An outdoor music festival is the all-you-can-eat buffet of rock, R&B, bluegrass, country and every other musical style.
The opportunity to watch dozens of live bands with thousands of fans in the summer sun is nirvana for music lovers.
But in recent years, central Indiana has proven to be a desert when it comes to music festivals. Fans would have to drive to Chicago, Louisville or farther to get their glut of nationally lauded bands.
Organizers of the second-annual White River Arts Recreation and Music Festival hope to change that. They have lined up more than 50 bands to perform at historic Broad Ripple Park over Labor Day weekend.
From the lo-fi rock of Sebadoh to the Southern swagger of former Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson to local celebrity DJ Action Jackson, many genres of music will be available for fans during the festival.
“We have a lot of big headliner names that play festivals and the festival circuit, in addition to the local bands and DJs,” said Jack Shepler, a festival promoter. “We looked at bands that make sense, that we think fits the community.”
Headliners such as MUTEMATH, an alt-rock band from New Orleans, will supply soaring vocals and frenetic instrumentals, while ’90s darlings Big Head Todd and the Monsters bring a more mellow vibe to the show.
Indie rockers Guided By Voices provide weariness of grizzled rock veterans. Ghosthouse’s electro-dance beats will keep people dancing.
Local mainstays such as the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Bashiri Asad and Zero Boys will represent Indianapolis’ music scene.
Soul-rap-rock maestro Andy D, a Greenwood native better known as Andy Duncan, was slated to perform last year. A massive thunderstorm cancelled his set, but he sees the potential that the festival has, which is why he signed on to play again this year.
“What we did get to experience of it last year was awesome — the merchant bazaar and music combined was just a nice summer day in the park, despite the impending cataclysmic thunderstorm,” he said.
Indianapolis folk rocker Jessie Phelps did perform at WARMfest last year with her band Jess and Amy. She’ll be back again this year with Ghosts of Kin, her collaboration with guitarist Alan Long.
Having been part of such a unique event in 2013, it was easy to get involved with it again.
“You’re hanging out and listening to the music,” Phelps said. “Being right on the river, it gives it such a welcoming feel, like you are on a retreat at a lake. It’s so cool.”
The WARMfest was created last year as a way to tout the benefits of the Broad Ripple neighborhood, as well as spotlight the river that runs through it.
A century ago, the land around the White River was the center of recreation in the area.
An amusement park hugged the banks near Broad Ripple Village, with wooden rollercoasters and what was at the time the largest outdoor swimming pool in the country.
Paddle-wheel boats traveled up and down the river, while people fished, canoed and swam in the water.
But over the past century, pollution, mismanagement and invasive species have damaged the ecosystem and left it as an afterthought in the Indianapolis area.
The festival will raise money for the restoration and protection of the river.
“It needs to be revitalized. It was a very important area of the city, and it’s a resource that is unrecognized for its natural beauty and recreational value,” said Dan Ripley, festival organizer and Broad Ripple resident. “It has been poorly mistreated in the past few decades.”
To emphasize the river’s importance, WARMfest will provide a series of water-related activities to go along with the music.
The paddlewheel boat Perseverance II will be taking festival-goers on private cruises all weekend, accompanied by participating bands giving smaller, stripped-down performances.
Wellness activities such as yoga and Zumba sessions will be held on the river banks, and people can jump into the water to try paddleboarding as well.
Organizers also said they hope the festival helps illuminate to all of central Indiana what Broad Ripple has to offer, Shepler said.
The neighborhood has become more known for its bar scene and nightlife, as well as incidents of violence recently. But local supporters would also like to see it strengthened as a cultural hub as well — adding to the musicians, artists, web designers and other creative people occupying it.
“Musicians have always been best at being the glue that holds together a community that cares about culture, history and urban live-ability, so I think it’s great that everyone got it together to bring awesome acts like of Montreal to town for a weekend of good fun, good culture and a good cause,” Duncan said.