The first few weeks in September tend to be the busiest of Indianapolis’ arts and social calendar. Penrod. French Market. Greek Fest. Irish Fest. Jazz Fest. Art vs. Art. The list goes on. September is possibly the only month that Hoosiers can rely upon consistent, pleasant weather. The humidity of Indiana’s swampy summer is usually behind us. But enough warmth remains for scantily clad nights on the town.
The unfortunate part about jamming some of the city’s most well attended artistic events together is that sacrifices must be made. This year, as I have for the last several, my Saturday night was spent at Oranje. The evening marked the tenth anniversary for the event that bills itself as “Indiana’s Premier Arts & Music Explosion.” Explosion proves an adequate description.
Oranje can be overwhelming. More than 30 musicians and 40 artists fill and surround a warehouse at 23rd and Illinois for a veritable feast of the senses. A whirlwind of sights, sounds and tastes combine for one of Indianapolis’ can’t miss parties. At its best, my memories of the evening wind up a blur of experiences that I rarely separate into individual performances. They all merge together into a single, enjoyable mind fuck.
From an outsider’s perspective, Oranje seems like our city’s ill-fated attempt at trendy, artistic expression. And to some extent all the necessary clichés are in place—half-naked hipsters, experimental music, interactive exhibits. Non-natives may wonder what original thought Hoosiers could offer such a scene. Those who have attended know better.
I always leave Oranje motivated and inspired. This city is home to so many talented, interesting minds. In a state that prides itself on our small government, public funding of the arts is scarce. But the relative low cost of living allows artists to thrive for a fraction of the cost that larger cities, like New York and Los Angeles, demand. What Indianapolis needs to improve upon is providing these artists with a voice. Oranje accomplishes this in spades, but it’s not enough.
Indy’s residents should not wait until the second weekend in September to take in the arts. Terrific, worthwhile events take place all over this city every week of the year. Indianapolis’ greatest strength is arguably its accessibility. We can get almost anywhere in twenty minutes. We can park. With such opportunities all within arm’s reach, there is no excuse for failing to take advantage of all that Indy has to offer.
I thank the Oranje crew for the massive amount of planning and hard work that goes into this annual bash. Their contribution to the Indianapolis art scene over the last decade has opened a lot of local eyes. Now we’ve got to keep those eyes open and get them out of the house before next September. Let’s face it, folks. The Colts are not getting any better. Luckily for us, there’s more than football in Indiana.
Written by Rob Peoni
Photos by Katie Kirkhoff
Paula Cole begged the question “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” on her mid-90s mega hit of the same name. Apparently Paula, a few of them are hanging out in Austin, Texas.
Chris Brecht and his band Dead Flowers are responsible for one of the more underrated releases of 2011. Dead Flower Motel is a 3 AM barnstormer of a record that would prove a welcome addition to the jukebox of any West Texas honkytonk. Brecht has an artist’s eye for detail that provides the story for this smoky, whiskey-infused backdrop.
Daytrotter’s Sean Moeller wrote of Brecht, “We know it in our hearts – that we’re weak and expendable – but we also can see the beauty in that. We are brief and we are supposed to make the most of it. Brecht does this by finding the beauty in the smallest things, those toss-away details that, for many, are imperceptible, but they’re the bits that make a writer great and make a satisfied person.”
Concise, vivid songwriting is too often taken for granted in the indie scene. Blogs like Pitchfork appear willing to promote acts that fit a certain image, while the music itself plays second fiddle. (See: We Listen For You) As a result, artists like Brecht tend to slip through the cracks.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, Dead Flower Motel keeps the music simple and employs Brecht’s unique perspective to elevate the songs. I don’t wish to short change Dead Flowers. Their play provides a solid foundation for Brecht to draw from. The music has a subtle, haunting quality that pairs well with his mellow angst.
Brecht appears keenly aware that his message is lost on certain crowds. On “Not Where You Are”, Brecht writes “If you think that I’m wounded/It’s my soul that bleeds/Cause you’re judging a man/By the brand of his jeans/You have everything you want/Because you’re parents were rich/And you sit around and pretend/ How hard it is.” The lyrics read like a giant middle finger to the snobs whose club Brecht has never been allowed to enter. He continues, “I don’t want you to get it/I don’t want you to end/You can’t even pretend/To know where I’ve been.”
Dead Flower Motel is a tough sell. The music is too country for indie fans, and Brecht’s delivery is too indie for traditional country fans. Regardless of which crew Brecht eventually falls in with, his story is worth hearing. Click HERE for a free stream or download of his Daytrotter session.
Written by Rob Peoni
“People dancing, people laughing
A man selling ice cream
Singing Italian songs
Eh curare! Itza nice Ey!
Can you dig it (yes, I can)
And I’ve been waiting such a long time
Saturday in the park”
My experience from Lollapalooza was just that: A Saturday in the Park but I was wishing it was Pitchfork instead of the Fourth of July. DO NOT get me wrong. Lollapalooza is a grand time with a myriad of bands to chose from, but the convenience of a Saturday stroll is out of the question.
The distance between the Music Unlimited and the Bud Light (two main stages) is costly. Game plans and band map out sessions need to be considered very strategically. At Pitchfork you could see the completion of a set and do not have to worry about stressing over missing the beginning of the next. The beast that is Lollapalooza controls you and causes you to make quick decisions based on if you are “feelin’ or not” because of location. I have been going since the beginning of college and enjoy how big the crowds are but intimacy is cherished after a day in Grant Park.
I drove up to Chicago on Friday to catch the Local Natives / Walk the Moon set at Lincoln Hall on Friday and my only ambition was to catch Saturday at Lollapalooza and head back to Indianapolis before My Morning Jacket on Sunday. One and done in the festival scene and believe me….I got all I needed.
Comfort and convenience aside, I had a splendid time seeing some great live bands. Many of which I had been waiting to see for a long time which was an added bonus.
1:00 PM – J Roddy Walston and the Business – Playstation Stage
2:30 PM – Phantogram – Sony Stage
3:15 PM – Friendly Fires – Bud Light Stage
4:30 PM – Dom – Google+ Stage….side: Only saw a song or two. I saw their after show on Saturday night so it was not priority. Food and bathroom were paramount at this point
5:45 PM – Drums – Google+ Stage
6:30 PM – Local Natives – Sony Stage
8:15 PM – Lykke Li – Google+ Stage
9:45 PM – Beirut – Google+ Stage
I just realized I saw more bands than I thought after compiling this list. Totaling out at 8 is a very good day. I will bet my life I would not have been able to do this if I had gone on Friday.
- The crowd at Local Natives was the biggest crowd of the day that I noticed. It brought a tear to my eye that a band I had been following since the beginning was finally it.
- The Friendly Fires show was a sweatbox. They came with energy and I was thrilled they delivered. A dance circle was created by my crew. It took off. About 20 strangers participating in a jig fest to a band we all love – Can’t beat that
- Sarah Barthel from Phantogram might be the hottest Alt chick out there
- Beirut was not as cool as I expected
- Lykke Li owns me
Thank you Lollapalooza. It was another Saturday in the park but next time I’ll be waiting for July (Pitchfork Festival 2o12)
Written and experienced by Brett McGrath