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Ninth Dude Fest marks end of an era

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Jared Southwick, guitarist for The Dream is Dead, performs in 2007. Photo by Kris Arnold.
  • Jared Southwick, guitarist for The Dream is Dead, performs in 2007. Photo by Kris Arnold.

This year's Dude Fest, the ninth, is notable not just because a DIY hardcore music event has thrived this long in a city not known for appreciating such art, but because it also marks the end of an era for one important band.

After 10 years, politically-charged punk/metal purveyors The Dream is Dead are calling it quits. They'll play their last show July 28 during Dude Fest, part of a lineup that night that includes fellow Hoosiers Phoenix Bodies, Ice Nine and Picked Clean.

"I think we've pretty much done everything we set out to do," says Clark Giles, vocalist for The Dream is Dead.

That includes the release of one full-length (the hardcore classic Hail the New Pawn), issuing a handful of split 7-inches and EPs and touring the country coast to coast four times.

"I think that's a pretty good run for a band that plays the kind of music we do," Giles says. "It's time to put it to bed."

There's another, more vital reason for ending The Dream is Dead – the recent passing of their guitarist, Jared Southwick. Giles and Jason McCash (now of The Gates of Slumber) recruited the former six-stringer for Indiana death metal band Harakiri to play in The Dream is Dead when the group got going in 2001. Southwick died June 23 of complications from a kidney and liver condition. He was 34.

"It's going to be strange to play that last song and not see him standing there pounding on (drummer Dustin Boltjes') cymbals, which he always did on the last song," Giles says. "It will be bittersweet. But I'm glad we can play the last show as a tribute to him, just tie a ribbon on the whole thing."

Derek Black, Dude Fest organizer and vocalist for Phoenix Bodies, hopes for strong attendance to properly send off the band. He's unsure how much hype will surround the event, given that The Dream is Dead hasn't played live in a year.

"I hope people come there to appreciate their music for the last time," Black says. "Jared was a great friend of mine, so it will be kind of a weird thing, probably emotional for a lot of people. Hopefully it will be cathartic."

An interesting aspect of Dude Fest is that its audience has always been largely comprised of out-of-towners. Black says every corner of the United States will be represented at this year's edition. He even sold some tickets to fans from Australia. Circle City residents, however, tend to stay away.

"Indianapolis is a really crappy town for music," Black says. "They don't really care about anything new going on or seeing the local band play its hundredth show there. It's hard to do the fest in Indianapolis. But I live here and like having nice things, so I do what I can to keep it going."

Southwick had much the same experience. Aside from performing, he also booked shows locally, often acts with small but devoted followings. In Indianapolis, that usually translated into money-losing ventures. Black remembers seeing a performance by the seminal grindcore crew Phobia at The Hoosier Dome (where this year's Dude Fest is July 27-30) that Southwick organized. He estimates only about a dozen people attended.

"Jared was a guy who would bring in bands from all over the world, pay them tons of money and have 10 people come to a show that in any other town would have 400 or 500 people at it," Black says. "That happened routinely to him. He was easily one of the most passionate people I knew when it came to music. He cared so much about bringing bands to town and sharing this music with people. It was upsetting to see how little response or appreciation he ever got."

But there are plenty of fond memories to override that. Giles considers Southwick one of the best guitarists with whom he's played.

"He was totally dedicated to what he was doing," he says. "I like playing in bands, but he was born to be a musician. It's the end of an era, and that's kind of why I think it's an appropriate time to end the band. I don't see a point in continuing it."

There were plenty of hijinks in that time too. Black fondly recalls a 2004 Phoenix Bodies/The Dream is Dead tour.

"A lot of it was crazy debauchery with 12 guys from Indiana who all knew each other well, just going out and having a wild time every night," he says.

While in Florida Southwick convinced everyone to visit the studio where bands like Cannibal Corpse recorded some of their most popular albums.

Giles says Southwick was always ready to tour. Southwick was a big King Diamond fan. While traveling the band had a ritual they called "lurking." They'd arrive at a gig. Most of the crowd was generally underage so they wouldn't want to hang out inside. Instead they'd lounge in their van. Southwick would listen to every King Diamond record over the course of the evening, getting increasingly wired until it culminated in him dancing in front of the van while someone flipped the headlights on and off.

And there were Southwick's flip-flops. Those were his shoes of choice, even in winter.

"I remember we played a show in North Dakota; a blizzard was coming in and he was still in flip-flops," Giles says. "I respect that."

Giles is now the only original member in The Dream is Dead. McCash couldn't keep up with the touring schedule and bowed out in '03, replaced by former Ice Nine bassist Dave Lawson. Boltjes, who also plays in Skeletonwitch, took over for original drummer Alex Bond. Carl Byers, once in Phoenix Bodies and now in the Indy metal band Coffinworm, was brought in as a second guitarist a year and a half ago.

"We probably wouldn't do this show if we had to get someone else and teach them all the songs," says Giles. Plus profits from the performance are going to support the local all-ages music venue The Dojo, and the band didn't want to let them down.

The Dream is Dead plan on breaking out a couple songs they haven't performed live since their first year. But Giles says that will likely be the only surprise. They tried to get McCash back, but so far schedules haven't meshed.

There is one aspect of the band that goes unrequited for Giles – finishing their second full-length record, something he notes no hardcore band from Indy seems able to accomplish. The Dream is Dead managed to finish about eight of 11 songs, which Giles figures he'll eventually issue for free as demos. But if you only have one longplayer to your name, Hail the New Pawn constitutes a lasting legacy. Produced in L.A. by Alex Newport (of Fudge Tunnel and Nailbomb) and released in 2005 on Escape Artist, the record harkens to a time when heavy music was bereft of production gimmicks and still had a message, not to mention pinpoint rage.

"If people want to get familiar with Midwest hardcore music that was going on four or five years ago, that would be a really good reference point," Black says of the album.

As for Giles, he's not doing much with music currently. His goal is to release one more record on his own label, Happy Couples Never Last. That would give him an even 50 and finalize a list that includes a who's who of the local hardcore community. But finishing his doctorate in political science, which Giles hopes to parlay into a tenured teaching position, leaves little time for much else.

"Never say never though," he says. "I'll see a kickass band of 17-year-olds at the Dojo and that makes me want to do it again. I always say I'll never be in a band again, and then six months later I'm in a crappy band with four dudes playing a show."

Even if that doesn't happen, he'll always have The Dream is Dead. For as much as the collective struggled, Giles thinks their societal diatribes changed some minds, or at least opened some eyes. He'll never forget playing shows in towns he never heard of, to kids who knew the words to all their songs. That's good enough for him.

"If a kid stays in school and does something with his life, I think that's pretty awesome," Giles says. "They don't necessarily have to become politically active. Just do something positive with your life. To me it's about saying society's screwed up, not screw society in punk rock. It's about trying to make some kind of positive change, in whatever way you want to try to make it."

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