Review: Virginia Ave Folk Fest

-story & photos by: robin goodfellow

virginia ave folk fest 2

Listen Up, Folkers.

On Saturday, May 14th, Indianapolis’s Fountain Square neighborhood hosted the Virginia Avenue Folk Fest. Another growing annual tradition in Fountain Square, this year’s festival featured 100 acts on 13 stages lining the neighborhood along Virginia Avenue from Fountain Square to Fletcher Place.

Arctic temperatures crept through Indianapolis on that day, but the
denizens of Fountain Square combatted them with body heat, booze, and grooves. As I crossed the bridge toward the Pabst Blue Ribbon Main Stage, an upright bass began to time my steps. The “folk” moniker of the festival gave way to loose definitions as the rockabilly wail of the Shelbyville Sinners greeted guests. The people who stood watching were of all sorts and all ages, drawn together by a common love for their music and their city.

virginia ave folk fest

Staring down the street, one could see that the skies were dreary but the folks who came out for Folk Fest were anything but. Donning tapestries of denim and brown leather,  Indy residents packed the stretch of road looking for abnormally cold summer fun. Lining Virginia Avenue were tents and kiosks dispensing every flavor of craft from handmade glass to cigar box guitars. Hundreds of people flooded the neighborhood to hear the music offered by Folk Fest from sunrise to nightfall.
Among the 100 acts, here are just a small handful that stood out to this festival goer.

Dan & Sam (Bonesetters):
Early in the day, those seeking refuge from the bitter cold could find it in the Hi-Fi (a couple Tin Man Damascene Apricot Sours didn’t hurt that endeavor either). Those choosing to warm up at this indoor stage were treated to songs performed by Dan Snodgrass and Sam Shafer. Mainstays of the Indy music scene, these members of Bonesetters provided a stripped-down version of their set prior to their Sunday night show at the Hi-Fi. The lack of bass and drums didn’t do anything to the Bonesetters’ performance power, as the audience were mesmerized by stripped down versions of “I am Shaun Gannon,” “Housefires,” and a new track titled “Rod Serling.” They were disappointed at how few people were fans of The Twilight Zone, but no one was disappointed in them.

Injecting Strangers:
After Bonesetters, Cincinnati band Injecting Strangers took the stage. Their psych punk jams sent ripples through The Hi-Fi as the whole place went up in a Technicolor mushroom cloud. The wild fluctuations of a Theremin cut through the space, exemplifying the inclusive nature of Folk Fest. Injecting Strangers have folks just like the rest of us, and theirs are presumably first generation Woodstock hippies. They came in, Bolo ties a’swingin’ and knocked it out of the park. The lead singer’s firework printed shirt served as a symbol of the group. If I were to measure the glycemic index of his diet, I suspect my meter would read “DEF CON COCAINE.” Don’t miss them the next time they shake up our sleepy little town.

Dietrich Jon:
Bloomington band Dietrich Jon graced the Sun-King Brewery stage with infectious folk-pop riffs. Their logo is their band name written inside of a toilet bowl and that’s because they’re hot shit. The bandleader, Diederik Van Wassenaer, was a bit too tall for the tent they were playing in, and the jokes in his banter may have missed, but when he pulled out his violin none of the context was relevant. Dude can play. Don’t see them without checking your calendar and clearing your schedule, because the riffs on tunes like “Paycheck” and “Sometimes” will be stuck in your head for days.

Sweet Poison Victim:
Over the past years, Sweet Poison Victim has become huge in the Indy scene and play at a monthly event called “High-Life at the Hi-Fi” along with DJ Kyle Long. At Virginia Avenue Folk Fest, they played a block over from their usual locale at the Fountain Square fountain itself. Outside was the only venue big enough to hold a dance floor of such proportion. Afrobeat rhythms rang through the sphere as the crowd echoed the band’s refrain “come on and shake your body.” The crowd consisted of all ages, and all levels of dancing ability, but not an ass in that square was left unshaken.

Virginia Avenue Folk Fest grew exponentially this year from its last iteration. If the hundreds of Indianapolis music fans were willing to brave the weather this year, then the sure thing is this: Folk Fest isn’t going anywhere. Indianapolis patiently awaits next year.

Review: Virginia Ave Folk Fest

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