Much like the neighborhood it takes place in, Fountain Square Music Festival has gone through many changes over the years. Since I’ve lived on Woodlawn Avenue since 2013, I’ve been on the frontlines to witness its evolution firsthand. I have vivid memories from every year that I’ve went, whether it was hearing Yonatan Gat shred in the middle of Shelby Street in 2015 or chatting backstage with Andrew W.K. at last year’s fest.
And much like years prior, I will have several memories stick with me from Fountain Square Music Festival 2017.
Following the blunder that was Evermore Music Festival in 2016, the FSMF crew had something to prove with this year’s fest, both to those in and outside of the state. With this in mind, FSMF 2017 was larger in scale than ever before, with a main stage set up smack dab in the middle of Virginia Avenue (rather than in the Fountain Square Theatre building). To fit this expansion, the fest also presented a lineup packed with marquee names, including Phantogram, Dr. Dog, Real Estate, Bishop Briggs and more.
To kick off the festival on Friday, I caught a set from local indie-pop band The Wldlfe, who served as an appropriate precursor to Nashville hit-makers COIN. Following a set that featured insanely catchy standouts like “I Don’t Wanna Dance” and “Talk Too Much,” I made my way inside to catch some of Brandon Whyde’s set. Hailing originally from Indianapolis, Whyde released an album titled Silver Apples of the Moon just last month, marking his third full-length to date. Known for his whiskey-soaked voice, Whyde’s soulful Americana sound is one that translates well to a live setting, especially with some of his more recent heart-tuggers.
After checking out some of Real Estate’s set, I ducked inside to Square Cat Vinyl to catch a shimmer of singer-songwriter magic from Indianapolis’ Caleb McCoach, before heading over to Pioneer for a superb set from Thunder Dreamer. They recently opened up for notable national acts like Murder by Death and Palehound, and the Evansville dream rock band made quite an impression on all who chose to see them over Dr. Dog. With an impressive 2017 album titled Capture out on 6131 Records – also known for releasing music by Julien Baker – the five-piece’s contagious energy further enhanced their already stellar live sound, making for my favorite set of Day One at FSMF. Following them, I did, however, catch notably awesome sets from Lily & Madeline and Flint Eastwood, before eventually stumbling back home to my lonesome cat Lou.
Much like Day One of FSMF, Day Two served as an excellent showcase of Indiana music. This started out with an early afternoon set from Indianapolis jazz/hip-hop powerhouse Clint Breeze and the Groove, and was then followed by praiseworthy sets from Dream Chief, Busman’s Holiday, Hoops, J. Elliot and S.M. Wolf. Following a slight break from Indiana music with The Cool Kids, I jumped right back into the local goodness to catch a set from Indianapolis legend Vess Ruhtenberg (Zero Boys, The Pieces, United States Three), who currently has a Kickstarter campaign in the works to help fund his first-ever solo album. Following Ruhtenberg, I stuck around Square Cat Vinyl to hear one of my favorite R&B artists in the city, Brandon Lott, before making my way out into the soon-to-be-rainy streets.
With outdoor festivities postponed due to the weather, the indoor venues gradually became more and more packed, giving local acts a chance to shine in front of larger audiences. Around when the clouds started rolling in, Bloomington’s Amy O ripped into her set, touching on several songs from her fantastic 2017 album, Elastic.Following Amy O, the Bloomington takeover continued at White Rabbit, as Mike Adams At His Honest Weight took the stage, hugging the wet crowd of festival goers with a set of lively pop tunes.
When the rain finally subsided, Phantogram was able to take the stage, treating fans to a dance party as lights bounced off the Virginia Avenue bricks. As a finale to the day full of local music, I made my way to Hi-Fi next, where Richard Edwards was playing selections from his debut solo album, Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset. Following my time with the former Margot frontman, I transitioned to a late-night set from local hip-hop juggernaut Ghost Gun Summer, which honestly felt like one of the most “Indiana music” things I have ever done in my life.