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Group therapy with About The Fire

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You may not know it, but last night was a watershed moment for Indianapolis. Legendary punk rock and roll band About The Fire played their final notes. While the final dissolution of the band was a heartbreaking blow to the city’s music scene, the band threw one hell of a funeral party to end things on as positive a note as possible.

Well before the show started, the Melody Inn had filled up with dedicated fans. The entire crowd was eager for ATF to take the stage, but at the same time there was an unspoken wish that time would freeze and postpone the inevitable. But alas, good things always find a way of ending themselves too soon.

The night got started with the brutal shout-outs and old-school hardcore jams of Off Balance. Fronted by local hardcore king Justin Cook, Off Balance had plenty of shouting out to do.

Homegrown Emo (I’m going with the 1995 definition of the word) act Sex Before Marriage took the stage next and really energized the crowd. Their sound is reminiscent of 90’s “emo” acts such as Braid, Cap’n Jazz and even The Get Up Kids. After years of line-up changes and turmoil the long-running band used the ATF show to release their debut EP (finally!) You’ll Always Remember Your First.

Next in the line-up, mid-tempo hard rockers Maravich took a crack at warming the crowd. Their slow-and-heavy sound brought to mind some of the post-hardcore of the early 90’s like Helmet and Fugazi. Their set was spot-on, but it was obvious that the crowd was anxious for ATF.

About The Fire: pile-on party at the E.S. Jungle
  • About The Fire: pile-on party at the E.S. Jungle

The second that ATF struck its first note, the Melody Inn went off like a bomb. The crowd worked itself into a frenzy of pile-ons and the occasional crowd-surfer. ATF ripped through their greatest “hits” from their all-too-short career. One of the great things about ATF was their amazing lyrics. Frontman “Fat” Sammy Clevenger wore his heart on his sleeve but without seeming cheesy for a moment. The expert composition of the songs presented the crowd with perfect opportunities for mic-grabbing scream-alongs. During “To Whom It May Concern”, Fat Sammy surrendered the mic to the drunken crowd for the the glorious chorus of “I get fucked up to forget/ the fucked up things I do/ when I get fucked up to forget/ the fucked up things I do/ when I get fucked up...”.

Before their last song, the band announced that this would be the final time that the ATF would make music together. The whole crowd seemed to grasp the reality of the situation and took its frenzy up a notch as the band stormed into the anthemic “So Close”. As the crowd shouted the final chorus of “You lead and I follow!”, the band stepped off stage and the Mel became a sea of sweaty hugs and heartfelt high-fives. About The Fire got to give the eulogy at their own funeral; it was the group therapy that the band and its fans needed.

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