Pitchfork. Lollapalooza. Riot Fest. If you never left Chicago between the months of June and September, you could make more great summer music memories than some people make in a lifetime. Although we're partial to the city we call home, we here at CHIRP also understand the value of exploring the world while the weather's still nice. In our new Radio Road Trips series, we'll be profiling the music scenes and secrets of Midwestern cities within driving distance from Chicago. This week: Indianapolis.
Most Musical Neighborhood: For years, Broad Ripple reigned as the Indianapolis's go-to hip neighborhood, but a decade of gradual bro-ification rendered the once-proud strip packed with sports bars, spray tans, and backwards baseball caps. Thus, if Broad Ripple is Indianapolis's Wicker Park, think of Fountain Square as its Logan Square. Bouncing back from its nadir in the 1970s (when construction of I-465 cut the neighborhood off from the rest of downtown), the once-seedy square is now home to some of the city's most vital arts and music venues.
Owned by David “Tufty” Clough of seminal Indianapolis punk band Zero Boys, Radio Radio acts as a community watering hole for many in city's music scene (if you want to drink like a local, grab a pint of the Workingman's Pilsner made at nearby Fountain Square Brewing). Across the street, the White Rabbit Cabaret blends traditional musical acts with storytelling nights, burlesque shows, and even live piano karaoke. Finally, deep inside the Murphy Arts Center, the snug but welcoming Hi-Fi frequently host shows curated by the tastemakers at My Old Kentucky Blog.
Other Venues of Note: Still the jewel of Broad Ripple, The Vogue is the place to catch national indie acts before they graduate to the city's larger spaces. The historic (and garishly decorated) Melody Inn sponsors a weekly punk showcase every Saturday night (BYO safety pins). On the east side, the Emerson Theater brings teen angst and metal intensity to its grimy (but satisfying) all-ages shows. Downtown, the Slippery Noodle Inn soothes the emotional aches of blues fans with nightly shows. It's also the city's oldest bar.
Best Record Store: Now, don't get us wrong; Broad Ripple isn't all bad. For one thing, it's still home to Luna Music, Indianapolis' finest record store. The store's biggest draw comes from its vinyl collection, a hefty assortment of records divided equally between new releases, coveted rarities, and bargain-basement gems. Fans of other formats, take heart; the shop also maintains a deep collection from the local cassette scene, and, thanks to close relationships with guys like Mark Kozelek and Robert Pollard, often stocks hard-to-find gems from bands including Guided By Voices, Sun Kil Moon, and more.
Local Bands You Should Know: When making your Indianapolis road trip mix, consider tossing in a couple of tracks from the following up-and-comers on the local scene:
On 2014's Year of the Snake, rapper Sirius Blvck delivers moody, complex rhymes with a distinctly Midwestern bent, a combination sure to please fans who don't see the any problem following a Kendrick Lamar track with one by the Hold Steady.
Indiana's been nurturing a small but smoldering garage scene for the last couple of decades, and S.M. Wolf are its latest torchbearers. Their latest, Canine Country Club, features the crunchy guitars and scuffed-up Elephant 6 harmonies that never go all the way out of style.
Although they're not from Indianapolis, we're throwing Bloomington troubadours Mike Adams at His Honest Weight into our list of locals. Why the exception? For one thing, the winking, literate pop of Adams' record Best of Boiler Room Classics earned a 7.8 from Pitchfork last year. For another, he promoted it with that stupendous video.
Local Labels You Should Know: Joyful Noise got its start releasing boutique cassette reissues of classic records (I still covet their Of Montreal box set from 2011). In recent years, founder Karl Hofstetter and his crew have expanded their operation to include new material; the current roster includes pop ornamentalist Kishi Bashi, DIY mopes Sebadoh, and Humboldt Park's own J Fernandez (pictured above). The label also operates a shop inside the Murphy Arts Center; there, customers can pick up label releases as well as albums from fellow Indiana indies including Asthmatic Kitty, Flannelgraph, and Holy Infinite Freedom Revival.
Catching Up On The Scene: Not an Indiana music expert? Browse the profiles at Musical Family Tree long enough and you'll be able to fake it. Managed by veteran scenester and Everything, Now! frontman Jon Rogers, the non-profit website acts as a combination publicity house/archive for Indiana bands both past and present. For anyone catching up, we recommend starting with the following profiles: The Impossible Shapes (sun-splashed psychedelia from Bloomington), Everything, Now! (acid-fried revival music from Muncie), and Sir Deja Doog (addled rock guru from Bloomington).
Indianapolis canal courtesy of Flickr user Joey Lax-Salinas; Radio Radio sign courtesy of Flickr user Jim Grey; Records courtesy of Luna Music, J Fernandez courtesy of the artist; MFT logo courtesy of Musical Family Tree