Just a few short years ago, music festivals were synonymous with six-hour road trips, five-day weekends, two hundred-dollar tickets, and mile-long lines. Over time, however, someone realized that support for local and regional bands is strong enough that a celebration of music doesn’t always have to be a physical and financial strain.
In the last three years alone, Hoosiers have seen more than ten Indiana festivals come to life in their own backyard. The events range from weekend campouts in rural locations to inner city parties on grassy knolls. This Saturday, another one makes its debut just in time for the close of summer music festival season (although it falls into the early days of autumn, hence the name): The MassAve Festivall.
Bands performing at the festival include Twin Cats, Ultraviolet Hippo, Ladymoon, Brainchild, The Leisure Kings, Chester Brown, Namaste, and Snakeoil Syndicate.
I recently spoke with Michael Koslow about the birth of his festival, his own involvement in the local music scene, and his vision for the future of the MassAve Festivall.
NUVO: There is very little information available on the website about how this festival got started. What made you want to do it?
Koslow: I've been attending music festivals since 1993 and was quite inspired by some of the early Phish festivals. In 1996, there was no such thing as Bonnaroo and Phish put together the Clifford Ball to a resounding success. I made it a point to attend their festivals in the late 90s; however I truly believe Bonnaroo launched a new era of thinking where the festival isn't about one band specifically, but instead is about bringing people together in an inspirational setting with an organic event at the heart of it.
I've been in conversation with the Indiana Professional Fire Fighters Union for three years. They have an annual St. Patrick's Day event and in the spring they have a statewide pumper pull competition, both at the same venue as MassAve Festivall. The site is also the home of the IndyFringe music tent every year - this year called "Club Fringe". This January the firefighters agreed to offer the run of the venue for a Saturday music festival, and this prompted me to start Koz Productions and [begin] planning the event for Sept. 25.
NUVO: Are the proceeds benefiting any organizations?
Koslow: As it's ultimately in a downtown neighborhood, and on the grounds of the Union Hall, the Chatham Arch Neighborhood Association and the Indiana Professional Fire Fighers will each receive 5 percent of the proceeds from the festival. Both are local organizations which ultimately are stakeholders in Massave Festivall and neighbors.
NUVO: Why Mass Ave and in the city as opposed to a rural setting like most festivals?
Koslow: As one of the cultural & arts districts in Indianapolis, Mass Ave. is prominent in the art and performing arts scene. However there hasn't been much in the form of local music in the district with the giant exceptions of the Chatterbox jazz club and the Rathskeller. The urban nature of Mass Ave lends itself to more of a street fair than a typical jamband festival. Within the context of urban jamband festivals, MassAve is loosely based on the 2004 Langerado festival. That festival took place in an urban park in Hollywood, Fla. The resounding theme from there was to have live music on two stages without overlapping. That, combined with an open re-entry policy makes it possible to check out 10 hours of continuous music, or take a break and check out a park of the city.
NUVO: Why a single day rather than a camp out?
Koslow: The ultimate goal is to build up to a multi-day event with on-site camping; however for a first-time event, this represents a 'testing the waters' for downtown Indy. The last similar event I can recall in the neighborhood was the 2004 "Jammin on Jersey" which had multiple stages in the parking lots of the Murat Theater.
NUVO: What are your plans for the MassAve Festivall- short term and long term?
Koslow:Short term plans for Koz Productions include one-off show promotions ideally also based in downtown Indy during the winter. Long term goal is to work with the local music community to setup a multi-day camping event located in Central Indiana. I've had conversations with a venue outside of town; however the goal is to make it somewhere people from Indy could either ride a bus to or make a short drive.
NUVO: What attractions and amenities in addition to the bands will round out the festival entertainment?
Koslow: There will be a real-time mural drawn from our friends at murals.tv during the event. Also, representatives from Indy Hoopers will participate. For those interested in face painting, this will also be available on site. Event goers are encouraged to check out the neighborhood too as there are a multitude of shops, bars, and restaurants just a stones throw away. Sun King will have 3 beers available on tap, and Park Avenue Eats will serve food, drink, fresh lemon shake-ups.
NUVO: What advice do you have for people planning to come?
Koslow: Bring a lawn chair, feel free to bring food and non-alcoholic drinks, check out the neighborhood, and enjoy the music!