Last Saturday I awoke to a shinning sun and brisk October temperatures, ready to embark on my third annual adventure at the Broad Ripple Music Fest. With a meticulously prepared schedule, several layers of warm clothing, and a good night of rest- I was ready to embark on 14 hours of live, local music. Undoubtedly, BRMF is one of my favorite days of the whole year.
Indianapolis Art Center - Sarah Grain
Sarah Grain performed a picturesque acoustic set on the outdoor stage at the Indianapolis Art Center early in the afternoon. With the White River running behind her and a hill of leaf-covered grass in front of her, it was the most appropriate pairing of artist and venue throughout the festival. The spice of a nearby plant in the woods filled the air, the sun shone bright and warm, and Grain sang passionately about the change of seasons we’re in the midst of. “This one is another tribute to summer, since it’s obviously on its way out” she said before singing of Indiana weather and scenery. Grain was the first of three free shows at the IAC that afternoon.
Indy CD & Vinyl - Crescent Ulmer
Crescent Ulmer (an Indy native who resides in Bloomington) and her friend Maggie played an acoustic set at the northern end of the Indy CD and Vinyl record store around 2 o’clock on Saturday. Crescent (dressed in a friendly, light-colored neon tie dye shirt) played the guitar and sang while Maggie (slightly more punk rock in a black and white flannel) supported with percussion on her conga and tambourine. Crescent’s voice is quite striking; soft and timid in conversation, yet resilient and sincere in song. Not related to her impressive songwriting abilities, but important nonetheless (especially for an aspiring artist), Crescent gets the award for most-accessible artist- MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and her personal blog are all returned when her name is searched.
LUNA - Smedley Jergins & His Orchestra
By 3:30, LUNA’s schedule was off by nearly an hour; I overheard something having to do with the 7:00 o’clock artist Brando affecting the itinerary. Around 4, two acoustic guitar players and one limited percussionist stepped behind microphones in the northeast corner of the LUNA record shop. Online research prior to the festival led to an interest in seeing Bloomington-based Smedly Jergins & His Orchestra; video footage had portrayed the group as a twangy acoustic three piece with eccentric, country-like personalities. Their super-short set was lethargic and quiet, focusing mostly on the band’s harmonic qualities. Smedley takes the award for coolest merchandise item: a $4 “casingle”- Smedley’s throwback version of an EP on cassette tape.
La Jolla’s Wasted Space - The Bonsetters
La Jolla’s Wasted Space takes the award for most unique venue. Paper dice schedules were created in advance and left on the tables for guests to reference; each side of a block gave the artist scheduled for a specific time slot. The Wasted Space offers multiple levels and lounge-style seating with comfy chairs and love seats. Windows were open everywhere, allowing the music to pour out of the immediate room where the band was playing into the various open booths and tables throughout the venue. I was there just before 5 p.m. and caught the last of The Bonsetters’ set (whose folky, hollow sound that I sampled online turned out to be more indie rock in person than the haunting, low-fi music I went in search of) but walked away more impressed with The Wasted Space than anything.
Standard Recording & Indie Volumes - Slothpop
Standard Recording and Indie Volumes teamed up with one of the smallest bars in Broad Ripple for the largest showcase in the festival. Two massive tents were installed outside of Connor’s Pub- one for sponsor swag tables and fraternization, the other for viewing bands on the outside stage. Inside, the regular “stage” area for live music at Connor’s (which is really just the least-obtrusive corner of the tiny bar) was also utilized. Due to excise tax laws, beverages purchased in the bar could not be carried to the outside stage and vice versa.
I wish somebody would have told me about the above-mentioned Mason-Dixon line of alcohol before I confined myself inside (where there was no music at the time) just minutes before Slothpop took stage at 6:30. I listened from the back patio and chugged my beer, then raced outside to catch the remainder of the Slothpop set, just as the band recovered their keyboard. On Friday, Slothpop played a show at the Heartland Film Festival and managed to overlook the precious set of keys when loading equipment afterwards. Realizing this on Saturday, Nathan Lucas (bassist for Jascha) rushed to the aid of Slothpop and recovered the instrument just in time for the second half of their set. Among favorites like “One” and “Kokoro”, Slothpop also revealed a new, still-untitled song that saw violinist Lauren Eison in rare form with a guitar strapped around her neck.
Heavy Gun Blog - Savvy Salon
The Heavy Gun Blog showcase relocated from last year’s 54th-and-College venue at Nothside News to a more accessible spot in the backyard of Savvy Salon on Broad Ripple Avenue, just east of the high school. The makeshift stage (a popup shade tent positioned on top of a two-inch-tall, over-sized wooden pallet, illuminated by a few strands of multi-colored Christmas lights) echoed the grassroots essence of Indy hip hop. There was ample space for the audience to assemble near the stage, leaving room for the little ones to run circles around each other in the back. The area was enclosed by an impenetrable fence; Pro Forms’ set was even interrupted by a woman on the other side asking how she could get in, to which one performer on stage jokingly replied, “If you still have a single athletic bone in your body, jump that fence.” As per usual, Heavy Gun wins for professionalism paired with playfulness.
The Nightriders finished a rousing set around 7:30 that exemplified Heavy Gun’s taste for quality hip hop with universally likable beats and real emcee skills. Grey Granite was an appropriate follow-up to The Nightriders, giving his all for a 15-minute set leading into the final round of the famed beat battle. Granite began with “Turn It On” from recently released Pixelated Lazer Face Bass Monster- a six-track, bass-heavy EP produced by El Carnicero. Granite asked everyone who hates their job to raise a middle finger to the air as he performed “Pay Up”, a party anthem for underpaid laborers (also from PLFBM). An energized rap over “Song 2” by Blur propelled Granite through the audience with intensity and left him nearly out of breath for the final song- an abbreviated, improvised version of the Granite original “Highper”.
Continue to Broad Ripple Music Fest: the second half.