Cataracts Music Festival : A Revisitation


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If you didn’t make it to Cataracts last weekend, you should feel like you missed out on something huge. Strewn across a portion of the 128 acres that is Garfield Park, Cataracts Music Festival threw down for its third consecutive year last Saturday. It was my first time, but I can assure you it shall not be my last.

Up until a few days before the date of the festival, Cataracts was scheduled to be held in the Fountain Square neighborhood itself. I’d heard tales of the drunken debauchery, and adrenaline drenched performances that had the whole neighborhood reeling in psychedelic delight. I gotta say, I was pretty excited to climb onto some rooftops and revel in the mythical festival myself. I imagined guzzling a PBR in a dark alley with only barely enough time to catch some punk band I’d only heard of in passing. However, the non-profit festival had to change its game plan after the Fountain Square populous voted against hosting it for the third year. Luckily, plans were arranged to transplant the festival to Garfield Park, and this music writer was still able to revel in the glory.

I had a slight inkling of what to expect as my boyfriend and I drove down I-70 to catch some afternoon performances. I knew there would be psychedelic wailing, skin-tight black cut offs, and tattoos galore at this event, but I was still uncertain about how much I would enjoy this experience. I’ve attended far more electronic and jam-band festivals in my time, but I have a deep appreciation for indie rock, as well.  We parked and attempted to stroll into the event with an 8 pack of beer. This wasn’t gonna fly according to the kind souls working the ticket booth. We walked back to the vehicle a bit thrown off, but still fully determined to drink a few brews on that scorching August day. As we glanced around the parking lot we came to the realization that our fellow Cataractians (that what I call ‘em) were pouring their beers into coffee cups. Pure genius. We opted for some Styrofoam Big Gulps, but I secretly wish we could’ve snagged some Diet Coke cans and rocked it “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia “style. I felt like a high schooler again, smuggling my water bottle of vodka into the Homecoming football game. Albeit the football players were gruffy musicians, and the clean cut fans were cig smoking hipsters. None the less, we were finally prepared to enter Cataracts.

The festival had been dedicated to a particular area of the park that Saturday. The rest was inhabited by enormous family reunions, and errant disc-golfers. With four different stages to choose from, we opted to begin with the one closest to the entrance, Foggy Motion. Male Bondage, a hardcore punk band from the area, took my Cataracts virginity. It sounds almost too good to be true, right? This punk quartet was seriously flexing when I waltzed up to the grassy-knoll of a stage. These guys are really kick ass. As a listener, who honestly isn’t totally familiar and/or too comfortable (yet) in the hardcore scene, it wasn’t terribly hard to stand around and enjoy their sound. There were definite riffs, and not really much of thrash. I was happy. As the set ended, we moseyed off towards the center of the park.

There was a man sitting at a type writer with a sign hanging from his desk stating, “Pick a topic, pick a price, get a poem”. My boyfriend choose the topic of hiking trails, and after a few minutes of head scratching and key tapping, he had received a unique poem by Lynn Glenhurst. In a somewhat introspective state now, we continued on our merry way. At the stage, Debbie’s Lot of Freedom, Thee Open Sex had just commenced their set. There isn’t anything smooth and creamy about this band of Bloomington rawwkers. Their lead vocalist, a boisterous blonde lady, was reeling and shouting around stage. Their gritty and heavy sound attracted a large crowd by the end of their set. I sat on the ground simply absorbed by their dynamic presence. At this point a sense of gratitude for the existence of Cataracts filled my being. Following this set, I bumped into some friends and we headed over to catch Raw McCartney’s Fried Family Band at the stage entitled Kirstie Alley.

Raw McCartney’s Fried Family Band brought some serious fast paced heat to an already sweltering day. They churned out trippy, punk sounds during their short, but incredibly intense songs. Distortion and reverb were this band’s choice of noise paired with lo-fi vocals. The fans packed around the stage in a sort of frenzy, as I sort of just stared into their teeming mass. Raw McCartney was undoubtedly chalk, raw rock. Although I was entertained by their performance, I had to scoot off to Oreo Jones, who was performing on the stage, Valley of Things, across the field.

Oreo Jones + DMA

Valley of Things, a square of grass dedicated to live music, was ornamented by a large, foil-wrapped pyramid. It looked like Raiders of the Lost Ark met Star Wars over there. Honestly, I think Jones should adopt that sacred piece of geometry as a permanent backdrop. The whole scene seemed oddly poetic especially with his Hawaiian shirt flapping open in the breeze.  Oreo Jones, DMA, and Azieb unleashed their single, “Running”, as their first cut. I haven’t seen any of Oreo Jones’ newer material, so it was pretty terrific getting to see him drop his fresher stuff in person. Additionally, he was backed by both Azieb and DMA on the drums, which built these deep, percussive waves into the show.  I might add that “Running” is spectacular live. DMA’s vocals in collaboration with the loops and drums add this incredible volume. I’ve always been a fan of the two drum set up, but Oreo Jones’ songs just seem to be perfectly tailored for that tribal rhythm. The Black Fabio song “Reggie Miller” had the audience chanting everybody’s favorite Pacer’s name in unison. Also, “The John Wayne” was a notable tune dropped by the big guy in black skinny jeans.

I was a blended mix of tired, sun burnt, energized, and sad to depart, when I had to leave Garfield Park after Oreo Jones. Cataracts Music Festival is a true Indianapolis gem, and I’m so gracious I had the opportunity to experience it this year. It makes me proud to be an Indianapolis native when I get the chance to see the cultural, artistic, and musical identity that this great city is forming. I’m already anticipating next year’s offerings.