Music » Local Music Profiles

Breaking down the bands at Virginia Avenue Folk Festival



Largest amount of performers in a single day festival, you say? We'll break them down one-by-one, we say! Find performers by order of performance at each stage. All blurbs are by Katherine Coplen, unless otherwise noted as JS (Jonathan Sanders), SJ (Seth Johnson) or WB (Wayne Bertsch.)

Arthur's Music Stage at Fountain Square Plaza

Sarah Grain and The Billions of Stars, 11 a.m.

This quintet threads bits of jazz, folk and bossa nova together.

Flaming Diamonds, 12 p.m.

Organizer Angel describes the surprisingly web presence-less Flaming Diamonds as "Nothing like Neil Diamond."

War Radio, 1 p.m.

These indie rockers hold a monthly First Friday residency at Swizzle Stick in Greencastle.

Lexi Len and The Strangers, 2 p.m.

Honky tonk sweetie Lexi Len leads a band of Bloomington outlaws.

Nick Dittmeier and The Sawdusters, 3 p.m.

Louisville Dittmeier's latest is Midwest Heart / Southern Blues – and by Midwest, he means good ol' Indiana, of course. (They hail from Jefferson.)

Wordsmith, 4 p.m.

Baltimore-bred hip-hop.

Chicago Farmer 5 p.m.

The Chicago Farmer in question is Illinois-born Cody Diekhoff, a touring songwriter who writes populist folk in the Guthrie vein.

Jeremiah Tall, 6:15 p.m.

Pennsylvania singer Tall tells tall tales — or Tall's tales, he says. Check out that suitcase-turned-kick-drum, why don't ya?

Sweet Poison Victim, 7:30 p.m.

This Afro-Caribbean collective is 100 percent guaranteed to make you shake ya booty.

Calvin Fletcher's Coffee Company

Donn Smith, 9:30 a.m.

Sculptor and songwriter Smith takes a break as festival stage director for Irvington Folk Festival to pop over to Virginia Ave.

Don Ford, 10:30 a.m.

Brown County acoustic folkie Ford will bring a pack of covers with him, plus some bluegrass-flecked originals.

Grace Minnick, 11:30 a.m.

Fort Wayne's Minnick is a multi-instrumentalist studying at IU.

Greg Mahan, 12:30 p.m.

Our sister pub Cincy's CityBeat wrote that Mahan's music is "elegant, graceful and often poetic Americana music."

Chad Lehr, 1:30 p.m.

Lehr's played in a pack of bands like My Hidden Track and This is Me. He's flying solo here, though.

Jethro Easyfields, 2:30 p.m.

Roots rocker Easyfields has been making it work here for a long time — and we love a man who adds liner credits for his dog.

Boxcar Annies, 3:30 p.m.

Brown County ladies Heather Elkins and Gabrielle Steenberger add on Picker Dan and Barry Elkins to become the Annies.

Jesse Lacy, 4:30 p.m.

Lacy should be commended for his #GIVINGBACK project that benefits a variety of different non-profits.

Brandon Wadley, 5:30 p.m.

Wadley relocated from East Tennessee to Indy last year, and in the midst, released Wilderness Hymnal.

Deylen Realty Stage at American Beauty

Born Mountaineer, 11 a.m.

These Columbus/Bloomington-based folk rockers open the stage.

Gypsy Moonshine, noon

Songwriter Katie Josway put together a quality group; her voice has a haunting quality to it, similar to Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. — WB

Beyond Normal Sea, 1 p.m.

We're suckers for any band with sweet piano parts, like what Beyond Normal Sea's got on "Twenty-One."

Kyle Bolender, 2 p.m.

Bolender hails from Bloomington, where he put together a 15-track album Bookshelf last year that sweetly grooves along.

Great Future, 3 p.m.

This band writes driving rock in the vein of The Thermals.

Vinny Vinny Combo, 4 p.m.

Matt Socey wrote for us in 2010 that VVC is bringing back the old school Maxwell Street-style of raw Chicago blues. Guess what? Still are.

Champs Elysees, 5 p.m.

Champs Elysees is one of the groups of Jurassic Pop bands that tickled our fancy in 2015.

Corduroy Jackson and The One Term Presidents, 6 p.m.

After eight years of playing out, Jackson released his first EP, Shelta. (Also: Best band name on the fest.)

Hammer and The Hatchet, 7 p.m.

Every tune this bluegrass band plays is like a musical postcard, a tiny snapshot of Brown County's pastoral pleasures. — WB

Fountain Square Animal Clinic

New Augusta Bluegrass Band, 11:30 a.m.

These local bluegrassers worship at the altar of Bill Monroe — rightfully so

Fred Gillen Jr., 12:30 p.m.

This year Fred Gillen marks 20 years of touring. Happy 20 years, Fred!

Midwest Rhythm Exchange, 1:45 p.m.

This acoustic mandolin gypsy jazz quartet lights up the Mousetrap regularly.

Hogeye Navvy, 3:15 p.m.

This Aristocrat mainstays bring celtic fun and plenty of sea shanties.

White Lightning Boys, 4:45 p.m.

This six-piece bluegrass from Brown County has conquered every hill and holler in the state in the 15 or so years together.

CPR Revival, 6:30 p.m.

These storytellers in the round (Chris Wolf, Pablo Adams, Ralph Ed Jeffers) play together — but don't get it twisted. They're not a band.

Indiana Boys, 8 p.m.

Kenan Rainwater, Richard Grist and Joe Bolinger are the Indiana boys in question — and yes, that's a Tom Petty reference.

State Farm Stage at Rocket 88 Doughnuts

Upright Willies, 9 a.m.

Grover Parido and Chad Mills are the core of Upright Willies, plus the titular William Rood on upright bass.

Brentney Campbell, 10 a.m.

If baritone ukulele isn't your favorite instrument already, then it will be after this set.

Megan Hopkins and Dave Vogt, 11 a.m.

Isn't it great when two great songwriters decide to get together?

Isle of Manhattan, noon

IoM is the Indy-based solo project of Ryan Gullett of Asteria.

DisTinct, 1 p.m.

Timmy Okafor is DisTinct, another one of a few hip-hop artists at the fest.

Crescent Ulmer, 2 p.m.

Ulmer's voice is a gift; see her, and you'll see.

Matthew Ruddick, 3 p.m.

Ruddick was a weekly staple at Doc's in Muncie before it shut down — maybe he'll become a weekly staple at Rocket 88 after this set.

Chris Dollar, 4 p.m.

This New Old Cavalry member will fly solo at this show.

Chad Mills, 5 p.m.

Apparently Mills will wile away the day at the donut stage, since his band plays first up in the morning, and he helps wraps up. (P.S. Fingers crossed his Bruce Springsteen cover from Tonic Ball makes the set.)

Ryan M. Brewer, 6 p.m.

Brewer pulled off a sweet concept last year: 18 shows in 18 days to showcase his album Trails.

Big Car Stage

The Matchsellers, 12:30 p.m.

This duo met when Warsaw musician Andrew Morris met Kansas musician Julie Bates — in Germany.

The Hollow Ends, 1:30 p.m.

St. Louis folk rocker Zachary Schwartz prioritizes socially conscious anthems in his songwriting.

Pope Adrian Bless, 2:30 p.m.

The Owl God brings one of the few doses of straight hip-hop to the fest.

Jeff Kelly, 3:30 p.m.

When it comes to Jeff Kelly, it's best to think of established American songwriters in the vein of Matthew Ryan, Dustin Kensrue, Joe Pug and Jason Isbell. — JS

Amythyst Kiah, 4:30 p.m.

Tennessean Kiah makes low-down Southern Gothic country blues.

Von Strantz, 5:45 p.m.

Kelsey Horton and Jess Strantz are the core of Von Strantz, a string band that dug into stories on their Narratives EP series.

Fountain Square Brewery Stage at Milktooth

Red Clay Pigeons, 2 p.m.

After a solo release, Muncie's Wesley Moore recruited a band last year to bring his songs to life in rustic folk form.

Digital Dots, 3 p.m.

Jon Wood fronts a shifting lineup of local folkies to bring his catchy songs ("Half Lit Moon" is a NUVO favorite) to life.

Ampersand Blues Band, 4 p.m.

Christian Taylor's blues project dropped a killer cassette on GloryHole a year or so.

Brother O' Brother, 5 p.m.

These Birdy's Battle Royale winners plan a (frankly crazy) eight vinyl releases for 2016, including several split 7-inches with bands like Veseria.

Whipstitch Sallies, 6:15 p.m.

Head here!

The Elixirs, 7:30 p.m.

Psychobilly power trio make red-blooded rock and roll right out of Gas City.

Fountain Square Neighborhood Association Stage at Bluebeard

Rob Funkhouser, 11 a.m.

Does improvisational percussion belong at a folk festival? Folk yeah.

ToeKnee Tea, noon

Fresh off — and we mean fresh as in last week — the release of his newest album at the Mel, ToeKnee Tea will almost certainly have new music to present.

Will Scott, 1 p.m.

This songwriter returned to his hometown after years in New York City, bringing a bunch of well-crafted songs back with him.

Megan Maudlin, 2 p.m.

Count 2016 as the year Megan Maudlin's star rose in a huge way.

Eric Lambert, 3 p.m.

Last year, Lambert racked in a Chicago Music Award for best entertainer — the Midwest loves a flat-picking guitarist!

Haley Jonay, 4 p.m.

This young, mighty songwriting machine has snagged great opportunities opening for acts like Ed Sheeran for one reason: she hustles.

Mighty Brother, 5 p.m.

This Bloomington band brought a ton of locals in the studio to record their debut record, arranged around the songwriting pair of Jake Ryan and Nick Huster.

Roger Banister Trio, 6 p.m.

Banister plays solo, as a duo, as a trio, and on and on, because this man can play basically any instrument — and he's got a sweet spot for old school covers of tracks by Bill Monroe and Johnny Cash.

Jonny Carroll, 7 p.m.

Grand Rapids' Jonny Carroll spent winters busking in Great Britain, and brought back a bunch of Brit folk inspiration.

Hotel Tango Whiskey

The Dead Weight, 11:15 a.m.

Country rock kicks off the Hotel Tango stage; The Dead Weight is currently in the process of recording their debut, and will probably roll out a couple new ones in their opening slot.

Steve Smith and Conga J, 12:15 p.m.

In their years together, this grooving pair recorded a pack of releases that they're releasing online — and yes, there are congas. Lots of congas.

Joshua Powell and The Great Train Robbery, 1:15 p.m.

This three-piece psych rock act just announced a massive lineup of tour dates, all the way through late June.

Lawson Reunion Band, 2:15 p.m.

Think downhome Ohioan bluegrass, as played by three generations of family.

Kenan Rainwater Band, 3:15 p.m.

Fact: Reverend Peyton produced Rainwater's The River flows at Primary Sound Studios in Bloomington.

Punkin Holler Boys, 4:15 p.m.

These Mel mainstays present an amazing Hillbilly Happy Hour on third Fridays — but YES, they exist outside of the confines of 38th and Illinois, and we're all better for it.

Moor.Dub, 5:15 p.m.

This conscious reggae/dub group threads roots and folk through their tracks.

Frontier Folk Nebraska, 6:30 p.m.

Not a folk band and not from Nebraska; rather, rock from Kentucky. (They're good, so they get to be confusing.)

Stampede String Band, 7:45 p.m.

This top-level pickin' four-piece just recorded a live album during a set at the HI-Fi.

Milhaus Stage at Hi-Fi

Chris Dance and The Holy Echo, noon

This large band features instrumental flourishes of Eastern inspiration from frontman Dance's time spent in Indiana plus pleasing – and unexpected – harmonies with singer Jaymi Anderson.

Pool Holograph, 1 p.m.

These fuzzed-out four-piece rockers will skedaddle down 65 from Chicago to play the fest.

Dan & Sam, 2 p.m.

This Dan and Sam is Dan Snodgrass and Sam Shafer, both guitarist and vocalists for the Bonesetters — perhaps they'll present crowd favorites in another light?

Injecting Strangers, 3 p.m.

Cincy's Injecting Strangers mashup horror movies and gang vocals, and it's a goddamn delight.

Peter and The Kings, 4:15 p.m.

From The Impossible Shapes to Learner Dancer, the multi-instrumentalist found himself playing all kinds of styles in all kinds of bands — but now he's up front with his own project, and a tape out on Magnetic South last year. — SJ

PBR Main Stage

Wolf and The Wereboys, noon

This spooky band led by Chris Wolf garnered top honors at last year's Random Band Challenge, also coordinated by Burtch and Angel.

Shelby County Sinners, 1 p.m.

This band has all the honestness of Shelby Kelly's solo efforts, added into the raw energy of another one of his projects, Creepin' Charlie. — WB

Brave Baby, 2:15 p.m.

Shimmering North Carolina quintet Brave Baby's Electric Friends made waves with its slinky grooves and expansive instrumentation.

Motherfolk, 3:45 p.m.

In their bones, Cincy five-piece Motherfolk craft the kind of driving folk popularized in the late aughts by Mumford and Sons, but with frequent pop twists.

Buffalo Rodeo, 5:15 p.m.

Mash up Lynyrd Skynyrd and Tennis, and you've essentially got Bowling Green ambient rockers Buffalo Rodeo — and we know that sounds crazy, but it really works.

Joe Pug, 6:45 p.m.

Head here!

Kopecky, 8:45 p.m.

This Nashvillians dropped the "Family Band" and dropped Drugs for the Modern Age on ATO last year; they're regulars in Indy, and we eat them up every time.

Reverie Estates Stage at General Public Collective

Mike Brewer, noon

With stints as a string player in classical orchestras and a guitarist in rock groups both, expect Brewer's tunes to take a classical bent.

Dear Lincoln, 1 p.m.

The band geek in us is stoked that a band with sax and clarinet makes such chill folk tunes.

Steven Dunn, 2 p.m.

Dunn's latest full-length is called Indianola, but we'd be remiss if we didn't recommend his three-song holiday song record For Judith — Christmas in May, anybody?

Caleb McCoach, 3 p.m.

The songwriter's latest Vanity is out now on In Store Recordings, and the self-titled track is, in our opinion, the best song he's written to date.

Adam Kuhn, 4 p.m.

Fractured folkie Adam Kuhn's songs envelope like a memory foam mattress.

Achilles Tenderloin, 5 p.m.

We're craving a sandwich, and another record from pre-war blues devotee Joe Augustin, a.k.a. Mr. Achilles Tenderloin.

Sun King Stage at Wildwood Market

I Dream in Evergreen, 11:30 a.m.

IDIE's 2013 release to Come Back Home is drenched in joyous harmonies and light keyboards — particularly on standout closer "A Better Way Home."

Circle City Deacons, 12:30 p.m.

This isn't just standard 3rd wave ska — these cats have a lot of elements of northern soul woven in as well. — WB

Luke Knight, 1:30 p.m.

Brownsburg folkie Luke Knight was picked for a Sofar Sounds secret show last year, and video emerged of a show we wish we hadn't missed. Don't make our mistakes.

The War on Peace, 2:30 p.m.

Take a perfect little synth pop cruise on War on Peace's LP East and West.

Dietrich Jon, 3:30 p.m.

Diederik Van Wassenaer's excellent glam folk EP Higher showcases his skills as a string arranger.

Saint Aubin, 4:45 p.m.

Saint Aubin, as a band, made its bones on putting out a twisty hybrid of swampy blues-fueled Americana, and each prior EP built on the framework. —JS

Charlie Parr, 6:15 p.m.

Head here!

Bigfoot Yancey, 7:45 p.m.

This is founder Mike Angel's band — you're not going to miss the founder's band, are you?


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