California has its Coachella, Chicago is the home of Lollapalooza and Tennessee hosts Bonnaroo every summer.
Those massive events are yearly highlights for lovers of live music.
Indianapolis doesn’t have anything on that scale. But in early October, it will stage a music festival that is garnering the region national attention.
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The Fountain Square Music Festival will bring together more than 60 national and local acts, performing on five stages in one of the funkiest neighborhoods downtown. Though the festival is five years old, this is the biggest and most ambitious inception of it yet, said Owen Thomas, creative director for the event.
“I think it’ll be great for Indianapolis to feel like they have a really cool festival. It may not be the biggest one, but we hope to create a really unique one, and show to the world that, while we certainly understand there is so much cool stuff happening on the coasts, there are some dreamers out here thinking of new things every day, and we love living here,” he said.
When the Fountain Square Music Festival first started in 2012, it was an organic gathering of friends in the Fountain Square neighborhood putting on an intimate event, Thomas said.
At the time, the festival was very small, with local friends coming out to play over the Fourth of July weekend.
Slowly, it started growing, spreading to multiple days and taking advantage of the eclectic venues of the neighborhood. In 2016, organizers decided to move the date from July to mid-March, positioning it to better attract national acts.
Though successful, there was so much more potential, said Thomas, who works as the creative director at the in Fountain Square-based digital filmmaking, design and immersive live experience studio Absorb.
“As we were looking at the infrastructure of the neighborhood and putting it against our penchant for immersive, experiential, close-proximity concert work that we do, we thought that maybe this year we could do a different type of festival,” he said. “I’m much more passionate about events being more finely curated and with maximum value for a fan, than in largesse, a massive, massive event.”
The festival boasts an impressive lineup of some of the most buzzworthy bands out there. Headliners include Phantogram, Real Estate, Dr. Dog and Bishop Briggs.
Local talents such as Lily & Madeleine, Brandon Whyde, Charlie Ballantine and DJ Metrognome will be perform at different venues as well. Richard Edwards, the force behind Indy favorites Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, will play a late-night set.
“It had to be bands that we really loved. We wanted to think more about bands that meet a certain artistic, cultural criteria, more than just who could tell tickets. Fortunately, there are bands out there that do both,” Thomas said.
Band will be performing in local clubs such as the Hi-Fi, Square Cat Vinyl, the White Rabbit Cabaret and Pioneer. But the centerpiece of the festival will the Nucleus stage, featuring stunning lighting and production design meant to create a unique experience in the heart of Fountain Square.
Customized visual installations that play off the local architecture will allow the audience to become participants in an explosive atmosphere, Thomas said.
“There will be a sensory overload kind of thing,” he said.
The event also will take advantage of Fountain Square’s burgeoning food culture to provide a unique eating experience for festival-goers.
“The infrastructure is the core of the neighborhood: the people, the buildings, the way it’s set up. You literally won’t have to walk more than a block to get to anything at our festival,” Thomas said.
Fountain Square Music Festival
When: Oct. 6 and 7
Where: Fountain Square in downtown Indianapolis
Bands taking part include: Dr. Dog, Real Estate, COIN, Welshly Arms, Flint Eastwood, Lily & Madeleine, Arlie, Brandon Whyde, Phantogram, Bishop Briggs, The Cool Kids, Richard Edwards, Why?
Tickets: Single-day admission is $59 and includes all shows Oct. 7. A two-day festival pass is available for $99.
Information and full band schedule: fountainsquaremusicfest.org