With its revitalization during the past 10 years, downtown Franklin now offers visitors and residents quaint boutiques, a variety of dining options and free community entertainment throughout the year.
People can catch a movie at the Historic Artcraft Theatre, search out vintage furniture at the growing number of antique and vintage shops, and sample everything from gourmet pizza to deli sandwiches to traditional pub fare.
But for lovers of live music, the scene was always lacking.
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That is changing as summer approaches. Local musicians and business owners have banded together to form a musical smorgasbord, with downtown restaurants, taverns and performance spaces offering bands throughout the week, all within walking distance.
People can walk down Jefferson Street and hear everything from folk to country to blues to rock, all within a few blocks of each other.
“It’s been a long-time coming,” said Frank Dean, local musician and owner of Frank’s Guitars. “When I first came down here 10 years ago, there was only one place that had live music. We’ve been ripe for something like this for a long time.”
Dean has been a major mover-and-shaker in the burgeoning music scene. Through connections made over decades of performing locally and nationally, he has helped locations such as Triple Play BBQ and Greek’s Pizzeria & Tapp House book a rich variety of musicians from throughout the region.
The Soul Sauce Trio brought a mix of soul, funk, jazz and other styles. Americana group Noble Roots blended raw blues, traditional folk and bluegrass and classic rock ‘n’ roll into one performance. Angela Norris White wowed audiences with her energy-laden outlaw country.
None of the performers had ever come to Franklin before.
“There’s an amazing opportunity to turn the public on to great local artists out there, to other music than what they’re being spoon-fed by what’s on the radio. There’s so much more out there,” White said. “There’s a growing backlash from what people are hearing on the radio, and more people are looking at local music.”
In the past three months, since a concerted effort has been made downtown to feature live music, 15 groups have played the city for the first time ever.
“My idea was always to get everybody interested enough that there would actually be a music scene,” Dean said. “It’s finally caught on. It’s economics 101. The more people that have a reason to come in, they’ll bring in new fans that have a reason to come to your place.”
The hosting venues are a mix of long-time Franklin establishments that have regularly featured music, such as the Jefferson Street Pub and the Grill Bar, and popular clubs trying something new.
The Willard, one of the city’s most historic restaurants and watering holes, used to feature live bands 15 years ago. There was a regular rotation of music on weekends, but the schedule eventually dialed down for a few years.
Two summers ago, owner Tony Priola and his wife were out to eat when they came across a band performing outdoors. The experience was enjoyable, and Priola thought that the Willard’s large veranda porch would make for an ideal performance space.
Experimenting with limited shows outdoors, the slate expanded from one or two weekends during the summer months to scheduling shows year-round.
“People want to have something other than a meal when they go out, whether that’s live music or a ballgame to watch,” Priola said. “The ambiance of the restaurant and having some laid-back music, it really fills the room.”
With new businesses such as Greek’s and Triple Play, suddenly the revitalized downtown area had a bloc of like-minded owners who thought live music could help distinguish their bars.
Dean worked with Jason Tapp, owner of Greek’s Pizzeria & Tapp Room, to create a special showcase during the week. Frank Dean’s Acoustic Open Stage is a standing event every Tuesday, where he enlists musicians from around the area — many of whom are just developing a following — and giving them free reign to perform.
The stripped-down events have been attracting a growing number of fans since it started a few weeks ago and has helped enhance an otherwise slow weeknight, Tapp said.
“It’s just local talent, bringing it to the forefront and giving them a stage where the band can draw a different fan base,” he said. “The people of Franklin are looking for entertainment right in their own community, where they don’t have to travel to Greenwood or Indianapolis to see a show.”
Attendance has been solid at live shows this spring, but bar owners expect it to really explode this summer. Warmer weather and the opportunities to have more shows outdoors creates an exciting opportunity, Priola said.
“We hear from our customers all of the time how much they enjoy the music, asking when a certain act is coming back or the next time we’re having music,” he said. “They love just being able to sit out, enjoy a good beer and watch a good band.”
Live shows in Franklin
BoJaks Bar and Grill
Where: 377 E. Jefferson St.
- Saturday: Spanky’s Clubhouse, 10 p.m.
- May 27: The Company Band, 10 p.m.
- June 3: Lemon Wheel, 10 p.m.
- June 10: Killing Karma, 10 p.m.
- June 17: Jambox, 10 p.m.
- June 24: Ripple Effect, 10 p.m.
Triple Play BBQ
Where: 186 W. Jefferson St.
- Friday: Cadillac Scott and The Snakehandlers, 9 p.m. to midnight
- Saturday: The Gold Dust All Female Band, 9 p.m. to midnight
- May 28: Jesse Kramer, 8:30 p.m. to midnight
- June 3: The Wilsons, 7:30 to 10 p.m.
- June 4: Tastes Like Chicken, 9 p.m. to midnight
- June 18: GlamericA and Broken Silence, 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Greek’s Pizzeria & Tapp Room
Where: 18 E. Jefferson St.
Shows: Every Tuesday, Frank Dean’s Acoustic Open Stage, 7 to 10 p.m.
The Jefferson Street Pub
Where: 90 E. Jefferson St.
Shows: Every Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m.
The Grill Bar
Where: 138 E. Jefferson St.
- Friday: Stampede String Band, 9 p.m. to midnight
- May 27: Shifty Digits, 9 p.m. to midnight
Where: 99 N. Main St.
- May 28: Flatland Harmony Experiment, 8 p.m.
- June 3: Brandon StanleyJune 11: Ben MorrisJune 18: Midwest Rhythm ExperimentJune 24: The Stampede String Band