In the colorful, eclectic Calvin Fletcher’s coffee shop, behind a steaming mug of café mocha, sits an instrumental component of the beginning of a major shift in Indy’s local music scene, starting with the rebirth of Indy venue Birdy’s Bar and Grill.
Henry French came at an interesting point in Birdy’s 15-year-long run. The previous booking manager, Jeff Sample, served the venue for over a decade, helping Birdy’s to become a milestone in regional musicians’ careers. After more than ten years of hard, dedicated work at the venue, Sample felt the need to leave Birdy’s for personal reasons.
This left French with a very interesting and unique opportunity.
Started at the bottom
French, having been in a touring band himself, knows a musician’s struggle. Starting from absolute scratch, French began his music career playing lengthy acoustic cover sets in the back of dimly lit bars. Noticing the artistic disconnect that comes with playing covers at a bar, he decided to take things into his own hands.
“Little by little, I started peppering in a few originals at my acoustic gigs,” French said.
From this point, he grew successful as a singer, songwriter and eventually the front-man of his own band, Henry French and the Shameless, which frequented Birdy’s.
The Rebirth of Birdy’s
Birdy’s not only has a rich history in the local music scene in Indianapolis, but it has also hosted bigger bands and artists such as Prince, The Strokes, Mutemath and many more.
Lately, however, local acts performing at Birdy’s see the venue as less of a goal, but perhaps more of a venue to live-rehearse to a jury of their peers.
Now, using his personal experiences, French is working toward a newer, yet some may say “older” version of Birdy’s.
French holds Birdy’s very closely to his heart, noting that it was always seen as a “jumping point” for the ”B and C level” national acts, on their way to the top.
“By the same token,” he says, “it was the shot for me as a local guy to build my chops here in Indiana.”
French maintains that he is not looking to give Birdy’s a “new identity”, but rather to give it a “rebirth”.
“Back in the day,” he says, “Birdy’s was almost a stepping stone for local musicians. It provided the bands that did well the incentive of opening for national acts. Lately, something has fallen off.”
Musicians Maturing with Birdy’s
Now, it is clear that French must figure out exactly what caused the changes at Birdy’s, and how he can get things back to how they used to be. One issue may be social media.
“On a regular basis,” French says, “Bands send out invites and hope this get the word out about their show, their band, their plans, etc. The fact is, social media is a tool to implement a solution, not the solution itself.”
French believes that in order for bands to be successful, they must work for it the same way people did 15 years ago: making calls, going to shows to network with fellow musicians, making posters and handing out flyers.
“This hasn’t changed, and if anything, is more important than ever. Social media is very easy for anyone to use, and thereby, it’s a sea of notices that the public are getting more and more used to ignoring everyday.”
The Next Chapter
French has his goals in order, and has always been known to persevere through adversity and come out stronger and more experienced in the end. So what’s next for Birdy’s?
“I’m going to continue to reach out to some of the caliber of acts that used to frequent Birdy’s,” French says. “There’s a wealth of new venues in Indianapolis that are now competing for the concert goer’s dollar, and Birdy’s should be competing with this other venues more than it currently is.”
What do you think about the changes being implemented at Birdy’s?
Check out, or even sign up for Birdy’s own battle of the bands, Birdy’s Battle Royale!
Love acoustic music? Love music competitions with a panel of well-qualified judges?
You’re in luck!
The Acoustic Live Challenge, hosted by Robert Snodgrass, has just started its 7th run in 10 years at 247 Skybar!
Every Thursday Night Until July 31st Finals. The Musicians who perform are all Indiana Musicians! 1st Round its only $5 general admission.
-Robert Snodgrass, creator of ACL
Featuring solely acoustic sets, ALC chooses to prohibit drum sets, keyboards and any kind of recorded music from making its way to the stage.
“I saw a void in the singer/songwriter market,” Snodgrass says, “and I did not feel that musicians were getting the right type of exposure. So I created the Acoustic Live Challenge.”
As a rule, only 3 people are allowed on the stage at a time, however bands are allowed to have more than 3 people in their group.
“They have to tag in that extra performer when needed. It brings in a whole different dynamic to the acts that may have 4 or 5 people in their group,” Snodgrass says. “Watching them tag in and out is pretty awesome and really entertains the crowd!”
With only two slots left to fill for the Acoustic Live Challenge, some local acts may assume they need a large fan base or a towering discography to enter, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth! Any Indiana singer/songwriter that performs original music may enter to compete in the challenge!
“Any band that performs original music can strip down their set to fulfill the regulations,” Snodgrass advises.
To learn more about The Acoustic LIVE Challenge and registration for one of the two competition dates still available (June 26th and July 10th) please visit the website! http://www.acousticlivechallenge.com/
Special Thanks to all of our sponsors: Indymojo.com, RealSceneTV, Jack Daniels, Winn Studios, Chicken Picks, Entertainmentflyers.com, SHINE Indy, SLAMOLOGY, Gaugemagazine.com, MOJOSTOCK, 247 Skybar.
Without the support of these sponsors this show does not happen. If it wasn’t for people who support the local music promoters like myself to create great events like this for our music community, the shows do not go on! I cannot express my gratitude for these companies that support me in my endeavor to showcase this great state’s musicians! The venue is absolutely amazing for live music! 247 Skybar has truly stepped up their sound game for this year’s events!
-Robert Snodgrass, creator of ACL
Acoustic LIVE Challenge
Skybar 247 – 247 S Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46225
Every Thursday (except June 12th) until finals on July 31st
Doors at 7 pm, contest begins at 8
Having no real idea of what her final product will look like, artist Julie Young likes to start her drawings with a permanent ink, making it impossible to erase the lines.
“This leaves me stuck with the marks I have made,” Young says. “Just like your actions do in everyday life.”
“Working in permanent ink encourages me to continue moving forward with the piece, letting myself and the piece grow together at the same time. As I am working on a piece, I can see the infinite depth of space and possibilities to create in. I am painting or drawing, I can look around on the canvas or paper and see a whole other world; my world of imagination; the world that is inside my mind.
Most often once I layout the image in ink, I begin to fill the piece in with bright vivid colors. With a combination of intuition and color theory knowledge, I choose colors to contrast each other, bringing certain parts of the piece forward to grab the viewers’ attention.
I mostly paint with acrylics, and blend the colors directly on the canvas instead of mixing them in a pallet before hand. I’m not a clean painter at all; I tend to get paint all over my self and my outfit.
A lot of the times I like to hide things like small images, symbols, or words in the small details of the paintings. Once I feel that the piece is complete, I will add a layer of varnish over the top to protect the piece and give it a glossy finish.” – Julie Young
Young, 22-year-old artist located in Indianapolis has always been aware of her artistic abilities. At four years of age, Young found herself glued to the television, fixated on her favorite TV show at the time, Pappyland.
“I can say that I started making finished pieces when I was like 4 or 5,” Young says. “Pappyland taught me how to draw, step by step, and how to finish a whole picture.”
From this point forward, Young knew she was an artist. Throughout childhood, Young was picked for exclusive art programs through school, which kept her interested in art, and continued to challenge her artistic skills.
“Back then I was mainly drawing, doodling fake creatures with 30 eyeballs and wings,” Young laughs.
Young still enjoys creating interesting characters and stories with her drawings and paintings, pulling inspiration from everyday people and everyday interactions.
“I’ll just sit down somewhere and observe people and observe their odd situations and I’ll make up stories in my head, and then that will somehow come out into a painting, whether it’s some energy I got from them, or some actual situation, or, ‘That’s a really goofy-ass looking guy; I’m gonna draw him.’”
As Young has matured into a young woman, her artwork has also matured. Lately, she has been drawn to metaphysics and has incorporated metaphysical undertones in many of her latest pieces.
“I’ve pulled a lot from all the lessons I’ve learned in metaphysics; how to concentrate and how to use my imagination more,” she says. “I’m starting to try to put that even more into my paintings, so hopefully other people can look at it and start to grasp some concepts of the connection of the soul, the mind and dreams.”
Young tries to stay busy and has been offered many opportunities to showcase her work and the work of others this year. On March 7th, she will curate the art and music show Not Just Skin, at the Fountain Square Brewing Company- the first show Young is putting together herself.
“The show will include art from a handful of different tattoo artists; 15 artists from 10 shops total. It should be a lot of fun!”
Not Just Skin will also include performances from the bands Stranger, and Like Smoke.
Young’s proudest moment as an artist was when she received the confirmation of her next big show. On July 4th of this year, Young will have her very first solo show at the Upland Propaganda Studio in the Murphy Art Center. As of right now, she is torn between two ideas, which are both instrumental influences in her artwork.
“I want to either do a circus series of drawings and paintings, or an entire show that focuses on metaphysics!” Young says.
Additionally, Young’s newest platform for presenting her art is live painting. After being a part of Hyperion for the past two years, she was asked to live-paint at a winter version of Hyperion at the Vogue Theatre, and the experience has forever left an impression on her.
“It’s just so great to feed off of everyone’s energy around you. Everyone at Hyperion is like family.”
Having accomplished so much at such an early stage of her career, Young knows that she is beating the odds. After dropping out of Herron art school in the second semester of her freshman year, Young wanted to prove to herself and those around her that it is not necessary to have a degree in art to become successful.
“I was looking in the mirror this morning and I just thought, ‘Julie, you have worked your ass off so hard these past two years, and finally something is showing for it’,” she says. “Just knowing that I am doing something right is very satisfying for me.”
Young’s art will only continue to evolve. With her hard work and dedication to creating all the interesting subjects that pop in her head, Young is a must-see artist this summer.
For updates on Julie Young’s artwork and upcoming shows, click here!
During this freezing, dry and seemingly hopeless season, it’s not difficult to find yourself feeling the wintertime blues.
To help you feel better, here is just what you needed: a warm winter hug by way of a carefully selected playlist, from me to you.
This playlist is sure to satisfy everybody’s taste with its eclectic mix of indie rock, old blues, jazz, classic rock and electronic.
Cheer up! Winter is almost gone.
What are some of your favorite winter songs?
It’s the beginning of the new year, and everyone knows what that means: Making resolutions, breaking said resolutions once we realize we can’t diet because we like food too much, and most importantly, the prospect of new albums from some of our favorite bands and musicians.
Among the many albums set to be released in the following months, here is a list of my top 5 anticipated albums of 2014.
Out Among the Stars, the posthumous studio album by Johnny Cash, is set to be released on March 25. Out Among the Stars, recorded in the early 1980s, was never released to fans. Cash’s most recently recorded song, a cover of Nine Inch Nails’s “Hurt” was released just six months before his untimely death.
Although the tracks on Out Among the Stars aren’t technically new, fans highly anticipate the album, full of never-before-heard songs by this legendary artist.
Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga
Ever since the release of Tony Bennet and Lady Gaga’s cover of “The Lady is a Tramp”, from the 1937 Rodgers and Hart musical Babes in Arms, fans of both popular artists have anticipated their full-length album.
Set to release near the end of the year, Cheek to Cheek will surely appease fans of jazz, pop and show tunes. Release date is to be announced.
Electronica, synth-pop singer/songwriter Imogen Heap is to release her first album in almost five years in 2014. Sparks, Heap’s fourth solo studio album, will be released on March 3, however many of the singles are already available on her official website: http://www.imogenheap.com.
The album cover of Sparks will be a collage of fan’s footprints, letting them become involved in Heap’s newest unique project.
Lana Del Rey
Following up on her 2012 indie-pop album Born to Die, Lana Del Rey will release her newest album Ultraviolence in 2014, however the exact date of the release is to be announced. If Ultraviolence (a title in reference to the 1962 Anthony Burgess novel-turned-feature film, A Clockwork Orange) is anything like Born to Die, the album has great potential. Del Rey’s huge fan base waits patiently to see what she’s got up her sleeves this year.
Indie rock band Broken Bells will release a follow-up to their 2010 self titled album and 2011 EP, Meyrin Field. Originally to come out sometime in January, the much-awaited second album After the Disco will be released on February 4.
Whatever the new year brings us in the world of music, we can always count on our favorite artists to deliver.
What albums are you looking forward to in 2014?
On the dark, snowy night of Friday December 13th, about 40 people young and old braved the elements to meet at Fountain Square’s tiny, all-age music venue, the Hoosier Dome, for one common purpose: To see a rock show.
This four-band lineup showcased several talented musicians, all from the Midwest. One of the groups, self-proclaimed “dance rock band”, Blane Fonda from Chicago, is a 5-piece outfit with trumpet and keyboard included. Blane Fonda brought in quite the rambunctious crowd, with their diverse sounds (Scorpians meets Dearestazazel meets The Matches, meets Glenn Danzig), and wild stage antics.
During their set, and every set afterwards, a giant paper airplane made its way over the tops of heads and, occasionally, hit the die-hard crowd surfers. When the paper airplane ended up on stage, and the band threw it back out to the crowd, the lead singer proposed a game.
“Whoever throws the paper airplane the farthest,” singer Mark Wetzel said, “gets whatever they want from our merch table!”
Three fans got up on stage and tried their luck at throwing the huge, awkward airplane. The winner managed to get the airplane all the way past the crowd, and to further celebrate his victory, commenced to crowd surf.
Blane Fonda played mostly original songs, but in the middle of the show, Wetzel asked if they should do a Christmas song.
“If we were to do a Christmas song,” he said, “What should we do?”
Christmas song titles billowed out and toward the stage.
“’You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch’, you say? Well, it just so happens that I have all seven verses of it right here!” He lifted up a piece of paper to show the crowd.
The cover was executed perfectly. Wetzel’s voice, deep and bluesy, meshed pristinely with the song and the character he was trying to portray.
“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” prompted a Conga Line, circling and trapping the moshers. Other fans jumped up and grabbed onto the top of the sturdy wooden-framed stage, some of whom ended up falling from the platform.
Their last song of the night was “Opportunity Rocks!”, a song so popular that fans were fighting each other to get on stage to sing with the band.
The official music video for “Opportunity Rocks”:
At the end of their set, Blane Fonda sat in the back of the venue to talk to fans and sell t-shirts and CDs. They handed out download cards to everyone who stopped by their merch table.
“We made a new CD,” guitarist Daniel Leu said, “And we’re just giving it away for free to people who come to our shows!”
The band immediately following Blane Fonda, Cincinnati-based Automagik, brought in even more fans.
“Alright, this song is called ‘Boogieman’”, lead singer Zachary Evans said, and began singing in his funky, bluesy, higher-pitched voice (think Circa Survive meets Blood Brothers meets The Mars Volta).
Although Automagik’s genre on Facebook is listed as “Rocky Road Ice Cream”, Automagik plays energetic rock, funky and bluesy music that’s easy to dance to. The crowd did pseudo Irish jigs and moshed throughout Automagik’s set of songs from their self-titled 2010 album, Automagik, and their newest album, Black Sundae.
In keeping with the wild stage and audience interactions throughout the night, Evans looked at Devin Williams, lead guitarist, and said, “Devin’s a freak! This song’s about Devin!”, at which point a man in the audience yelled, “Take off your pants!” This incited a full chant of “Take off your pants!”
The band started playing their song “Freak”, and another man from the audience took his pants off and threw them on stage. Williams wore the pants on his head for almost the entire song before throwing them back to the crowd!
When “Freak” ended, Evans once again spoke into the mic, with a blank, serious face. There seemed to be something wrong.
After several seconds of silence, Evans spoke.
“Who likes pizza?” he asked.
The crowd laughed and screamed in excitement.
“How about this, when I yell ‘pizza’, you yell ‘pizza’”
The audience continued to yell “pizza”, and the percussion started for the song apparently called “Pizza”, in which Evans professes his love for the delicious Italian pie, stating that he “eats more pizza than the Ninja Turtles!”
The band wrapped up their set with a song called “Waterslide”, a song about how easier things are as a child, when you aren’t aware of all the evil in the world. Evans sings, “If I could do one thing easy, I’d go where nobody else could see me. Waterslide, take me away to a better time in my life, when life gets me down.”
At the end of their set, although they didn’t have a merch table, the band members were happy to talk to excited fans as they were loading out. Many got sweaty hugs and handshakes, before leaving with proud smiles.
For updates on Automagik: https://www.facebook.com/Automagik
For show dates and an opportunity to download their new CD for free by Blane Fonda: