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.
I 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
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on defunct, Central Indiana arts website Sky Blue Window on September 1, 2014. Some content, style and formatting may differ from the original version.
“What can we do to reintroduce the city and Broad Ripple to this river?” WARMfest organizer Dan Ripley asked me during an interview earlier this summer. “Why is it so neglected and why has Broad Ripple lost its identity? Today, it seems more relevant than ever. Broad Ripple is known for 2 a.m. bar business, but why wouldn’t it be known for these daytime greenways?”
For Ripley, the restoration and reinvigoration of White River is the higher purpose and mission of WARMfest. While Ripley is passionate about the prospect of a successful music festival in Indianapolis, he won’t deny that, for him, WARMfest largely serves as a vehicle to attract locals and visitors to the shores of his beloved riverbank. So Ripley re-organized the layout of stages and vendors to increase the focus on the water this time around. “Against all of my better judgment, we turned our back on the river last year,” Ripley said of WARMfest’s inaugural layout.
The vendors from Indie Arts and Vintage Marketplace have shifted from their position in the middle of the park to a location along the paths at the park’s edge, overlooking the water. The main stage has been turned around so the sound flows into the river itself. The moves are subtle, but effective.
With the festival’s focus in mind, I decided to spend an extra 10 bucks to catch the Wapahani River Session from Bloomington three-piece Sleeping Bag yesterday. “I hope you like this kind of music, because it’s a long swim,” lead singer Dave Segedy quipped after the band finished its first song and our ship cruised steadily away from Broad Ripple Park. Segedy joked that the ship had been renamed “S.S. Sleeping Bag” for the afternoon.
The two-story paddle boat used for the Wapahani River Cruises is actually named Perseverence II and is operated seasonally by the Broad Ripple Boat Company. It was named after its predecessor who roamed the White River more than 100 years ago. After moving to Morse Reservoir as “Star of Cicero,” the ship was abandoned and sunk. Captain Michael McRee salvaged the vessel and hauled it to his shipyard. “All this wood that you see here. It all came off of my brother’s property up in Cicero,” Kathleen McRee said of her brother’s boat. He launched the restored boat during the summer of 2010.
While we cruised along to the sedated garage rock stylings of Sleeping Bag, speed boats, pontoons and jet skis whizzed by from every conceivable direction, towing knee-boarders and skiers. Most offered friendly honks and waves. The nearby homeowners sat along the shoreline in folding chairs, taking in the sounds. Thanks to the removal of massive thickets of invasive honeysuckle along the shoreline prior to last year’s WARMfest, Broad Ripple Park and WARMfest’s main stage are now visible from the river itself. Thanks to the dedicated sound crew handled by The Hi-Fi, they gutted out the heat and humidity without complaint the past few days so that everyone on the river and along its shores could hear it as well. And props go to longtime local musician Dave Jablonski who ran sound throughout the festival.
“Right now, that would be a mucky, muddy bottom with weeds growing in it, but if you remove the snags and let the current flow through it, it washes out that muck and you would have a nice sandy, clean, rocky bottom,” Ripley said. “So, if you help the river, it will maintain itself.”
Today, Perseverence II will host three more Wapahani River Cruises to close out WARMfest. If I had to pick one, I would recommend the intimate set from local songwriters Vess Ruhtenberg (The Pieces, The Last IV and too many other bands to name) and Christian Taylor (Ampersand Blues Band) at 3:15 p.m. It is community day at WARMfest with an overall ticket price of just $10. Purchase tickets online or at the gate.
Written by Rob Peoni
Saturday night at the White Rabbit Cabaret was all about growth. Laura K. Balke, She Does Is Magic, and The Bonesetters all have advanced their talents, which is a great sign for any musician. After chatting with members from each group I am convinced that they all have the opportunity to gain fans outside of our Indianapolis scene. Smart, talented, and kind are a few words that come to mind when describing the bands that provided me entertainment on Saturday evening.
Each of the three performers is an entrepreneur at heart. By marketing themselves and continuing to create a terrific product, they all show signs of thinking like an owner. My hope is that this kind of dedication and determination will continue to be recognized as more people come to their shows and buy their music. These musicians provide an excellent representation for our Indianapolis scene.
Laura K. Balke opened the night with her electric guitar and soothing songs. Balke was comfortable on stage and confident as she spoke to the crowd. In between songs LKB told the crowd “This is the most attentive crowd that I have ever played for.” While this was a compliment for those it attendance, it should be more of a highlight to the captivating sound she offered to visitors. Song, “Two Ships” (not “Two Shits” as she joked) was the highlight for me. Rich song writing allowed my mind to sail and get caught in the moment. After the show, I purchased her latest album, Rumors & Legends on vinyl. A true artist in every sense of the word, the hard-cover release displays prints of Balke’s hand-drawn artwork accompanying each track. Check out Record Geeks review of this pressing.
She Does is Magic provided a solid first impression for me as this was my first time seeing them live. Band member, Mark Walker described their songs as “fun music” and I completely agree. They are an extremely easy band to not only approach, but also become a fan of. I am excited to watch this band grow as they plan to release their debut full-length sometime later this year.
Blog favorite, The Bonesetters closed the night out with their strongest performance to date. Their timing was perfect and stage presence was improved. The song writing and delivery of front man, Dan Snodgrass initially drew me to this band. During this performance I was drawn to the talent of drummer, Cody Davis. Exceptional fills and impeccable timing has helped build out the Bonesetters brand for me. The Bonesetters are true rock and roll and local readers of the blog should fill up venues any time they are on the bill.
Here is the set list from The Bonesetters:
You are Shaun Gannon
Waltz #2 (XO) (Elliot Smith Cover)
As I strolled out of the White Rabbit Cabaret on Saturday night I felt a sense of pride for talking about these bands in the depth that we do here. There needs to be more types of these events on a more consistent basis. Take advantage of the talent that Indianapolis offers. It does not disappoint.
Written by Brett McGrath