Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Midwest Music Summit

By the Kid

A few years ago, arguably the undisputed champion of the live music scene was a band by the name of Push Down & Turn. Their live shows had enough energy to run a small city, their music was catchy, and the band was very well organized. They had merchandizing down to a science and had great success during their run. They were on the HORDE fest after winning a regional battle of the bands in Chicago, their song made it onto a national CD put out by Abercrombe & Fitch, they were on the main stage one year at X-Fest, and they routinely packed every venue they played.

I actually went to college with all the members and was a fraternity brother to all but one member of the band. I can’t say I knew the guys that well; however, I knew them well enough to be able to approach them after the conclusion of their shows and chat. I often brought up the subject of how one of their ultimate goals, getting signed to a national label, was going. I always got the impression that the guys thought they were getting close and they would fill me in on how that progressed. At that time I thought there was no way these guys wouldn’t become a house hold name and find their music hawked at fine stores everywhere.

They never got signed and they ultimately broke up.

After I heard the news of their break up I was a little perplexed. If a band as good at Push Down & Turn didn’t make it, how does any band “make it” by getting signed to a national label? That same thought crossed my mind this weekend as I ventured out to the Midwest Music Summit because even after being exposed to many bands at many different venues, I didn’t see one bad band. I didn’t see one band that with a little luck (and a little payola-just kidding) couldn’t find themselves in the position to be adored by music critics and fans everywhere. The randomness of it all was not lost on me.

The Midwest Music Summit is an annual event in Indianapolis, now entering its fourth year. It features several unsigned, and a few signed, bands playing in several venues throughout the city. This year the organizers centralized the event in Broad Ripple, with a few venues notably Locals Only, Birdy’s and the Jazz Kitchen, off the beaten path. The MMS features around 300 bands over August 10 through August 12. Admission varied from venue to venue but for twenty-five bucks, you got a wristband that got you into any event during the weekend.

This was my first MMS with scheduling conflicts (all right, weddings) having precluded my attendance previously. With Torpor allegedly taking in some of the more scandalous attractions at our neighbor to the North, I had to scramble to find a suitable partner in crime for the festivities. With a last minute blessing from Mrs. Brick on Friday I was joined by friend of Torpor, Brick himself, in Broad Ripple.

Brick and I, both with wristbands in tow, headed out to try to get a flavor of most of the venues. Neither of us having wanting to wear the lovely bright green accessory stuck it in our pocket and ventured out to take in the summit.

At this point I want to give a small disclaimer. Because of the number of bands this weekend, I could not possible cover each of them. I thought it most helpful to expose a few that I found most intriguing either by the quality of their performance or in one case, the incredible following that the band has forged in a short amount of time.

The venue I was most impressed with over the course of the Summit was undoubtedly Connor’s Pub in Broad Ripple. Connor’s had two tents with live music and an acoustic stage inside the bar. Equally as impressive was the cheap beer; Bell’s from Michigan, going for three bucks a glass. The first band of the night was Lincolnton, North Carolina’s Burr Lives. Burr Lives is a four-piece guitar based rock band and played in the smaller tents at Connor’s Pub, audiolunchbox.com stage. The twenty people who got to see them saw one of the hardest rocking bands I got to see. They played with a lot of energy and in fact were one of the best bands that I saw this past weekend. After the conclusion of their set I contemplated buying their EP for seven bucks. However I thought if I bought a CD from each band I saw that weekend and enjoyed, I would have to ask for a raise from Torpor for my editing duties. I didn’t buy the EP and I have regretted it since. If one of the members of the bands happens to read this, please let me know how I can get my hands on it. According to their myspace page, Burr Lives returns to Indianapolis on August 26, 2006 at the Emerson Theatre.

Brick and I headed to the main tent and took in a band called AbsentStar. I enjoyed them very much but Brick thought we should venture around and check out other venues. We watched three songs by this band and each was excellent.

Around ten at night we made our way to the bar formerly known as the Patio, Rouge. We headed there because I wanted to check out one of Indianapolis’ up and coming rock bands, Stereo Deluxe. Stereo Deluxe have gotten some a lot of press from the alternative weeklies here in town and for good reason. I was really impressed. They are also a four-piece band that you could classify in the genre of pop rock. Of all the bands I saw this weekend, Stereo Deluxe had one of the more memorable and marketable sounds. I picked up their debut CD for five bucks at the show and I have enjoyed it for the past few days. They are definitely worth checking out and they definitely have the goods to become more than just a household name in the Circle City. Stereo Deluxe will be doing a free show here in Indy at the Rib America Fest on September 1, 2006 at 5PM.

Brick and myself headed to the Vogue around eleven. The Friday line-up featured two of metro Indy’s most lauded up and coming bands: The Elms and Virgin Millionaires. The Elms took the stage before Virgin Millionaires making the latter the headliner for the night.

The Elms are from Seymour, Indiana and although they are actually from an hour South of Indianapolis, the city has seemingly adopted them as their own. They are a four-piece band whose debut CD, “The Chess Hotel” was released by Universal South records just a few months ago. I had a chance to listen to their debut and found myself initially indifferent to the music. However, you never really can appreciate a band until you see them live and I am happy to report that the same holds true for The Elms. Their set was lively and much more bluesy than I had caught on my initial listening of their CD. The Elms were also the nicest band I have ever seen live. They were very interactive with the crowd with the singer speaking with the crowd after every few songs. When the signer had a chance to speak to the crowd, he constantly thanked them for coming out and supporting them. At one point the singer indicated that he and the band were going to shake hands with every person in attendance after their set. Although my handshake never came, I don’t doubt that the band at least made the effort.

Virgin Millionaires finished the night at the Vogue. I again found myself not overly impressed with their music but you cannot deny their popularity. The Vogue was full once they began their set and it was clear from the interaction of the crowd with the band’s music that they were familiar with the band’s work.

On Saturday I had planned on checking out the line-up at Birdy’s. I was joined my long time friend and fellow Delaware County success story, Titan, at seven in the evening.

Once we arrived at Birdy’s, it was apparent that we were in for an intimate setting. At seven there were only about ten people in attendance. The first band of the evening put on an inspired set in spite of the small audience. Evansville’s Lost Anthem played a forty minute set. Lost Anthem is a five piece band that various web sites I found before I went to Birdy’s indicated were a Christian rock band. I couldn’t make that out from their lyrics. The lead singer indicated because of the few people there they were going to try out some new songs for only the second time live. Each song really sounded good and although the band could consider adding a little diversity from song to song, these guys have a lot of potential.

Before Titan started asking what the hell I had gotten him into I took a preemptive strike and we moved on to Broad Ripple. We went to various venues in Broad Ripple trying to take in as many bands as we could before we ventured back to Birdy’s. The best band I saw in Broad Ripple that evening was Nashville, Tennessee’s The Comfies. I really liked this band and their sound. They also strike me as a band that people will be familiar with real soon.

Titan and I headed back to Birdy’s at about ten to see the rest of the performers. I was happy to see when I first entered the crowd had increased to around a hundred. After we arrived at Birdy’s, Cincinnati’s Peter Adams took the stage. Their web site says they are “violin soaked punk rock”. I really don’t know what the hell that means but the music itself was captivating and mellow. The next band of the night, and featured on Torpor last week, was Bel Auburn. Bel Auburn are band out of Ashland, Ohio and their sound, like Peter Adams, was very melodic. The highlight of the evening, and one of the best songs I got exposed to all weekend, was their first song of the night: Metropolitan (watercolor). If you haven’t had the chance to download this song from this web site, do so. There is not a better song on the radio right now, terrestrial or not. Although the band put on a memorable performance, their show was a little slowed down by the constant changing of various industrial instruments. The band might also consider a little more interaction with the crowd. For most of the night the band, except the singer, had their back turned to the audience while performing. This was not lost especially on Titan, who has been a member of bands since his teens.

Although both Peter Adams and Bel Auburn put on great performances, the next band, Hero Pattern, was just what Titan and I needed to pick up the pace. New Jersey’s Hero Pattern put on the hardest performance of the night and instantly increased the energy of the crowd ten fold. They ripped through a 40 minute set impressively and were easily Titan’s favorite band of the night. The band also had an EP for five bucks available and I picked it up. The sound quality of the EP doesn’t do the band justice based on what I saw live, but was still a good pick up.

The last band I saw at MMS was Indianapolis’ own Loretta. I really liked this band. It is very hard to describe their sound. It was clear that most of the crowd was there to see this band and for good reason. I can’t wait to see them again.

Every band I saw this weekend had the potential to make it into a music fan’s collective conscience. But if that moment never comes, don’t deprive yourself of the chance to see some great live music. What impressed me the most this weekend, other than the event itself, was how Indianapolis’ band stacked up with other bands through out the nation. And remember this, it is hard to determine exactly how a band goes from a local act to a national one, but I would gather every national act found themselves at one point or another playing for a few people in some bar in some town until their moment came.

--The Kid


Blogger Smartypants said...

I'm worn out just from reading this.

At some point, you should make it down to Austin for SXSW.

August 15, 2006  
Blogger indymtgpro77 said...

I want to come next time Smarty. Can I crash at your place?

August 16, 2006  
Blogger Butchieboy said...

I heard that the sound in the Vogue was just fantastic. Perhaps you could elaborate on that!

August 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yea I am sorry for being a little wordy. There were a lot of good bands and it was hard for me to leave out those mentioned. I wish I could give more detail as to the sound other than to confirm that it was excellent. Smarty: I would love to come to Austin and check out SXSW. Do you have enough room for Torpor, indymtgpro77, and the Kid? The Kid.

August 16, 2006  
Blogger Smartypants said...

Y'all are welcome to stay but here's the thing...I don't live in Austin.

August 17, 2006  
Blogger Nölff said...

We have the Catfish festival. We got both Country and Western music.

August 17, 2006  
Anonymous Kaj said...

Great review, Kid. I think we caught completely different bands all weekend-- easily possible since there were over 300 performing.

August 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the kind words Kid...it means a lot to me and the guys. It's nice to know that at least one person appreciated our set and saw that we have potential. Keep listening in and don't forget our EP on Oct. 10. rock on.

-Raf & the Comfies

August 22, 2006  

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