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Joyful Noise invades WARMfest

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, Central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on August 26, 2014. Some content, style and formatting may differ from the original version. 

Next weekend, WARMfest invades Broad Ripple Park for four days of arts, music and a celebration of the White River that runs alongside it. For year two, WARMfest organizer Dan Ripley decided to place an emphasis on Indy. “I decided to regroup and make it more local this year,” Ripley says. “Let’s make it great locally, and then people are going to want to come from around the region.”

In this spirit, WARMfest tapped local label Joyful Noise Recordings to curate its main stage on Saturday. The label’s owner, Karl Hofstetter, lives directly across the street from the festival and JNR had previously curated stages at Broad Ripple Music Fest, which was incorporated by WARMfest last year. (Broad Ripple Music Fest continues this year by curating the local line-up at WARMfest and is currently planning more stand-alone programming in 2015.)

“I think it’s important for the city,” Hofstetter says. “There are so many great festivals around, and it seems to be a good model to actually get people excited about music and get bands paid. I like that. The bands are driving through this city anyway to get to the next festival, so it makes total sense for Indianapolis to have a festival on that caliber and hopefully WARMfest is it.”

The stage will feature the bulk of JNR’s roster, including heavy-hitters Half Japanese, of Montreal and Sebadoh. Half Japanese band members recently reunited to release Overjoyed, its their first album in more than a decade. Coincidentally, the release date is scheduled for the week following WARMfest, so the festival will serve as a sort of gigantic album release party. “All five of those guys are coming from different cities on three continents to fly into Indianapolis just to play that show,” Hofstetter says. “It costs $4,000 in flights just to get those guys in the same room, and we want to make the most of it.”

Hofstetter’s house will double as a green room/recording space for the acts on his roster. The idea was sparked when several of the bands expressed an interest in rehearsing prior to the show. Hofstetter immediately saw the potential and convinced them to record stripped-down sets, which JNR will release as singles, exclusive to WARMfest. Mike Dixon, who runs his own label People in a Position to Know, will handle the lathe-cutting process. He’s based out of Arizona, but travels to several festivals each summer to cut limited-run vinyl for fans to watch in person.

“We’re going to have a tent next to the main stage where the records are being cut,” Hofstetter says. “They’re all going to be signed, and hand-numbered. There will only be 75 copies of this recording that will ever exist.”

The seven bands releasing limited-edition singles at WARMfest are:

  • of Montreal
  • Lou Barlow (Sebadoh)
  • Half Japanese
  • Busman’s Holiday
  • KO
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Yoni Wolf (Why?)

On Friday WARMfest will host a screening of a new film about JNR’s own of Montreal. The documentary, entitled The Past is a Grotesque Animal, focuses on the band’s enigmatic frontman Kevin Barnes. The screening is part of WARMfest’s community day, which also features a performance from local punk icons Zero Boys and Indy super group The Last IV. At a single-day price point of just $10, Friday should prove an attractive option for families. Although, kids under the age of 10 have free access all weekend long.

When asked what it meant to him personally to see the label that he built featured as the centerpiece of a burgeoning music festival in his own front yard, Hofstetter says, “Hopefully, it’s a sign that people like what we do here?” he questioned rhetorically. “Honestly, like 90 percent of our records are sold in cities other than Indianapolis. Probably, more like 99 percent. That’s not because we don’t want to sell records to people here … Hopefully that shifts a little bit. Even if it doesn’t, it’s OK. We’re happy, but this is our home. It would be nice if people liked what we did here.”

Joyful Noise’s stage will kick off at noon on Saturday with a set from Bloomington’s Sleeping Bag. The trio recently released its third full-length LP Deep Sleep. Listen to the album’s lead-off single “Riff Randle” below.

Written by Rob Peoni


WARMfest Dispatch: Day 1

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, Central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on August 30, 2014. Some content, style and formatting may differ from the original version. 

The first night of WARMfest kicked off with more of a collective whisper than an amplified bang, with North Central High School’s orchestra playing beautifully to several dozen listeners near the festival’s entrance. Last night served as a sort of soft opening, where eager festivalgoers gained the lay of the land prior to the masses engulfing Broad Ripple Park for Joyful Noise Recordings‘ marquee acts this afternoon. While organizers and volunteers crossed their last T’s and dotted their last I’s in the background, a handful of local acts ushered in a weekend of live music and a celebration of White River on two of the festival’s three main stages.

bashiri-asad-warmfestI was at WARMfest for a little over an hour, when Heather Michelle Chapman warmed the Heron stage with a handful of covers. “I think you might be our only fan tonight,” Chapman said to my buddy Dan Murray who was dancing admirably while the rest of the listeners enjoyed the shade of the park’s trees and comfort of its picnic tables nearby. Drinking-age readers might know Murray as the chubby bartender from The Monkey’s Tale in Broad Ripple, just a few blocks from the festival itself. “Do you sing?” Chapman followed. The next thing I knew, Murray was on stage joining in an impromptu duet of John Mellencamp’s Hurt So Good. While the rest of the WARMfest audience winced through this locally grown cover, I relished in the vicarious embarrassment of my longtime friend. (Actually, he did an admirable job given the circumstances.)

After a solid set from local soul singer Bashiri Asad, which featured a surprising cover of Radiohead’s High and Dry, we ventured toward WARMfest’s River stage where volunteers had set up a screening of the documentary The Past is a Grotesque Animal. The film revolves around the band of Montreal, which will headline WARMfest’s main stage this evening, and its enigmatic front man Kevin Barnes. The movie was nothing short of fantastic and it underscored my excitement for the band’s performance today. Nevertheless, I left before it finished to catch a few songs from local punk icons Zero Boys.

Upon arriving at the Hawk stage, I jostled my way to the front of the crowd to capture a few pictures. After all, I’m “working” this weekend on behalf of Sky Blue Window. I knelt at the front of the stage wielding my iPhone, as is the habit of every concertgoer these days, when I suddenly felt the presence of Zero Boys front man Paul Mahern looming overhead. Mahern swiped my phone and a moment of panic rushed through my bones. He’s a legendary punk rocker, and it would’ve been a justifiable move had he smashed my phone to smithereens and sent the various pieces hurling toward the audience. Fortunately for me, he took the opportunity to take a few candid shots of his band before returning the phone safe and sound. I wiped a healthy amount of sweat from my brow and returned to my friends safely outside of Mahern’s reach for the rest of the band’s badass set.


For a preview of today’s WARMfest action, check out my recent post on Joyful Noise Recordings’ curation of the main stage. I’ll be at Broad Ripple Park covering the festival all weekend, but if I had to pick one day to attend it would DEFINITELY be today. Let’s rock!

Written by Rob Peoni


WARMfest Dispatch Day 2

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on August 31, 2014. Some content, style and formatting may differ from the original version.

Day two of WARMfest served as the coming-out party for Joyful Noise Recordings, an Indianapolis record label that has established itself as a bona fide titan in the indie rock world in recent years. From the slacker/garage rock trio Sleeping Bag to the absurdist lyricism of Why? and the circus-like headlining set from of Montreal, the label’s eclectic roster was in the spotlight on the main stage from start to finish on Saturday.

While JNR’s stage appeared to go off without a hitch to the WARMfest audience, it wasn’t without its share of behind-the-scenes logistical snafus. Around 9 p.m. Friday, label owner Karl Hofstetter was hosting a barbecue and marathon recording session at his house across the street from the festival when he learned that Half Japanese’s drummer Gilles Reider was barred entry into the country by U.S. customs agents upon his arrival at Detroit’s airport.

half-japanese-jad-fair-warmfest“We found out that he had flown from France, where he lives, into Detroit, and they had detained him because they thought it was suspicious because he was only here for two days,” Hofstetter says. “They searched through his phone and found emails relating to the fest, and he didn’t have a proper work visa. I get the feeling that a large contributing factor to him not being able to come was that he just couldn’t communicate with these people. If he was a native English speaker, he could’ve just said ‘Okay, let me pay the $300 fine, and let me go.’ Instead, they sent him back.”

In the 11th hour, longtime Half Japanese guitarist John Sluggett was forced to shuffle into the role of drummer. Ironically, Sluggett first met lead singer Jad Fair while filling in on drums at an impromptu gig in Florida around 1988.

While returning to this role might seem like an impossible task to a non-musician, Sluggett said it wasn’t too much of a stretch. Sluggett served as drummer in Moe Tucker’s band, former drummer of The Velvet Underground, after Fair introduced the pair in 1989 until recently. Plus, he knows these songs. “I’ve been playing with Jad for so long, about half the songs are riffs that I wrote on the guitar,” Sluggett says. “So, I know how they go.”

rusty-vess-lastiv-warmfestRounding out the rest of Half Japanese’s lineup on Saturday was Mick Hobbs on guitar and Jason Willett on bass. Willett met Fair in his home base of Baltimore around the same time as Sluggett when Fair found himself bandless on the cusp of a European tour. “Jad and I became good friends down in Maryland and he said, ‘Come over to my house. I need to talk to you.’,” Willett says. “ He said ‘I have a month-and-a-half tour and no band. Will you, A: be in the band? and B: can you recruit?’” Willett agreed to both, teaching himself bass and 30 songs in the span of a month and recruited Hobbs via a chance long-distance phone call.

“I called up Mick Hobbs in London,” Willett says, “because I was listening to a bunch music – I was listening to Family Fodder, The Work, Officer, The Momes – all these amazing records coming out of England. I’m like, ‘I’m just gonna call that guy.’ I called him up, international information, and he was like ‘Hullo?’ … ‘Hi are you Mick Hobbs?’ … and he’s like, ‘Yes.’ … ‘Do you want to be in Half Japanese? … ‘Is this a joke?’” With the addition of Reider, the current Half Japanese lineup has been in place in some form ever since, excluding the occasional, decade-long hiatus.

Despite the missing members, Half Japanese’s set proved to be one of my favorites in a day filled with extraordinary performances. Fair played a custom-painted guitar that was literally coming apart at the hinges. It looked to be held together by the four capos clamped to the first fret. Fair’s lyrics are naïve and playful. In an epiphany of sorts, he disproved the long-held theory that nothing rhymes with the word “orange,” utilizing the perfectly placed compound “door hinge.” Brilliant.

The strength of Joyful Noise’s roster made it tough to pry myself from the main stage on Saturday. However, I finally managed to catch a glimpse of Sluggett served as drummer in Moe Tucker’s band, former drummer of The Velvet Underground, after Fair introduced the pair in 1989 until recently. Plus, he knows these songs. local super group, The Last IV, featuring Rusty Redenbacher (vocals), Vess Ruhtenberg (guitar), Devon Ashley (drums) and Tufty Clough (bass). Redenbacher is as dynamic a front man as any act could hope for, gyrating, howling and coercing the crowd into a frenzy. The group’s set leaned heavily on covers, but their impeccable taste left no room for complaint in the audience with a diverse set list featuring everything from The Stooges to LCD Soundsystem.

Another noteworthy, non-JNR performance featured a trio of heavy hitters from Indy’s hip-hop scene. Freddie Bunz, Grey Granite and Sirius Blvck rocked a seamless set under the shade of WARMfest’s Heron stage. The trio was sharp, and the chops earned on their recent Ghost Gun Summer Vacation Tour was evident throughout. All-in-all, Saturday was everything I had hoped for and more — capped off by a brilliant, theatrical set from headliner Of Montreal.

Photo by Whitney Walker

Photo by Whitney Walker

Those late to the WARMfest party need not worry. Today’s lineup is stacked. Come out to Broad Ripple Park for big national acts such as Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Big Head Todd and The Monsters and indie rock icons Guided By Voices alongside celebrated locals like Pravada and Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. My sleeper pick of the day: For $10 you should hop on a boat for a Wapahani River Cruise featuring a performance from Sleeping Bag at 3:45 this afternoon. Purchase tickets to WARMfest online or at the gate.

Written by Rob Peoni