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WARMfest: An Important Step for Indy's Music Scene
Posted August 30, 2013 by Rob Peoni
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Rob Peoni
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August 30, 2013
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WARMfest Preview Playlist

(Listen while you read!)

There's much to be excited about at the advent of the inaugural WARMfest this weekend in Broad Ripple Park. Proceeds from the festival willsupport the restoration of a 4.15 mile stretch of White River. WARMfest will showcase more than two dozen local artists and nearly 80 regional and national touring bands. Local indie pop titans and MFT favorite, The Pieces, will reunite for the first time in years. The festival, along with our own "Listen Local" series, will inject some much-needed original music back into the Broad Ripple area, a phenomenon all too uncommon at the various watering holes that line the village's tightly-packed boulevards.

Those of you that know me personally, of which there are at least eight who may stumble upon this post, know that all I really care about is the growth of this city's music and arts scene. I believe the growth of the creative sector is essential to the growth of Indy at large. These sentiments are not mine alone, for other more articulate arguments check out Ben Shine's "Music Economy" post on Sky Blue Window, Jeb Banner's "The Music Scene Is Broke," and my post onSXSW's impact on Austin's economy from earlier this year.

Indy has done an incredible job establishing itself as a premier events destination through its position as host of a variety of mammoth sporting events (BigTen tournaments, Indy 500, The Brickyard, The Final Four, PGA golf, etc.). The work laid down by Mayor Hudnut and a handful of impassioned business leaders in the 1980s culminated in our city's role as host of the Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. As a side note, the city announced its bid for the 2018 Super Bowl earlier this morning. The infrastructure necessary for Indy's various sports endeavors has allowed for a multitude of other unrelated cultural events to flourish (see: Indiana Black Expo, GenCon & others). In many ways, we've conquered the sports landscape, and it's long past time to make the Indy experience a more dynamic one.

Set-up is underway at Broad Ripple Park.

I'm excited for our city to take this step with WARMfest. Indianapolis hasn't hosted a rock festival of this scope sinceMidwest Music Summit closed up shop in 2007. Sure, we have seen the rise of a variety of niche music events that independently satisfy the interests of our somewhat fractured music scene. I wholeheartedly agree withJon Rogers' assessment that Fountain Square'sCataracts Music Festival and the culture of DIY house shows that have grown around it deserve a lion's share of the credit for the resurgence and transformation of the Near Eastside neighborhood. The efforts of the Cataracts crew, Indy Film Fest, andIndyFringe have proven integral to the internal evolution of Indy's artistic climate. We're ready to take some bigger steps to show those outside of Central Indiana that this is a city that supports the arts.

MFT founder andSmallBox CEO, Jeb Banner is fond of the expression, "marketing begins with HR." The phrase underlines a philosophy that a company must cultivate an army of internal brand ambassadors before their desired message spreads and becomes gospel with potential customers. It's with this mindset that I believe it crucial that Indy's citizens support events like WARMfest in their first few years, so they may grow in a way that attracts regional and national visitors and dramatically effects the city's bottom line.

I'm not asking our civic leaders to blindly dump cash into the arts like some kind of pauper's giant busking hat. This sort of transformation can happen organically, but it won't happen overnight. For evidence, look at the natural growth of Louisville's Forecastle Festival, which has grown from a few hundred patrons in its first couple of years to more than 35,000 for its 10th anniversary. The timing feels right with WARMfest, in a way that may not have been the case a decade ago when Midwest Music Summit launched andBroad Ripple Music Fest followed suit a few years later. Local promoters likeMOKB Presents have proven Indy can sustain a live music calendar that hosts more than 200 shows each year.

Our civic leaders should be creative in their support for the arts. An issue that's always top of mind for me would be allowing 18+ year-old fans into music venues that serve alcohol during live performances. I believe this would also help to stem the current spike in crime. If you give kids interesting, affordable ways to spend their time on evenings and weekends, they're a lot less likely to find trouble. I frequently hear bands passing through Radio Radio singing the praises of Cincinnati and Columbus's music scenes. Ohio's decision to provide younger fans with access to live music hardly seems like a coincidence.

Don't squash creative endeavors by forcing promoters to jump through hoops and pony up hefty taxes to put on their events. Instead, show them the same benefits that civic leaders often show other prospective out-of-state business investors: tax breaks that incentivize their financial investment. We're a red state that prides itself on our accommodating and attractive business climate. Why not show the arts the same benefits we provide start-ups and big companies?

I apologize for rambling and the preachy tone this post has undertaken. I will now step down from my soap box. The simple fact is that I'm incredibly passionate in my belief that the arts are essential for Indy's ability to attract the type of young professionals that will sustain the city's growth for decades to come. In my eyes, this isn't an option, but an essential part of that equation. To do your part, all you have to do is come out to Broad Ripple Park and enjoy some live music this weekend. Buy a beer. Buy an album from one of the touring bands. Better yet, buy an album from one of the awesome local acts on the bill. More than anything, just be there. It's going to be fun.

WARMfest Tickets

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