Tag Archives: Indianapolis

7/22/16: Savages in Indianapolis

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Jehnny Beth, lead singer of Savages, takes a stroll across the Indianapolis crowd

MY SAVAGES CONCERT EXPERIENCE actually started in May, when I wore my Adore Life t-shirt to the RiverRoots music festival in Madison, IN. I was questioned by more than one person about who/what Savages were. Then a few days ago, at the last day of the Forecastle music festival in Louisville, it happened again when I sported my Savages shirt. Not only did I get questions, I was also stopped by one couple who had seen the quartet in Chicago and were raving about the experience.

And I, lover of all things Savages, have done my part to spread the word. I’ve rattled on about my fondness for them here and here, so I won’t say much beyond this: I just keep listening to this album, over and over and over again. It’s like when I was in high school and could barely wait for Side 1 of a cassette to end so I could flip it over and listen to Side 2 … as quickly as possible, of course, because I wanted to hear Side 1 again. It’s probably been more than a decade since I’ve been as into any album as I am Adore Life.

BUT HOW WAS THE SHOW, you ask? Dearest reader, would I have gone on and on about it if it were anything but awesome? It took a few songs for the crowd to get warmed up, but as you can see from my photo above, singer Jehnny Beth, guitarist Gemma Thompson, bassist Ayse Hassan and drummer Fay Milton soon owned the room, roaring and raging, crooning and crashing, taking everyone prisoner. Savages rocked it like they were playing in front of thousands in a festival crowd, not like they were performing for a few hundred in the smallest room in the house. From T.I.W.Y.G. and Adore off of the new album to the more obscure Fuckers, Savages played every song like it was their last.

I already can’t wait to see them again.

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Indianapolis, 12/04/15: Sleater-Kinney and Waxahatchee

Five things about Sleater-Kinney’s first appearance in Indianapolis:

  1. While I’ve enjoyed Waxahatchee’s albums – Ivy Tripp and Cerulean Salt – they’ve never really blown me away in recordings. Live, there’s an energy and centeredness to what they do that adds some real depth. You never really know a band until you see them live.
  2. This was my first time seeing Sleater-Kinney live, as well. The thing that really struck me about them live was how incredibly powerful the vocals of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein sound live. Vocals, like any other sound, can be manipulated in the studio to be made to sound stronger, more on-key – hello, Britney Spears – and more. But live, pretenders tend to be exposed. Tucker’s one-of-a-kind, staccato high-end and Brownstein’s more grounded low end make for a unique combination on all of Sleater-Kinney’s albums, and live it gives them a power that few other bands have.
  3. Carrie Brownstein is a guitar fucking god(dess). I cannot overstate this. I’ve seen guitarists like Josh Homme, Buddy Guy, Jack White, Dave Navarro, Tom Morello, etc., perform live, and Brownstein lives in that rarefied air. What really came off as odd during the show was that Brownstein was wearing a dark, short dress, and there were times she looked like Angus Young up there, between the licks and the rock star moves.
  4. A little less riot in these grrrls? Back in the day, I saw bands like Seven Year Bitch and L7 live, and I’ve been to my share of shows that involve unknown punk rockers playing in places like basements and veterans halls. In other words, punk rock is not a scene I’m unfamiliar with. But this show … I’m assuming the pre-concert, get-fired-up speech for Sleater-Kinney went something like, “Let’s do our hair and makeup, put on our pretty dresses and then go rock the fuck out of this place!” It was both unexpected and pretty frigging awesome.
  5. One of my top ten shows. And if I sat down and sorted it out, which I will eventually do for this blog, it might be top five. Sleater-Kinney was tight, pulsing with energy and loud enough to shake the building. I can’t wait to see them again.
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06/13/15: Pixies in Indianapolis

The Pixies rock Old National in downtown Indy.

The Pixies rock Old National in downtown Indy.

I felt like I watched two concerts Saturday night. In the first, I saw a rote but solid run through of the Pixies catalogue. It wasn’t bad, but it just felt a little uninspired.

But then, late in the show, the Pixies started in on Indie Cindy and the energy changed. From that point throughout the final half hour of the show, we got to see an energized, engaged band that really blew the crowd away. I’d never seen the Pixies live before, one of those bands I’d just never managed to synchronize schedules with. That last half hour made me glad I’d made the trip.

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03/25/14: Delta Spirit at The Vogue

I’ve been attending concerts since I was old enough to drive a car, and something happened at the Delta Spirit’s show at The Vogue in Indianapolis that I’d never seen before.

The final song involved crowd participation, clapping on the beat and singing “woo hoo” or some sort of simple call-response. The Delta Spirit ended the song and walked off, but the “whoo hoos” kept going, and the hand-clapping evolved into foot stomping, a thundering sound that filled the room. And it just kept going. The Delta Spirit crew, revved up by the crowd and on only the second date of their tour, returned in under two minutes and – rather than launch into the first song of their encore – went straight into a reprise of the song the crowd just wouldn’t let go of.

It was a terrific moment that capped one helluva rock show. Throughout the set, the Delta Spirit’s energy ruled all, and the crowd responded. I kept thinking of other great rock shows I’d seen, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers kept coming to mind, both because the Delta Spirit play straight forward rock and roll and the way lead singer Matthew Vasquez played to those in attendance. The friend I attended with kept mentioning Kings of Leon, and I could see that, too. Delta Spirit may not have been playing to the kind of crowds those bands routinely perform before, but DS played like there were thousands watching.

I went in only knowing a little bit about the band. At the end, there was one thing I knew about the Delta Spirit for certain: I will be seeing them again live.

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10/24/2014: Whiskey Bent Valley Boys and The Stampede String Band

So I went to see a show at the Hi-Fi in Fountain Square, a neighborhood making a comeback on the east side of Indianapolis. And wouldn’t you know it, a hoedown broke out?

Indiana’s own Stampede String Band opened and represented the Hoosier State well. Turns out, Moonsville – the title of their debut album and a small burg near Alexandria – is just down the road from Muncie, my hometown. John Bahler’s work on the mandolin was a pleasure to listen to, and the combo was tight. I’m hoping to catch them again, soon. (But you can dump the Royals cover, fellas. It’s the most overrated song of the last decade, and even Lorde’s mom is tired of hearing it.)

Then the Whiskey Bent Valley Boys stepped on stage and showed why they were the headliners. Two hours of non-stop bluegrass, a full house dancing and spilling beer, lots of hooting and requests shouted out periodically. I don’t know that I’d say it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever been to, but I’ve never seen a tighter relationship between a crowd and a band in a live setting. It was clear the Whiskey Bent crew was feeding off the energy of the crowd, and vice versa. If you’re a fan of that traditional mountain music sound – and even you newgrass backers – these guys are a must-see.

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10/11/14: July Talk and Rural Alberta Advantage

Feel the rock and roll fury of July Talk!

Feel the rock and roll fury of July Talk!

I love being right about a band.

I’ve been kind of nerd-gasming in my quarterly music faves posts (albums and songs) ever since hearing July Talk’s debut, Guns + Ammunition, after it dropped early this year. My hope was that live they’d be just as energetic and engaging. And they were everything I could have hoped they would be. Imagine Tom Waits and Tanya Donelly fronting the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Peter Dreimanis scratchy, husky voice and the cleaner, poppier vocals of Leah Fay make an unlikely but fortunate pairing, fronting a furious, danceable blues-rock combo. Their stage presence helps augment their sound, creating a terrific live blast of sound and movement. Their Oct. 11 show at Radio Radio was, for me, just an invitation to go see them again.

I was not looking forward to seeing the evening’s headliner, Rural Alberta Advantage, nearly as much as I had anticipated July Talk’s performance. While I liked RAA’s first two albums, their latest – Mended With Gold – lacked punch. I was kind of expecting to see a large band – six or seven members – playing somewhat lethargic, rootsy alt rock.

I was not right about that. Rural Albert Advantage is comprised of only three people, and they bring the energy and full sound of a band of a half dozen musicians. I was a bit blown away. I think a lot of credit goes to drummer Paul Banwatt, whose spirit and ability help give the RAA a full sound for such a small crew.

The tour continues. I recommend you check it out.

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Jenny Lewis, Indianapolis, 7/31/2014

Jenny Lewis at Old National in Indy.

Jenny Lewis at Old National in Indy.

Way back in 1995 I saw Cypress Hill as part of the original Lollapalooza tour. About midway through the set, B-Real started to kick into the second verse of some song … only to begin repeating the first verse. A few lines in, he realized his error, and stopped the song. “Sometimes when you smoke a lot of weed, you forget shit.” Cypress Hill started the song over, did it right this time and played one of the most energetic sets of the day.

I thought of that when Jenny Lewis and her band stopped Late Bloomer, a track from her newest disc, The Voyager, on Thursday night in Indy. It was their first time playing the song live, and there was some confusion at the end of the second verse. The band, Jenny and the crowd had a brief discussion about what was to come next, and when the correction was agreed upon, Jenny and the band started again and finished to great applause.

That’s what the live show is about: Figuring out how those perfect, clean, heavily tinkered with songs from the album translate in the less-than-perfect real world. Some artists throw fits, argue or yell, creating tension in the group and between the group and the audience. When artists handle it with aplomb, such as B-Real and Jenny did, it sets a relaxed, enjoyable tone.

As a whole, the show was terrific. I’ve always through Jenny has a pretty voice, a flawless voice that plays nicely off the lyrics about flawed individual. What I didn’t realize is how strong her voice is, and live that surprised me more than anything that happened on stage. She and the band played a majority of the new album – Late Bloomer, Aloha & The Three Johns, She’s Not Me, Slippery Slopes, Just One of the Guys, Love You Forever, etc. – tossing in a few from Rabbit Fur Coat (including my favorite from that album, Rise Up With Fists) and Acid Tongue, and even a Rilo Kiley track (the powerful A Better Son/Daughter).

If you didn’t walk in a fan, you sure walked out one.

Other notes …

* The Apache Relay opened and weren’t bad. But I’m confused as to why they needed their third guitarist-slash-second keyboardist. He didn’t seem to add anything to the mix other than another body on an already crowded stage. They also didn’t seem to go off script much. If you’re going to have that many instruments up on stage, someone should jam or go off at some point. Decent, but a bit tepid.

* I got the distinct displeasure of hearing someone absolutely butcher the sound for Perry Farrell’s vocals during Jane’s Addiction’s set a while back at Old National Centre. Last night, Jenny’s voice kept getting buried in the mix. I’m not sure how you hid the voices of such two powerful singers, but I sure as hell wish that would stop happening. Beginning to think it’s not worth it to go to Old National to hear a band, because you aren’t likely to hear the singer.

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Overrated Shit #4: Mumford & Sons live, 09/02/13

I’ve been to two choreographed, big-time concerts in my life. I saw Roger Waters do The Wall a couple of summers ago in Indianapolis, and if you can afford it (it isn’t cheap), I’d recommend it. It’s an incredible mix of live and digital effects, along with the awesome soundtrack, of course. And the scale is something which isn’t often replicated by other live shows, although I’d imagine Madonna and U2, to name a couple, could probably pull it off.

The other staged show I witnessed was the New Kids on the Block, back in 1990 in Peoria, Ill. A plethora of choreographed dancing, a big video screen, at least one of the Kids floating over the crowd during songs. Lots and lots of teenage girls screaming. While the music wasn’t much to write home about, the show was pretty impressive.

So when I saw Mumford & Sons on Labor Day at Klipsch near Indy, these are the two shows I thought of over the course of the night’s tightly choreographed show. Unfortunately, Mumford came off more New Kids and less Waters.

It started with the big video screens. I began to notice how every shot was perfect, the framing, the lighting, the cuts. It was like the final version of a concert video, that well done. Thing is, you can’t do that unless you know precisely where every band member is going to be at all times. I also started to realize that none of the backing band was ever on video, even if soloing. And when someone (crew? member of opening bands?) ran onstage with a cowbell and was playing with Mumford & Sons, the cameras never cut to what I now know to be the only spontaneous act in that show.

The last thing that really struck me, though, was each song sounded pretty much exactly like the album version. No, Mumford and the fellas weren’t lip syncing. But they weren’t re-working the arrangements much, jamming, changing instrumentation, nothing much to distinguish what they are capable of as a live band compared to what they create in the studio.

That’s what frustrates me. I have friends who saw Mumford & Sons in a club in Louisville a year ago, and they raved about the show, the energy, the jamming. I saw none of that. I saw a band determined to give each of their Grammy-loving fans the same show, from Boston to Bakersfield. An Applebee’s-ization of music.

It really sucked the heart out of the show for me. When I go to a live show, it’s the opportunity to see improvisation, re-working of the catalog, how the band connects with the audience. At Mumford & Sons, I was served the equivalent of the opening number at the Academy Awards. And while I know some people gobble that up – just as many of the people at that Labor Day show did – I’m not interested in swallowing that bile.

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The Flaming Lips: Indianapolis, 4/29/13

The Flaming Lips bring 'The Terror' to the Hoosier State.

The Flaming Lips bring ‘The Terror’ to the Hoosier State.

When I was back in college, a buddy of mine and I came to my hometown to watch my brother’s band play a show. It was a big deal at the time, the first time the under-21 dance club in the area was having live bands. For the bands, it was an opportunity to have professional lights, fog, video and all sorts of neat stuff your average garage bands don’t usually have access to when they’re playing basements and veterans’ halls. It was a helluva show. The bands were hyped, the crowd was into it, everyone into the local scene was there.

The next day, my buddy and I were required to attend church (my parents’ house rules). Midway through the sermon, my friend, eyes glazed over as he fought the desire to sleep, leans over to me and says, “Why do I feel like I had the religious experience last night?”

I thought of that as I watched the Flaming Lips at the Egyptian Room in downtown Indy on Monday. This wonderful, beautiful, intense group experience. People of like minds and spirits focusing all their energy for a few hours on the moment, the power of music and art to unite, the comfort and ecstasy of being part of a like-minded community.

After the Lips finished covering David Bowie’s Heroes, lead singer Wayne Coyne spoke to the crowd, the “heroes” he was singing about. He made the point that we should celebrate living life the way we chose, and not fight or engage those who would impose their will, their doctrines, their dogmas on our lives. Rise above the small minded, the emotionally crippled, the self righteously enraged. We’re just a bunch of animals spinning around on a rock, the clock is ticking, so now is what we have, and we should do everything we can to honor that.

So sayeth the word of Wayne, straight from the trippy-lighted pulpit.

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