BUSINESS in our city. His stage show is lit. Street savvy, catchy and lyrical. You know when he touches down it’s going to be jumping. He even brought on Indy rising star Robb Skee, who’s been buzzing heavy, to rock on a couple of tracks.

Next up was the hip hop juggernaut Ghost Gun Summer (Oreo Jones, Freddie Bunz, Sirius Blvck, Grey Granite and John Stamps). Indy’s consistently touring super group brought Chreece to a fever pitch. By the time they started there was ZERO room in The Hi-Fi and a sea of people that was spilling out the door was in for, in my opinion, the best performance of 2015. These guys murdered it. Their rapid-fire shows seamlessly intertwine between members and feel like a musical roller coaster. To me, it seemed like all the years of hard work from the beginning of Indy hip hop was ascending into a new era. Nothing would be the same after tonight and everyone in the crowd knew it. Chicago emcee Mick Jenkins took the stage after Ghost Gun Summer and provided the perfect cherry on top of this monumental event. After this, I can’t wait to see what is to come in 2016.

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