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Review: Unicorn Derby’s Explosion of Awesome

Friday Photo Blog–Saturday Edition by Tim McLaughlin

Where:  Square Cat Vinyl / Fountain Square / Indianapolis

I could describe Unicorn Derby, but I think they did a really good job per their website:

“Once upon a time, in a mystical hipster land called Fountain Square, there was a very magical band contest. It wasn’t like ordinary band contests from ancient times, it was a Random Band contest of the future. There was a bucket, names were entered into said bucket, and random people would be chosen to form merry bands that play music. If they don’t break up in six weeks.”

The 2017 Random Band Challenge winners, Unicorn Derby, headlined a very special evening of music at Square Cat Vinyl.  First Friday’s are always hopping in Fountain Square, and this night was full of people to see some of the best musicians this city currently has.  Not only was Unicorn Derby (Grant McClinton/ Guitar-Lead Vocals, Joe O’Brien/ Guitar, Caleb Spicer Bass/ Vocals, Kevin Hood/ Drums) on stage, but two other Random Band Challengers.

The night started with the 2016 Random Band Challenge winners the ever-morphing Papa Warfleigh’s Funk Review performing without a bass, but always bringing their signature stage craft to the show.  For their last song the band’s drummer, Aaron McDonald, grabbed an acoustic guitar and sang solo a song he performed with Ocho, a group which is also part of the 2017 Random Band Challenge.  Second on the bill of three was the band 1923 (Emily Kelm Guitar/Ukelali/ Bass/ Vocals, Will Schaust/Guitar, Ryan Shore/ Drums, Eric Roesch Guitar/ Bass/ Vocals) also a fellow competitor in the 2017 Random Band Challenge.  The band had a kind of Saint Aubin vibe as Kelm switched between instruments, sometimes with herself and sometime with Roesch, all the while performing songs that made them one of the bands that put the pressure on Unicorn Derby.  So now let’s talk about the band that separated themselves from all of the other bands that night.

McLaughlin

Unicorn Derby and their EP Explosion of Awesome.

As the winner of the event’s sophomore edition, this four piece band was able to record at one of the city’s best recording facilities, The Lodge.

The EP consists of four songs (one of which I was able to sit in at The Lodge’s control board) was the first track: “Belong Where You Stay.”  With both O’Brien and McClinton on guitars you can imagine the guitar heavy feel this song would have, and you’d be right.  This very post-grunge song was a best track to start this EP, with a very anthem feel.  You know, the kind of song that makes people put their phones in the pockets.  Yeah….. like that.  “Between 83 &81” is a very heavy song as it really shows that the rhythm section can sometimes be more front and center that it might otherwise be.  Spicer on Bass and Hood on Drums play a bigger role on this track, and like ALL other their songs translate live, if not better, on the EP.  With the drums being out front on the song’s outset, it’s that track that most features O’Brien’s guitar work.  His riff brings me back to when I first listened to Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control.”  I have asked him on several occasions if he was a fan of Joy Division, which if asked again may end with a punch in my face.  The final song on the EP, “Heart Beat” is the love song of the set and is a very well-crafted crescendo to this set of tracks.

Now on to the live performance.

The beauty of the Random Band Challenge is that the majority of those who participate are seasoned musicians so it’s no open mic show.  Please note I am a fan of open mic nights, so let’s not go down that rabbit hole. What I mean by this is that it isn’t the singer/ guitar player out front belting out the songs and the bass player and the drummer staring at each other making sure they are playing in time.  Their nine-song set included the four songs from their EP and other songs that didn’t make it.  The final two songs really brought the full house to its loudest applause with their reggae sounding “Funeral Blues” and closed out the night with their dance track “Just Drunk Enough to Dance.”

I think the coolest thing about this night was the crowd that stayed from the first song of the first band to much later than the last song of the night.

I can’t recommend Unicorn Derby’s Explosion of Awesome enough.  Please take the time to download this as an early Christmas gift for yourself at www.unicornderby.com

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About Tim McLaughlin

Zionsville resident Tim McLaughin considers himself a documentarian behind the shutter. The owner of Hapless Guitar Photography, he enjoys shooting music and sports related photos, and as he likes to say, “almost anything.”

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