The guys behind Broad Ripple Music Fest, which will be held for its fourth year this weekend, are sticking to the basics.
"The mission of BRMF is to celebrate Indiana music, plain and simple," says festival director Daniel Fahrner, who coordinated this years festival with the help of his co-workers at Small Box Web Design and Musical Family Tree. (While NUVO is billed alongside those two organizations as a producer of the Festival, we were uninvolved with event programming.)
No recording execs, no discussion panels (called off at the last minute this year), no street closures. Just a chance to get genuine, mostly Indiana-based music in a concentrated shot, with 150-plus artists spread across 17 stages in the Broad Ripple area. And some magicians.
Most events will be held Saturday, Oct. 16, including free in-store showcases in the afternoon at Luna Music and Indy CD & Vinyl, for-profit concerts in the evening at the Casba, TRU Nightclub and the Melody Inn, and all-day blow-outs at Savvy Salon and Connor's Pub. (An up-to-the-minute schedule is available on the Fest's site.)
Thursday and Friday's key concerts take place at The Vogue: Friday night will feature the full-scale return Margot & the nuclear so and so's, and German trance DJ ATB will drop by the theater Thursday. (While something like 95 percent of those performing during the festival are from Indiana, some headliners hail from the Midwest and beyond.)
The Fest is something of a democratic beast; while Fahrner and his cohorts oversee the entire operation, local promoters and venues usually handle putting together individual showcases.
"Planning typically begins in May by securing the venues and hashing out ideas about lineups and new concepts we'd like to implement with the promoters," Fahrner says of the showcases. "We like to begin planning pretty far in advance in order to give each showcase enough time to mature into a completely original effort and to ultimately reach its potential."
Two local music outfits, independent label Standard Recording Company and one-stop freelance shop Indie Volumes, teamed together for a mini street festival enigmatically titled "Commodore Von Keepsie's Magic Playhouse" that will be held both inside and outside of Connor's Pub.
"It's based on some of the wacky showcases that take place in Austin, Texas for the SXSW festival and includes about 20 bands on dueling indoor / outdoor stages, a PBR beer garden, performance art hi-jinks from the Know No Stranger art collective and even a magician," Fahrner explains.
Equally ambitious is Heavy Gun's showcase at Savvy Salon, which will include both a beat battle between local producers and performances by the cream of the local hip-hop crop.
Fahrner thinks this year's "biggest addition" is a family-friendly, all-ages showcase on the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Center. The event will feature an arts and craft fair presented by Handmade Promenade, as well as performances by soul vocalists Bashiri Asad and Sarah Grain and indie-folk ensemble Quick Said the Bird.
And Fahrner says that the Fest has added venues representative of genres that were under-represented at previous festivals, like The Jazz Kitchen (which will feature Chicago soul band The Right Now and a full-band incarnation of jazz-tronica act Mystikos Quintet) and The Mousetrap (jam trio Ladymoon and blues act One Side Later).
(Some genres remain under-represented: "heavier" music like punk, hardcore and metal; jazz and blues. But one might point to the festival's mostly de-centralized structure for explanation. Promoters from certain genres were actively involved in putting together showcases, hence what look to be superlative showcases organized by Standard and Heavy Gun; while those genres that are absent weren't represented by an organization that could have put in the footwork to bring in top local acts.)
Broad Ripple Music Fest is once again donating proceeds — typically 20 percent from each ticketed showcase —to Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, which received a $2000 donation from the festival last year, according to the festival's website.
"We've chosen Keep Indianapolis Beautiful the last two years as we truly enjoy working with them and have seen our donations literally come to life through their amazing local beautification projects like the I-70 'A Greener Welcome' effort," Fahrner says. "Closing down I-70 for nine hours so that 9000 volunteers can plant trees and landscape the highway is pretty rock and roll."
Fahrner and his cohorts at Small Box Web Design are, for the most part, musicians and entrepreneurs on the local scene —Karl Hofstetter drums and runs Joyful Noise Recordings in his free time, Jack Shepler DJs and books events with On Track Entertainment (once SideTrack), PJ Christie performed locally until relocating to Austin and pater familias Jeb Banner built Musical Family Tree into a valuable resource for Indiana music past and present.
"The Small Box team is a group of musicians and music fans and we found each other by way of the larger music community," Fahrner sums up. "Our goal is to continue feeding that growth that brought us together as our connection to the music community is something we feel defines our culture and identity as a company."
A $10 wristband affords access to each and every Saturday showcase, or each showcase can be paid for individually at the door. Shows at The Vogue are individually ticketed through Ticketmaster.