REVIEW: Indy Mojo's Annual 4.20 Tent Party

For once at a day-long festival, the early bird caught the worm. Standard protocol for large events that are scheduled to run well into the morning is to “show up late and stay late”. But with relatively early performances on the bill from Blue Moon Revue, Midwest Hype, Electric Kool Aid Experiment, and Jessie & Amy, it made sense to be timely for once.

The weather was not what we had all hoped for. But then again- we do live in Indiana and it was April, so adverse conditions were to be expected. When the warm and sunny afternoon turned into rain and frigid air, friends started to text and ask if the show would still go on. Fortunately for the musicians, both outdoor stages were completely covered by large, sturdy tents that enabled them to safely proceed as planned. Unfortunately for the guests, there was no happy medium: freeze your ass off in a tent outside or roast yourself inside the oven otherwise known as the indoor main stage.

Despite their early 7 p.m. set time and dishearteningly sparse dance floor, Blue Moon Revue delivered a grand performance that included plenty of fun, bluesy tracks from their current album Phases (including one of my favorites, “Waiting on a Wire” ). The band also debuted new material that seemed to steer away from BMR’s traditional blues-jam and hint at an alternative indie rock influence. But the real treat was a sit-in performance by Seth Catron, guitar player and lead vocalist for The Twin Cats. Catron and BMR played their own version of the 1972 Stevie Wonder classic “Superstition” that featured back-and-fourth guitar soloing from Catron and Dave Sullivan, topped with soulful “Happy 4/20!” serenading from lead vocalist Matt Marshall.

Midwest Hype decided to do it big for their third annual 4.20 performance with Indy Mojo. “Every time I see them, they have more members!” my friend commented as we watched the band set up. In addition to a current lineup that’s eight members deep (two percussionists, keys, guitar, bass, saxophone, trumpet, and one rapper), saxophonist Ben Morrissey also electrified The Hype on his EWI (an electronic wind instrument; pronounced “e-wee” ). My Midwest Hype encounter was largely interrupted by the conflicting Electric Kool Aid Experience show on the EDM stage outside, but I did catch their popular boogie song “Ben’s Kitchen Blues” and an awesome closing medley called “Upside Down Zombie Face” sampling Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” and MGMT’s “Kids”.

Outside, dub hop/hip step group The Electric Kool-Aid Experiment was dosing their audience with seizure-like dancing (via Ed Trauma’s crunchy, gut-wrenching dubstep) and high involvement with the audience. A few songs into their performance, Grey Granite abruptly asked DJ Ed Trauma to stop the music so he could speak for a moment. He pointed to an evil, invisible line that had fallen between him and the crowd; without even being asked, everyone took three large steps forward to close the gap and the show continued. A bonus track from outside the EKAE repertoire: Freddie Bunz rapped a song called “Zombies!” from his forthcoming mixtape, laid atop an inciting, filthy dubstep track from Figure.

On the opposite side of the building in the acoustic tent, special things were happening with local singer/songwriters Jessie & Amy. Mojostock 2011 attendees remember the duo from their morning acoustic session that gently woke them from their slumber as a new day of rage began at the festival. This time, however, the girls added an electric guitar to their show, taking turns switching off between that and their trusty acoustics. Jessie and Amy were also backed by a drummer and bassist- both of whom were also female- that added a new dimension to their previously rustic, folky rock sound.

It’s around that point in the evening that there was so much going on and so many people running around that everything just kind of ran together. I remember watching people in the front row hold up a photo of the Shy Guy cartoon on their phone to compare with the DJ performing under the same name with a mask that’s so advanced he can flip up the face to sneak a drink of water. I remember slowly pecking my way through the inside of The Mousetrap while Hyryder performed, still hours before the headlining Twin Cats were scheduled to start, and wondering how on earth everyone was going to fit inside. Megan Maudlin, a regular name on local festival bills, closed down the acoustic tent with assistance from Lounge Soundsystem guitarist John Young and 3 to 1 members Joe O’Connell and Ranch Wuertz. Mutiny (a.k.a. DJ’s Kodama and Hollowpoint) attracted a large crowd of dubsteppers that comfortably filled the tent with enough room left over for free form dancing.

By the time The Twin Cats took stage, The Mousetrap was a noisy cluster of people dancing, laughing, and bumping into each other over and over again. As we happily grooved away the few remaining hours of a very special 4.20, only one question remained unanswered: where the hell were all the food trucks at?