From intimate open-mic night performances at local coffee shops to amphitheaters packed with fans to see the top acts in music, Indianapolis has become a hotbed for live music.

Local music lovers will have the chance to see everything from off-the-wall energetic rock to slow and steady hip-hop to music that escapes definition.

Some of the most cutting-edge and eclectic rock acts will flood the Fountain Square neighborhood with indie music on Friday and Saturday. The revamped Fountain Square Music Festival will offer two full days of performances, from free shows by local musicians to big-name acts from the likes of Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore, rock wild-child Andrew W.K. and violin virtuoso Kishi Bashi.

But more than simply providing a great live music experience for fans of all tastes, the festival will serve as a springboard helping two vital local music programs achieve more throughout central Indiana.

Story continues below gallery

“This year’s festival is a step forward,” said Adam Pedersen, executive director of the Fountain Square Music Festival. “Our goal is for the festival to continue to build and support our local music scene, and help establish Indianapolis as a cultural hub for artists and musicians.”

The Fountain Square Music Festival has been an annual event since 2013, when locals in the emerging neighborhood south of Indianapolis devised a day-long celebration of local art and music on July 4.

By last year, the event has grown to be a four-day extravaganza, featuring free music around the neighborhood’s Fountain Plaza, followed by evening shows at hotspots such as White Rabbit Cabaret, Radio Radio and the Hi-Fi.

With a loyal following, organizers decided to move the date to late March this year. Early spring is often an under-served time of year for live music in central Indiana, and the new schedule would make it easier to attract national acts to the concert, Pedersen said.

That effort was aided by one of Fountain Square’s own residents. Joyful Noise Recordings, an indie-centric record label, is based in the neighborhood. Of the festival’s 38 acts, nearly one-third of them are signed to Joyful Noise, including Surfer Blood, Reptar and Yonatan Gat.

“Fountain Square Music Festival is a unique opportunity to bring our whole label together and bring important artistry to Indianapolis and more specifically, our neighborhood,” said Karl Hofstetter, of Joyful Noise Recordings. “There is so much potential for arts and music to thrive here, and this festival helps foster that growth.”

Proceeds from the festival will be split between Musical Family Tree, a nonprofit group archiving and promoting Indiana artists, and Girls Rock! Indianapolis. The organization uses music as a tool to empower children, specifically young girls, said executive director Twinkle VanWinkle.

In addition to their annual female-only summer camps, organizers teach music lessons in the Fountain Square headquarters and do outreach and education at events throughout central Indiana.

“The camp is our core, and that’s a female-identified space only. But we want to have other events too, to draw in the families of our campers and to serve everybody,” VanWinkle said.

Girls Rock! Indianapolis set up its headquarters in Fountain Square in 2015 and took part in the music festival last year. The opportunity to be in a neighborhood that puts such an emphasis on the arts has been invaluable to the group’s growth, VanWinkle said.

“There are artists’ studios, ceramicists, Joyful Noise is right down the hallway,” she said. “It’s booming in Fountain Square now, especially in the arts and music sector.”

In addition to the nearly 40 acts performing at clubs throughout Fountain Square, two days’ worth of free activities have also been planned for the festival. Free stages at the Thunderbird, Fountain Square Brewing Co., New Day Meadery will offer themed music in metal, folk, acoustic and jazz.

Artist panels, intimate recording sessions and late-night after parties are all part of the festival.

Music lovers of all ages can enjoy a musical instrument petting zoo and design their own 45s at the Girls Rock! Indianapolis Family Day. Children’s performers Mr. Daniel and Shoobee Loo will be playing music as well.

“It’s very family oriented day,” VanWinkle said. “It’s really the only all-ages free event at the festival.”

If you go

Fountain Square Music Festival

When: Friday and Saturday


  • White Rabbit Cabaret, 1116 Prospect St., Indianapolis
  • The Hi-Fi, 1043 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis
  • Pioneer, 1110 Shelby St., Indianapolis
  • Fountain Square Theatre Building, 1111 Prospect St., Indianapolis

Cost: $37 single-day; $65 two-day access; $105 VIP 

Supports: Proceeds benefit nonprofits Girls Rock! Indianapolis and Musical Family Tree

Full lineup and schedule of events:

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.