5 Great Touring Bands You Can See at the Melody Inn Without Breaking the Bank

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Folk Family Revival, from Magnolia Texas, plays the Melody Inn stage on May 31st with Michigan’s Watching for Foxes.

I know, adulting is hard.

Finding the time and money to see all the great bands that come through Indianapolis can be a constant sense of twisting the knife – no matter how many good ones I get to see, there are so many traveling bands that slip through the cracks. And weeknight shows can be the worst, both for the bands and the venues, never knowing if touring songwriters will have an audience of more than the bar staff.

But the Melody Inn has made its bones over the years by bringing in these amazing bands night after night, and the shows never cost much – for $20 you should be able to throw back a few band beers (Miller High Life) and pay your cover, with money left over to tip your bartenders.

Here are five bands coming through the Mel for weeknight shows over the next two weeks who you may not have heard of, but whose music is worth dropping in for a visit, even if it means a bleary-eyed morning at work afterward.

We can, after all, be adults and still find time to rock.

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BI (Cincinnati)
May 19th with S-E-R-V-I-C-E, Pravada and There Are Ghosts

Check out their music: https://biohio.bandcamp.com/releases

A minimalistic band from Cincinnati focusing on bass, drums and vocals, imagine Indianapolis’ Brother O’ Brother if they focused on an alternative grunge sound with a bass focus rather than all the crunching guitars and Black Keys influences. Besides, how often do you get to see a band really put strong bass-playing front and center? Just $6 for a Friday night show and four bands.

Ian Fitzgerald and Something Else (Rhode Island)
May 24th with Jeff Kelly and the Graveyard Shift and I Dream in Evergreen

Check out their music: https://www.facebook.com/kburgess/videos/t.17603575/704934494298/?type=2&theater

In a more Folk-y mood? Aside from the opportunity to check out two of Indianapolis’ better-kept secrets in Jeff Kelly and I Dream in Evergreen, Ian Fitzgerald and his first touring band Something Else provide another solid reason to pop by the Mel and drop $5 on a mid-week show. The band features Fitzgerald alongside Seamus Weeden, of Smith & Weeden, MorganEve McSwain and James Maple. The latter two were in The Huntress and Holder of Hands). MorganEve is an insanely good fiddle player, and the band clearly, based on what I’ve seen via online clips, has gelled quickly as a unit. Teaming them up on the same night as Jeff Kelly’s Graveyard Shift, and it should be a great night for lovers of great music.

Sound & Shape (Nashville)
May 25th (openers unknown)

Check out their music: https://soundandshape.bandcamp.com/

This Nashville band would be worth $5 even if there were no other bands playing – I’m sure the venue has an opening act scheduled, but none were listed on the email I got at the beginning of the month. That said, check them out beforehand and you’ll hear a strong rock band on the rise, one you can see at the Mel in an intimate, musician-friendly environment. Their bandcamp page features their 2014 album Bad Actors, which though outdated, gives a good example of the band’s sound. It should be a great opportunity to hear the band’s latest songs off their EP Peasants, and have a few beers while you look toward the long holiday weekend.

Watching For Foxes (Michigan)
Folk Family Revival (Texas)
May 31st with Justin Duenne & the Midnight

Check out Watching for Foxes’ music: https://watchingforfoxes.bandcamp.com/
Check out Folk Family Revival’s music: http://www.folkfamilyrevival.com/

Watching for Foxes stands out with a cinematic folk vibe and instrumentation that really lets their songs stretch. If you enjoy the music of We Were Promised Jetpacks or Lord Huron, you’ll definitely enjoy their sound – or locally, if you want a more subdued Stay Outside, you’ll have an interesting comparison. Folk Family Revival’s stuff has a more rockabilly vibe, reminding me a great deal of Ward Hayden’s work with Girls, Guns and Glory. If you dig Hot Rod Nebula, but also like Bakersfield country, you’ll really enjoy their latest single “I Drew A Line,” which you can stream on their website. This show will cost you $10, but even for a Wednesday show, how often do you get to see two national touring acts live on the same night? Plus local songwriter Justin Duenne never disappoints – this one will be a perfect way to send May out flying!

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Neon Native is the album which will propel Brother O’ Brother into the national spotlight

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I’ve been singing the praises of Brother O’ Brother’s stripped-down raw sound since I first heard them dominate the Birdy’s Battle Royale in 2015. With Chris Banta at the helm on vocals and guitar, frantically dominating the stage at every show with the manic energy of a punk-rock evangelist, it is impossible to see a show of theirs and not come away converted.

I was reading thatan article from a couple months ago looked to predict which long-awaited albums from national acts was likely to propel them back into the mainstream spotlight. Heavily focused on the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Spoon and Granddaddy, bands which have ridden the wave of 90s nostalgia to find new audiences in an age where the cyclical music trends are realigning with the music of two decades past, the article got me thinking. Which Indianapolis band’s new album seems most destined to propel them into the national spotlight?

bob neon nativeThe answer was easy: Brother O’ Brother’s Neon Native, which will be released this May, is already making national waves with a prime feature via the Huffington Post, and the band has been steadily working the touring circuit over the last two years, earning more than $20,000 on vinyl sales last year thanks to Banta and drummer Warner Swopes’ single-minded dedication to ensuring audiences connect with the music.

But there is something about Neon Native which goes above and beyond the expected. It is an assured follow-up to an album which already clearly defined their sound on wax. With Show Pony in the rearview, the band is capable now of expanding their sound while managing to come closer than ever to capturing the raw sound of one of their live shows on record. Three albums into their career, Brother O’ Brother is at that point where they can play a few local shows to a packed house, while spending 150+ days on the road nationally doing the same thing. And everywhere in their wake they leave an audience beaten raw by their furious sound, desperate to find a way to experience it again and again.

It is a visceral experience, and the fact that they’ve come closer than ever to capturing that effect on Neon Native leaves me feeling confident in my prediction that, by this time next year, Brother O’ Brother will be more than “a local Indianapolis band to watch.”

They’ll be pushing the envelope nationally, building buzz as a band willing to take risks and embrace challenges as they in turn drive their audiences to accept a more personal role in what it means to truly appreciate music.

*****

Stream the album preview from Huffington Post below and sound off in the comments. What band do you think is on the cusp of a national breakthrough in 2017?

DVD TRAILER EXCLUSIVE: Diesel Reeves – “All Laughs Matter”

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Indianapolis stand-up comedian Diesel Reeves (photo credit: Jonathan Sanders)

Editor’s Note: I produced this trailer and the DVD which it promotes. So in all fairness this should be considered an advertisement compared to other writing you’ll have seen at “Hear! Hear!” — I wanted to be up front about that. Feel free to critique it as such.

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When I first met Diesel Reeves, while shadowing him for a day at June’s “Slamology” auto-show in Indianapolis, I had no idea I’d wind up being his official videographer, plotting the production of a DVD to feature his stand-up. But he’s a charismatic guy, and watching him that day, at a show where there were more people interested in automobiles than bands — let alone seeing the first-ever comedian to grace the 95-degree Slamology stage — I was immediately won over by his work ethic and his unflappable sense of humor.

Six months later we’re weeks away from releasing that DVD, All Laughs Matter, and this teaser trailer is the first hint of what’s to come. All Laughs Matter showcases Reeves’ standup, alongside interviews with him about what makes him want to write jokes in the first place, and his own particular breed of antics that make hanging out with him a truly wild ride. The trailer only gives a taste, along with a clip of “Church” by Indianapolis avant-hip-hop artist Clint Breeze (featuring Theon Lee and Roj Mahal). The DVD will feature music from Clint Breeze as well as local rapper Sirius Blvck.

The full DVD should be out later in February.

NIGHTMARES FOR NAPTOWN: Bizarre Noir Album Release at 5th Quarter, Tonight!

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Tonight I finally get to see the Bizarre Noir traveling circus extravaganza up close and personal for the first time, and it’s been a long time coming. Long overdue, in fact, something I’m ashamed to say as a local writer who has long championed this adventurous band of sonic risk-takers.

As they set out to release their latest album Pop Songs For Ugly People, which is easily the most hotly anticipated album of the year thus far here in Indianapolis’ independent scene, I found myself today listening to their sophomore album, Bedtime Stories. This is an album with whiplash-inducing powers of genre-defying greatness, which makes it as difficult to describe to the uninitiated as it is necessary to.

I have not heard a stronger, more confident album from any band. And I don’t mean local.

From the moment they invade your ears on “Welcome,” with Chris Charles’ soothingly deceptive vocals (reminding me initially of Days of the New’s Travis Meeks) taunting us: “Welcome to ever-after, the rotting corpse, stiff cadavers line the halls to your tomb as all your sins cast a shadow!” you know these are going to be bedtime stories in the Grimm tradition.

Dark. Sinister. Bizarre Noir.

But sonically they keep us on our toes, as the music is definitely NOT always dark. To call Bizarre Noir merely genre-bending is to be almost insultingly daft. Numerous local critics have tried to describe their sound and fallen woefully short, so I won’t bother to coin my own, but I’ll quote Wayne Bertsch from this week’s edition of Barfly … he came closest, in this writer’s opinion:

Picture a metal band that owes more to Klaus Nomi or Captain Beefheart than Anthrax,” Bertsch writes. “Now have Andy Warhol manage them high on ‘schrooms. Voila! Bizarre Noir!”

However you choose to describe the music, Bedtime Stories never lets up. “Wicked Black” picks up in intensity in a personal favorite, one of the heavier songs on the album that still manages to pack a melodic punch through almost surf-oriented guitar lines as Charles sings of “staring at God though the cracks of creation.”

“Loki” features thundering percussion and a brilliant bass breakdown that I always have to hit repeat to enjoy again. And the epic “Rise” features the band really stretching to show what they can do with a long build, something that hints strongly of what fans can expect with the album being released tonight.

But what they are not is a traditional rock band. Or a metal band, as they so often get pigeonholed by fans in Best of Nuvo competitions they so easily win year after year.

They are Bizarre Noir, and the music is only an entry-point to the madness.

It is a very epic entry-point, but participating in the grand circus of a live performance, where the band’s performance-art can incorporate music into the freak-show aspect of their fan-centered experience, is where everything comes together to paint a full picture.

Bedtime Stories sets the stage.

Pop Songs For Ugly People will burn it down.

And somewhere in-between, if you’re at the 5th Quarter Lounge tonight for the CD Release, you’ll gain a full appreciation for what makes these crazy motherfuckers tick.

FEATURED SONG: Moxxie’s “Phantom” will haunt your soul

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Moxxie kicks 2016 to the curb with a deftly resonating new track that is nothing like anything you’ve heard on their debut. Like an echoing, layered ghostly take on Natalie Merchant channeling Prince in the afterworld, Jessie Phelps showcases that when it comes to leading the vanguard of vocalists in the region, she’s got absolutely nothing to prove.

This is a winning single that’s all hook, a repetitive mantra that demands replaying as you won’t soon sneak that ethereal tune out of your head. Rock on, Moxxie, rock on.

The band has an upcoming show at the recently remodeled Hi-Fi in Fountain Square on February 18th with the Stampede String Band and Tracksuit Lyfestile. I recommend you get a ticket! Because if you’ve seen them live before, you haven’t heard them live doing anything quite like this.

LIVE PHOTOS: Bryan McPherson (Melody Inn, 12/14/2016)

Seeing books of rhyme
Buried deep inside my mind
In all the mountains and the streams
And all the footsteps on these streets
And you know that everything is dead
And everything bleeds
And the whores dress in red
With the apostles on their knees
So miracle my nightmare
Drop heaven from the sky
Give me eternal lightening
Because God is you and I

– Bryan McPherson – “Song From The Moon”

Bryan McPherson’s music speaks for itself.

His performance at the Melody Inn this evening was among the top performances I’ve seen since moving to Indianapolis, and that really says something. It’s a real shame more people didn’t brave the cold weather to come check him out. You can view photos below from his performance, or check out “Song From The Moon,” off his brilliant album Wedgewood, in the video posted above.

Trust me … if you get a chance to see this man live, do it! And support his music by buying an album when you get a chance, through his Bandcamp or Amazon, etc.

(All photos credit: Jonathan Sanders)

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THE LIVE WIRE: Gay Black Republican (State Street Pub, 12/9/2016)

If you don’t already know I’m a huge fan of Indianapolis punk legends Gay Black Republican, then you just haven’t been paying attention. Or you never read NUVO, which featured my 4,000-word cover story documenting the band’s first 15 years in complete “oral history” detail.

Either way, last Friday’s set at State Street Pub gave the band the chance to play a bunch of tracks off an album they’re still finalizing — it should be recorded and released in 2017, and everything I’ve heard of it points to the band’s best work coming together to form an album you won’t want to sleep on. I know it’s tough to have a “hit” when it comes to being a local punk act in this musical age, but damn it, these are some catchy fucking songs that speak to the age we live in … and like “Ballet on Barbed Wire,” which took on a whole new meaning in the wake of the Iraq War, songs like “Political Fuckery” are certain to become mainstays of Indianapolis’ political punk lexicon.

Trust me on it, or go to the band’s website and buy all their albums for $5-apiece and learn for yourself how good they are. And watch the video below to see “For A Fucking 4,” a brand-new track released with the band’s permission, recorded at the show on the 9th! The video also includes their raw take on classic cut “Ballet on Barbed Wire,” which remains my personal GBR favorite. There are also plenty of great photos below, which you can click on to see higher resolution images. (All photos credit: Jonathan Sanders)