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Cluster-fest 2011: An unabridged guide

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Trombone Shorty (performing at Indy Jazz Fest, Sept. 17)
  • Trombone Shorty (performing at Indy Jazz Fest, Sept. 17)

What if everyone, assuming that late summer is just perfect to do something outdoors, decided to throw a concert on one day? Well, you'd have this weekend's cluster-fest. Here's our guide through the embarrassment of riches.

Indy Jazz Fest
Oranje
Indy's Irish Festival
CATARACTS Music Festival
Fiesta Indianapolis
Tattoo City Underground
Playing for Change Day
Uproar Festival (and/or X-Fest)

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Indy Jazz Fest

Sept. 14-17

Vibe: Depends on the day. Saturday's showcase tends older, mellower and family-friendly, with headliners booked to appeal to that audience (George Benson, Spyro Gyra). But Freda Payne's Friday night tribute to Ella Fitzgerald could be raucous; the Walker typically draws a vibrant, vocal audience, and last year's Jazz Fest concert there (Dee Dee Bridgewater) was, at turns, raunchy and moving, with Bridgewater taking a break from picking up two young bucks in the audience to wrench newfound tragedy from "Strange Fruit." Expect more of the same magic this year. And Wednesday's Cabaret concert by Kevin Mahogany will be another world entirely: that of the Columbia Club, which still feels a bit too exclusive. But it's nice that the Jazz Fest now offers so many different flavors, having expanded two years back into a week-long event.

Socially just?: Yeah. Not only does Indy Jazz Fest attend to the Indiana Ave. tradition by booking guys like B-3 master Melvin Rhyne to its Legacy Stage, keeping more money in the community than previous incarnations of the festival, but a jazz education component is also central to the event — the Emerging Jazz Artist stage is given over to high school and college ensembles, and the Fest conducts educational programming throughout the year (six-week all-city band workshop, multi-media jazz history presentations, a partnership with the Ball State Jazz Fest).

Top picks: We already named one of them — Freda Payne, the "Ring of Gold" singer whom Chuck profiles this week. The New Orleans-based Trombone Shorty plays irresistibly enthusiastic funk informed by his hometown of New Orleans. Lo, these many years after Breezin', George Benson can still cook; plus, in a live setting, you can expect all of the silkiness without all of the polish that has weighted down some of his studio recordings. Same goes for Spyro Gyra and Yellowjackets — while their studio output lacks a certain grit, they tend to be considered more exciting as live bands, when they've got a little room to spread out.

Up-and-coming: If you're into scouting future talent, the Emerging Jazz Artist stage is the place to be. It'll feature a couple of the state's top high school jazz bands — from Bloomington North and Fort Wayne Snider — as well as college jazz ensembles from UIndy, Butler, Ball State, IU and IUPUI. The IU jazz band has launched countless careers, including plenty of big names (the Brecker Bros, notably).

Extracurricular activities: Well, there is an art park at the Indianapolis Art Center, not to mention a river in which you probably ought not bathe. Plus, there's plenty of food and beverage, especially for those who buy in at the VIP level.

After hours: The official Jazz Fest after-party starts at 10 p.m. Saturday at The Jazz Kitchen; some big names from the showcase are bound to stop by, maybe even blow a few bars. Don't rule out celebrity sightings at the Chatterbox, either.

Sept. 14, Kevin Mahogany at The Cabaret at the Columbia Club (7 p.m., $35-55); Sept. 15, Indy Jazz Fest Band at Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center (7 p.m., free); Sept. 16, Freda Payne at Madame Walker Theater (7:30 p.m., $25-55); Sept. 17, outdoor showcase at Opti-Park featuring George Benson, Trombone Shorty, Spyro Gyra, Rufus Reid, Yellowjackets (1 p.m., $30-75).

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Oranje

Sept. 17

Vibe: Fairly diverse, because of the different scenes that Oranje brings together. In one sense, it's a giant, late-night art show (or art party, if you like), bringing together just about everyone under, say, 40 who's doing work worth seeing. So that's your average First Friday crowd. But then there's everything else: three stages that tend towards indie rock and hip-hop; a tent featuring the cream of the EDM crop; a fashion wing in the warehouse featuring a runway, more DJs and people crammed like sardines like in an, um, ultra lounge. And while Oranje doesn't squat in a new place each year like it used to, there's still that slightly transgressive feel of being in an abandoned warehouse (though it is an abandoned warehouse ticketed by Ticketmaster).

Socially just?: Yeah. Oranje isn't a non-profit, per se, but they cut deals for non-profits and make donations throughout the year. So sure, it's mostly about a full mind-body experience and giving a forum for artists of different stripes, some of whom (say, the performance or graffiti artists) might find Oranje a unique opportunity to strut their stuff. But that does make for a valuable service to the performance art community, not to mention that Oranje hires people from the immediate community to do some work prior to and during the festival.

Top picks: Too many to name, really. Oranje is a juried show on the music side, meaning that there aren't too many clunkers. We're intrigued by 'Verse, the stage name of Lauren Moore, who's moved on from Jascha to an electro-pop sound-world in collaboration with El Carnicero. And you can't go wrong with any of the many known quantities and repeat offenders of the schedule: Neon Love Life, Oreo Jones, Jackola, Taylor Norris, Kyle Long, Kodama. And while most performers are from the Indy metro area, it's always fun to see the few out-of-town groups that are in the mix.

Up-and-coming:Chindi — a newly-formed band fronted by David Barajas (Extra Blue Kind, State, etc.) and Josh Silbert (ESW, Johnny Socko) — is playing one of its first shows, already with its second drummer at the helm.

Extracurricular activities: As mentioned — and as you probably already know — there's a lot going on beyond the music. Just wander about and try not to get in too much trouble.

After hours: Well, Oranje does go kinda late, so we suggest partying with your loved ones afterwards, or closing down Melody Inn (just down Illinois Avenue) if you're desperate.

Sept. 17 at 2323 N. Illinois St., 8 p.m.-2 a.m., $20, 21+.

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Indy's Irish Festival

Sept. 16-18

Vibe: Well, a bit like your average ethnic festival — Greek, French, Italian — only bigger, and with a whole lot more stuff going on. Friday's college night tends to bring in more, well, college students, so do what you will with that info. Early afternoon is when it feels even more like a community event, with more in the way of sheep shearing demos and hurling contests than when things get more crowded in the evening.

Socially just?: Certainly. The Irish Fest is a 501(c)(3), and has, since 2003, awarded scholarships in traditional music, Irish step dancing, Celtic artwork and Irish history and language to at least one lucky recipient. This year, four folks will be given the resources to study their heritage.

Top picks: The music at Irish Fest tends to come in two categories: rock and not-rock. Celtic rock bands are aplenty — The Mickey Finns are probably your best bet. Celtic Spring will bring a Riverdance-style strings and step dancing show; you may have seen them on America's Got Talent. But we're most intrigued in the less-amplified stuff, and, in particular, McPeake, a mostly-family band drawing on pretty rich heritage (the patriarch wrote "Wild Mountain Thyme," which has been performed by Dylan, Van Morrison and others you've heard of). And we always love a chance to see Hogeye Navvy, who are out of a regular gig for a while after the Aristocrat fire.

Up-and-coming: If you're on the outlook for new dance talent, why, the Richens Timm Academy of Irish Dance has you covered, but you might also attend to the local talent — notably fiddler Emily Ann Thompson — to see if there's anyone you'll want to catch during the rest of the year.

Extracurricular activities: We strongly recommend the hurling matches on Saturday afternoon. It's kind of a primitive version of lacrosse. There will also be men running in kilts on Sunday. Plus, plenty of adult beverages.

After hours: After-parties take place at the downtown Marriott (350 W. Maryland St., not the new one). Fest organizer Terry Sweeney waxes nostalgic about a party that saw musicians trading songs until 5 a.m., when the staff at the Omni (the hotel then hosting the fest) finally had to kick everyone out to set up brunch.

At Miltary Park. Sept. 16, 4:30-11 p.m.; Sept. 17, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sept. 18, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Tickets: $13 adult, $10 student, free for 13 and under. Free admission Sept. 16, 4:30-5:30 p.m., and Sept. 18, 10:30-11:30 a.m. (with donation of at least three non-perishable food items). $5 with college ID on Sept. 16.

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CATARACTS Music Festival

Sept. 17

Vibe: Well, we can't say for sure — this is the first one of these after all — but if you've ever been to a house show in Fountain Square, it'll be a lot like that, only more so. CATARACTS is a showcase for experimental and indie music, presented in four houses in the Fountain Square area, each of them given clever names (Skull Manor, Jasona Beach, Debi's Palace of Noise & Laundromat and Dave Cave). So expect questionable, low-budget home interior choices and iffy PAs (well, they might be awesome PAs; we're just working from experience), but also a super-informal atmosphere, risk-taking, rough-around-the-edges performers, kegs full of skunk beer and fridges fill of micro-brew and the kind of scruffy, DIY crew found in the corners of the Murphy (say, at SpaceCamp).

Socially just?: Yeah, man; I mean, what kind of a question is that anyways? But yes, all the cool kids are putting this together — including outfits like LUNA and MonkeyEatsMonkey — and while it's not for a "cause," it is about supporting (or "championing," as a mission statement goes) independent artists and continuing to build the Fountain Square scene (the event coincides with the Fountain Square Art Parade and Fair).

Top picks: A whole bunch: DMA, which is Jookabox lead singer Moose in a grimy solo setting; garage bands Vacation Club and The Kemps; Apache Dropout, which is probably the best psych band to come out of Indiana since the '60s; Marmoset, fresh off their box set release show; Christian Taylor & Homeschool, whose lead singer is a consistent source of support in the Fountain Square scene; Learner Dancer, a Bloomington duo whose stuff might be classified as chillwave, in a non-lame sense.

Up-and-coming: Well, everyone on the bill qualifies for that title to a certain extent, but show up earlier in the day to see some of the groups who don't have record labels or Bandcamp accounts or much of a reputation. I mean, there'll be some missteps, but this is a hell of an opportunity to see what's new in central Indiana.

Extracurricular activities: Not applicable, because you're pretty much on your own here, all of Fountain Square being your oyster, assuming that you don't want to hang out in the kitchen.

After hours: There's still time to check out Oranje, if that's your scene, or to head over to any of Fountain Square's drinking holes, including La Revolucion, Tufty's new place across from Radio Radio, whose tiki bar and tacos are the talk of the village.

12-10 p.m. at four homes on Morris Street in Fountain Square (927, 934, 945 and 951 E. Morris St.), $10.

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Fiesta Indianapolis

Sept. 17

Vibe: During the afternoon, a lot like any other festival at the American Legion Mall — lots of kids and Frisbees, a ton of tables pertaining to different causes relevant to the Latino community, food trucks with food ranging from questionable to good. Ah, but the evening? The evening is when we dance, and when Fiesta Indianapolis becomes more of a music festival than anything else.

Socially just?: You ain't joking: It's the largest Latino festival in the state, according to event organizers La Plaza, with an annual attendance of over 30,000.

Top picks: We'll be looking for Direct Contact, a fast-paced, aggressive Latin jazz trio and Gueroloco, the reggaeton emcee who's taken home several Chicago Music Awards.

Up-and-coming: Unless you're immersed in the Latin music world, there'll be at least a band or two you haven't heard of — and, depending on your level of exposure, they might even be playing in styles you're unfamiliar with (duranguense, plena, bomba). So take a chance; it'll be new to you.

Extracurricular activities: Ronald McDonald will arrive at 3 p.m., just after the Indianapolis Children Choir opens things up. Ask him about that coffee scalding case.

After hours: Dunno. Mariachi band Sol Jalisciense finishes up at 11 p.m.; ask around to see where everyone's headed.

American Legion Mall, free, 12-11 p.m.

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Tattoo City Underground

Sept. 16-18

Vibe: Bill Levin is behind this one, so if you've been to his Tattoo Ball, you'll have a sense of what to expect. It is a tattoo convention — the first in Indy in over a decade — so there'll be that insider feel, but there's plenty to do and see even if you're not there to find the guy who could execute that drawing of a smoking platypus you made when you were insanely high that's just perfect for your shin. Read more about the tattoo element in our cover story; we'll discuss the music.

Socially just?: Yup. All proceeds will go to Rupert's Kids, Rupert Bonham's nonprofit dedicated towards helping and teaching troubled youth in the Indy area. Plus, while tattoo art is a viable visual art in some circles, we're waiting for the IMA to do a skin art exhibition (and there's some way that could jive with their interest in textiles and design). So, it has to be rewarding for artists to get their due, gather with like minds, etc. It's all about community, right?

Top picks: Saturday is jam-packed: you've got rockabilly from MG and the Gas City Three, hard rock from JJ Pearson and the Insignificant Others, gutter punk from The Involuntarys and first-wave hardcore band DOA, the Vancouver-born outfit spoken of in the same breath with Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat and so on.

Up-and-coming: A young blues harmonicist by the name of Carson Diersing is worth keeping an eye out for.

Extracurricular activities: It's all about the extracurricular activities, particularly if you're hanging with Bill Levin.

After hours: Things run until 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, but then you'll be stuck in Plainfield. We suspect you'll find some epic after-parties if you hook up with the right artists.

At Primo Banquet Center, 2353 E. Perry Road, Plainfield. Sept. 16 and 17, 11a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sept. 18, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. $10 one-day pass, $25 three-day pass.

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Playing for Change Day

Sept. 17

Vibe: Check out our profile of world music dude Philadelphia Phil for more on Playing for Change, but we'll just say that we've got high hopes for this becoming an Indianapolis tradition. It's the local edition of the worldwide Playing for Change day, which will see musicians worldwide banding together to raise some cash for the kids. If you want to camp out all day, the tent in front of the Art Bank is the place to set up your lawn chair; if you want to wander around, check out musicians playing, busker-style, up and down the street (in front of Starbucks, Global Gifts). It all ends at the Chatterbox, which always seems more than game for these kind of Mass Ave events (like our own Mass Ave Crit).

Socially just?: Hell yes. This is all about giving back. When Playing for Change started out, it was about recognizing the talent and power of street musicians. Now, it's about translating all that interest into creating real social change, or at least into creating opportunities for those without resources.

Top picks: There's a nice collection of local do-gooders and community figures — Scott Sanders and his roots outfit The Reacharounds, Indy Folk Series folks Dan & Beth Henkel, the kinda goofy Punkin Holler Boys — as well as some less regular figures: Bloomington's virtuoso bluegrass outfit Milbranch String Theory, which should find a way to do a song about quantum mechanics, and reggae singer Kwanzaa Popps, who will headline the indoor fundraising concert closing out the night.

Up-and-comers: Milbranch is a promising new band in the bluegrass/roots scene; otherwise, an open stage from 2 p.m. on the Art Bank stage might draw a few new faces.

Extracurricular activities: Well, you're on Mass Ave, so after you donate to Playing for Change and you've had your fill of music, feel free to patronize any of the fine local businesses in the area (though not with a patronizing attitude).

After hours: After the early-evening fundraising concert, The Chatterbox will clear things out for a set by the Impossible Jazz Collective (which may also draw some folks from the Indy Jazz Fest; funny how all these threads and fests tie together).

9 a.m.-8 p.m., on Mass Ave at the Art Bank and Chatterbox, and outside of Starbucks and Global Gifts.

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Uproar Festival (and/or X-Fest)

Sept. 17

Vibe: Well, about what you'd expect for a hard rock and metal festival with an energy drink as a sponsor. Kind of youthful, so not necessarily as obnoxiously drunk as a Kid Rock show, where you can just kinda slip-and-slide down the vomit stream from the Port-o-Potties; but still a late-season Verizon Wireless festival, for better or worse.

Socially just?: Nope, not really. It's not unjust, necessarily, but it is a big-ticket Live Nation/Ticketmaster/Verizon Wireless show. It is what it is.

Top picks: Tough to say; most of these guys have chops, particularly headliner Avenged Sevenfold, whose metalcore sound (mixed with a bit of of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal) is a little tired, but has remained tight even after the recent death of a drummer. The South African Seether has been favorably received in the States for its post-grunge sound, and Three Days Grace does a punk/arena rock thing that makes them the most accessible band on the bill in terms of melody.

Up-and-coming: If you like the headliners, Art of Dying (a post-grunge five-piece that borrows from Pearl Jam, Incubus and the like) and Black Tide (youngsters playing speed metal) are worth showing up early for.

Extracurricular activities: Free earphones for the first 25 people who bring their old ones; video game demonstrations; free Rockstar Energy Drink.

After hours: If you end up stuck in the parking lot, Sleepybear Campground can probably give you some space to bed down for the night.

Verizon Wireless Music Center, 12880 E. 146th St., 2:30 p.m., $24-84.50 (plus fees).

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