While this weekend's Rib America Festival was once well served by a cozy Mass Ave. footprint (Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes were a particular highlight of those days), it's long since graduated to Military Park, where the extra space (and hours of operations) allows for the booking of a smorgasbord of music, including local bands, heritage rock and roll bands and the not-as-easily pigeon-holed acts that are on the afternoon schedule.
Let's take a peek at five I recommend seeing, with the understanding that my allegiance sways towards American rock and roll, Hammond B3 fills, unapologetic Midwest heartland rock sensibility and bands that know it's a show, not a lesson in navel-gazing.
These bands are, in order, the acts that will be either the most fun, nicest surprises and/or will put on the best shows:
1. Truth & Salvage Co.: Former Old Pike guitarist, singer and songwriter Tim Jones put together Truth & Salvage Co. in L.A., bringing together guys from places like Atlanta and North Carolina. They've been through Indy three times in the past 18 months, and never disappoint with their Band-like sound, four and five-part harmonies, and the sheer joy that comes through when they play. Slotted in at 4:15pm on Saturday, it will be the hottest part of the hottest day of the festival. Make the effort to see them. The debut album was produced by Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson, though they are more country rock and roll than jam band.
3. The Romantics: Garage power-pop from Detroit. The last time I saw them was in Madison, Ind., in 1990, when they played a tiny bar. They blew the freakin' roof off the joint with loud guitars, punk stylings and a bunch of three-minute tunes. Do they still have the power? Worth investigating, because they're one of the underrated pop/rock bands of the 80's, despite the will-never-go-away song "What i Like About You." They hit the stage Sunday afternoon at 3:45pm.
5. Beatlemania Live!: Can you go wrong with Beatles music? Rarely, especially if it is a touring tribute act. The sheer volume of great songs, rendered faithfully, is more than enough to send a reminder blast through a listeners brain about how freakin' genius this band was. We will never see the real thing again, so honor thy Brits with your attendance at this one. Sunday at 3:45 p.m.
Also stay for:
KC & the Sunshine Band: Because the Sunday night headliners will get the ladies to do a little dance and shake their booty all night long. KC is a big boy now, but he ain't afraid to dance. On the list because it is a bunch of guys and ladies on stage blasting the disco/dance groove, and they have horns.
Doobie Brothers: Again, enough original members to warrant inclusion on the list. Harmonies will pleasantly surprise and the tonnage of classic rock tune-age will make the hippies giggle. Headlining on Saturday night.
Rev. Peyton: His Big Damn band hits the stage around 6:45 p.m. Friday night, in front of REO. His Brown County blues will resonate with folks happy to kick off the weekend with a beer or three. "Clap Your Hands" will be epic.
Jennie Devoe: A mainstay on the Indy festival scene who was terrific at the Rathskeller in July. Her band is tight, her strong female voice and image are keenly needed, and she is one of the best we have. Rocking the afternoon stage at 1:45 p.m. Sunday.
Just a couple potential clunkers (Blind Melon?), a nice mix of local bands (Healing Sixes, Why Store, Devoe, Peyton, Borrow Tomorrow), and even a break from Ted Nugent this year. Solid festival lineup, if you ask me.