Best show: The Dopamines with Banner Pilot, Grown Ups, Giant Giant Robot and Mixtapes at The Dojo
The Dopamines have been good to Indianapolis, having played here at least 15 times over the last three years. In their first non-basement show, the Cincinnati four-piece showed off their mastery of pop-punk by playing the soon-to-be hits off of their latest album — and my favorite album of the year — Expect The Worst. Openers brought the goods as well. This is a line-up that I would like to see matched or beaten.
Best band: Junker
2010 belonged to Junker, with their gruff, melodic, working-class punk rock tunes striking a chord with veteran punks in town. Their live show is void of any gimmickry or stage antics, and energy oozes out of each member’s pores. Their debut EP, Better in the End, served as a sonic documentation of their efforts and earned them the attention of digital label Death To False Hope. Not bad, Junker, not bad at all.
Best album: Grown Ups, More Songs
It’s a bit of a stretch to call Grown Ups “local,” but the northwest Indiana band earned their chops playing in the basements of Indianapolis. Their debut album, More Songs, was released first by UK label Big Scary Monsters, then re-released state-side by Topshelf Records. More Songs rides the crest of the emo revival, leading a move away from gimmicks and haircuts and towards honesty and emotion. From start to finish, More Songs is a progressive, often challenging record filled with truly inspired songwriting. Don’t wait until 2011 to get into this.
Best label: Useless World Records
While the tiny, Useless World Records only released one record this year (a fantastic split 7-inch featuring Waxeater and Jabberjosh), Gnat Wolos’s project is still worthy of praise. Wolos, an IU senior, launched the label a few years ago by releasing the stellar debut by Sorely Trying Days (now Full Rainbow). Recording, pressing and distributing records requires a lot of work and a lot of money, so while Wolos is taking a break from breaking the bank, he’s active with the militant wing of Useless World, IndyVegans.com, through which he's endeavoring to unite vegan and vegetarian factions scattered throughout the city. Wolos funded and organized several fantastic IndyVegans events this year. Let’s hope that both Useless World and IndyVegans have an even more productive 2011, because lord knows that we need them both.
Best Venue: The Dojo
Do I really even need to say anything else about The Dojo? I’ve been gushing about the new location since it opened in mid-summer. There’s not a lot of competition for The Dojo as far as small, all-ages shows go. The E.S. Jungle is too big and too expensive to rent, the Hoosier Dome is just too expensive and the Emerson is everyone’s worst enemy. The Dojo has hosted a wide array of local and touring bands (Including The Dopamines, Grown Ups, Delay, Japanther, Cobra Skulls, Weekend Nachos, etc) and has attracted a broad audience of underground music fans. If you haven’t checked out The Dojo yet this year, there are still a handful of shows to check out.