Last Friday was the kick-off day for the annual Fountain Square Music Festival, and it did not disappoint. Over the course of the two-day event, more than fifty bands played live shows in multiple local venues around Fountain Square, a neighborhood just south of downtown Indianapolis.
I managed to gain entrance to the festival Friday evening and was surprised by the large turnout. Several streets in the center of the Fountain Square neighborhood were blocked off. Inside the festival grounds were numerous pavilions including I.D. checks for alcohol wristbands, beer and cocktail vendors, and tents where attendees could buy art or merchandise.
The Nucleus Stage
The main stage for the festival was set up in the middle of Fountain Square on Virginia Avenue. This was where all of the headlining acts played and was the first year that the Fountain Square Music Festival featured an outdoor stage. The last band to play on the Nucleus stage was Dr. Dog, an American rock band from West Grove, Pennsylvania that started playing in the early 2000’s. They played classic rock-infused jams on the outdoor stage and were accompanied by the massive light show of the Nucleus stage. Patterned lattices of blue and yellow plastered the facades of buildings down the street. It was quite the experience. You can find out more on Dr. Dog by visiting their website.
After Chad Lehr’s performance, I only had to walk across the street to The Hi-Fi to see Shiny Penny play. Shiny Penny is a four-piece, alt-rock/pop group from Kokomo, Indiana. They’ve toured the U.S. playing shows whose bills included Bon Jovi, Switchfoot, and Jane’s Addiction, and create memorable live shows in which they try to connect with the audience. It was another abrupt shift in tone for me, almost too much. I found it harder to get in the mood that Shiny Penny cultivated. They weren’t playing bad music, and put on a decent show, to their credit. I think I may have just needed a better “palate cleanser” in between the two acts. But I still think Shiny Penny is worth checking out. You can find them on Facebook.
Square Cat Vinyl
After seeing Dr. Dog’s great performance, I wandered into Square Cat Vinyl to take a listen to local singer and songwriter, Chad Lehr. It was quite a different show after the high-energy environment of the Nucleus stage, but it fit the aesthetic of the venue nicely. The small record shop and bar had patrons packed in like sardines, but no one seemed to mind once Lehr started playing. If you missed his performance, don’t worry; Lehr is an Indianapolis local and is sure to have more performances in venues across town in the future. You can find Chad Lehr on Facebook.
Once I’d heard enough of Shiny Penny, I took my leave of The Hi-Fi, and walked down the street to The Pioneer.
Another Indianapolis band, Player Piano, was performing there. When I arrived, however, the crowd of listeners there was sparse, at best. It made sense, seeing as this was another local band competing with larger groups who don’t come to town as often. Still, they were playing good, interesting music. Player Piano’s nice blend of psychedelic rock and funky blues with heavy, pop-infused beats was contagious. While the crowd was small, everyone there looked to be having a good time with a more intimate set. You can listen to Player Piano, and find out more about them on Facebook.
White Rabbit Cabaret
You know that saying about leaving the best for last? Well, here’s an example of how that unintentionally happened. The White Rabbit was the last on my list of venues to cover, and I was expecting to see Flint Eastwood playing. To my surprise, however, I learned from a sound technician that they had switched venues with BIYO, and were playing at The Pioneer instead. That’s how I ended up watching what was without a doubt my favorite performance of the festival. The three-piece, electro-pop band from Nashville, Tennessee ended up filling the house up shortly after beginning their set. Their sound is hard to describe: electric drum beats alongside funky guitar and a throbbing, bass synth, all layered underneath beautiful falsetto vocals. They’re one of the only bands I can imagine covering Childish Gambinbo’s “Redbone” with ease, and manage to match the r&b tone with an added dose of electric energy. Be sure to check out BIYO on their website.
All in all, I had a great time at the Fountain Square Music Festival. The music was great, the light show was breathtaking, and the company was fantastic. It’s always a pleasure to be surrounded by so many music lovers. If you missed it this year, be sure to attend in the future. I have no doubt that it will continue to grow and attract more talented bands.