Patrick Barcus: The Summer Concert Picks

Let’s get something straight right from the start. If you’re the type who likes Billboard Top 40 music, Mainstream Country, or Classic Rock, you may have wandered into the wrong neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong. I still jam along when Led Zeppelin hits the radio. And I’m a sucker for an old school hip-hop song (The freaks come out at night / the freaks come out at night!) and 70s soft rock anthems. But if you revel in the slick polish of the pop acts and genre-specific festivals that pack Klipsch Music Center, the artists here may be new to you. But I’m begging you, give ‘em a listen. They’re some of the finest national acts in indie-rock and alt-country and they’ll be gracing an Indianapolis stage soon.

 Langhorne Slim & the Law
April 25 – The Hi-Fi
1043 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis

Langhorne Slim brings his unique brand of acoustic-electric, bluesy rock to the cozy Hi-Fi, which is quickly becoming the place to see great live music in Fountain Square. And Langhorne Slim may be one of the most energetic shows you’ll see, as he jumps on the kick drum and caroms off sound equipment, all while belting out beautiful songs that rise and fall like the wind. With his one-of-a-kind voice, situated somewhere between Cat Stevens and cats fornicating, his ballads can gut you on the spot.

May 7 – Old National Centre
502 N New Jersey St., Indianapolis

Jeff Tweedy and company bring their seminal sound to Indy, which will probably be their only appearance of the year in the Circle City. One of the finest ensembles in alternative music, which just barely defines them genre-wise, Wilco provides big tone balanced with some of the most confessional and poetic lyrics in American music. Tweedy’s honest songs can start at the corner store and end up on Mars, courtesy of his band-mates. Oh, and Tweedy just happens to be considered one of the founders of the alt-country genre, so he’s got that going for him, too.

Fort Frances
May 9 – The Hi-Fi
1043 Virginia Ave., Indianapolis

Chicago’s Fort Frances hit the Hi-Fi for what is sure to be a great show. With some of the fullest, warmest sound to emanate from a trio, Fort Frances’ songs resonate on incredible harmonies, lilting rhythms, and real emotions. One of the Windy City’s best kept secrets, Indy is currently one of only three tour stops the band has planned for the year so far. The others? Chicago and New York. Don’t miss it. And, since you’ll be thanking me in your head after the show, I’ll just go ahead and say, “You’re welcome.”

May 28 — The Vogue
6259 North College Avenue, Indianapolis

New Albany’s own Houndmouth hits the Vogue in support of their sophomore album, Little Neon Limelight. The band has scored big nationally, playing big festivals like SXSW and Lollapalooza, as well as late night TV stages like Letterman and others. But they often save the best for Indy shows, giving a little extra for their Hoosier brethren. With slick, electro-charged hooks, solid harmonies, and some of the finest cautionary tales in the business, Houndmouth should be considered a state treasure. They are, in my humble opinion, the best alt-country act ever to come out of Indiana. But, you don’t have to take my word for it; both SPIN and labelled them as a must see act.

Lake Street Dive
May 29 – The Vogue
6259 N College Ave., Indianapolis

What happens when you combine four New England Conservatory of Music alums, killer hooks, and a whole lotta soul? You get Lake Street Dive. This Boston quartet’s sound drifts from rock, to jazz, to Motown, and all points in between. Their unreal musicianship and sharp, witty lyricism have made them media darlings on the coasts, but this is their first gig in Indianapolis since the release of their excellent LP, Bad Self Portraits. Hopefully it won’t be their last. And Rachel Price’s voice? You may feel a little more than hot-and-bothered, so bring an extra towel.

Father John Misty See Creative Commons Attributes below.
Father John Misty
See Creative Commons Attributes below.

Alabama Shakes w/ Father John Misty
June 2 – The Lawn at White River State Park
801 W Washington St., Indianapolis

Many of us already know of Brittany Howard’s unbelievable voice and the Shakes’ penchant for old-school, Muscle Shoals style R&B. But most people’s experience with the band is through the repeated flogging of their hit, “Hold On,” at the hands of mainstream radio stations, like WTTS. But their full catalog is a much more extensive playground than the talking heads in your car stereo may let on. Need proof? Check out their recent Saturday Night Live gig on the streaming service of your choice. The band is sure to raise some spirits when they hit what is easily the best outdoor concert venue in the city. And for those of you unfamiliar with Father John Misty, prepare yourself for the most wonderful kind of musical weirdness rock and roll has to offer. The former Fleet Foxes drummer-turned solo shaman is a sure bet to impress with one of the most original and eclectic sounds in rock today.

Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes- See Creative Commons Attributes below.
Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes-
See Creative Commons Attributes below.

Hozier w/ Dawes
June 11 – The Lawn at White River State Park
801 W Washington St., Indianapolis

Another artist who can’t seem to escape being the victim of ad-nauseum play of one hit, Hozier deserves a deeper listen. While “Take Me to Church” is great song, highlighting Hozier’s vocal range and emotion, there are much better offerings deeper down in the catalog. But the real under-appreciated stars here are Dawes, who blend a clear Southern California, 1970s sound with introspective lyrics and killer musicianship, led by the Goldsmith brothers on guitar and drums. With soaring harmonies, insane guitar work and the occasional touching ballad, Dawes offer something few current bands can. If you’re not listening to Dawes already, go scold yourself in the mirror, then console yourself with those carbs you’ve been avoiding and a ticket to this show.

Todd Snider
June 26 – The Vogue
6259 N College Ave., Indianapolis

Veteran singer-songwriter Todd Snider brings his authentic approach to music to town to kick off the summer. Carrying on the tradition of greats like John Prine and Jerry Jeff Walker, Snider spins a yarn like no other and even wrote a song about being arrested in Greencastle (true story) called “Greencastle Blues,” which is a regular on the set list and sure to make an appearance at a local show. If you like to watch real artists at work, Snider is your man. He seems to naturally blend great music with great short stories, which run the gamut in terms of subject matter, from autobiographical vignette’s to strange tales, like the story of Major Leaguer Doc Ellis, who pitched a no-hitter while tripping on LSD (can it get any better than that?).

I hope you get to catch at least one of these great acts. If not, I hope you at least get turned on to some great music. Check back later in the season, when I’ll highlight some of the summer’s sweetest shows.

Langhorne Slim See Creative Commons Attributes Below

Photo Attributes:

The Vogue by Hailestorm is used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.
The photo of Langhorne Slim titled DSC_4312.NEF by David Owen is used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).
taylor goldsmith of dawes by Joey Parsons is used under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).
Father John Misty (Utopia, Texas 2014-09-12) by Ralph Arveson is used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

Patrick Barcus
Author: Patrick Barcus

Patrick Barcus holds an MFA from Butler University and teaches writing at Indiana State University. He’s the front-man for the local band, Saturday Shoes, and also happens to be one hell of a poet.

Join Our Newsletter