No Love Like Indiana: A Retrospective on the Music in Bloomington
Early on in my freshman year, I was keyed into the concept of house shows – a wild world where sweaty kids would pack into a dusty basement, drink beer, and listen to live music at a relatively unsafe volume. It was in this way that I made some close friends and discovered some of my favorite bands. I learned more about music in my four years at Indiana University than I did in the 14 years of my life that preceded it. As I prepare to leave Bloomington, I’ve gotten sappy about a lot of my experiences here and the music scene is no different. So, as I have with many other things, I decided that it was time to make a formal acknowledgment of those artists and people that have shaped my musical journey throughout college.
Dietrich Jon was one of THE Bloomington bands for the first two years of my college career. The violin-fronted rock group helped define the theory of the house show to me and became one of the first bands I fell in love with in this town. They released the Higher EP in the spring of 2014, played a variety of WIUX sessions and shows, and performed at Culture Shock the following year, cementing themselves as a favorite at WIUX and across all of Bloomington. The band hit CMJ in New York in 2015 and, after a lineup change and a brief hiatus, the band is back playing shows in Bloomington and is gearing up to release their first full-length record.
Little Timmy McFarland of Flight 19
Another Culture Shock alumn, Little Timmy started as the drum machine and acoustic guitar project of IU student Dan Talton. Over time they evolved into a god-only-knows-how-many-piece, adding in accordions, horns, extra guitar players and vocalists, and a live drummer to totally flip the sound of their records and live shows. Talton’s lyrical skill and vocal presentation is a huge part of the draw, combining classic country honesty and emotion with a sort of punk rock boldness. This band looked just as at home on a stage as they did in a kitchen with Talton screaming his head off (no microphone, of course), and they have just recently formed a new band in L.A. to take the West Coast by storm. But don’t worry – they haven’t forgotten their Indiana roots, as indicated by this mesmerizing track from their most recent record The Gospel of Daniel.
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Ok, honorable mention and giving credit where credit is due. There’s only so much I can offer as it comes to the most recent ‘Cinderella story’ of Bloomington basements, but Hoops did something special that’s easy for people performing and seeing bands in this town to forget is possible – they made it. No matter on your opinion on the music, they are a record deal and an international tour into what is shaping up to be a very prosperous career, and that in itself is saying something. It’s a signal that those bands that are poorly lit, dusty, and swimming in a sea of crushed PBR cans all could be moments away from their big break.
The moment for Patchwork seemed to come and go relatively quick, but their stay was worthwhile. Whether they were presenting themselves as a stripped down acoustic act or as the full-blown electronic landscape presented on their first (and only) record, Patchwork had a way of gripping you from the first listen. Members of the band referred to the group’s LP All the Good Parts as frontman Neal Anderson’s love letter to the world, mapping out optimism and heartbreak in ten tracks in a way that’s unlike anything I’ve heard, commercial or otherwise. The band has since disappeared seemingly without a trace, but here’s to holding out for another Patchwork record to fall into our laps when we least expect it.
Some people know him as a professor and some people know him as a musician (and even a lucky few know him as both), but one of the most notable parts of my musical (and personal) growth in Bloomington came from Andy Hollinden’s lectures. People from other universities liked to laugh when I told them things like “I’m taking a class on The Beach Boys”, but courses like this one taught me how to write, perform, and analyze music in a way that captivates people and actually means something more than just sounding good. One of my final moments in a lecture hall during my four years at IU was spent with Andy telling a room of 100 people that whether you contribute to the good or fight the bad, that you should always make an effort to “turn up the warmth” in our world. Of all the things I’ve learned as an undergrad, that one will likely stick with me the most.
Of course, I can ramble forever. But in respect the readers, the editors, and my fingers, I will condense this final stretch into one all-inclusive list of people in Bloomington that have flat out killed it in the music scene over the last few years: Winspear, Mike Adams at his Honest Weight, Lil’ Bub (because come on!), Amy O, Home Planet, Her Again, Whale Bones, ExWo, Sunspots, Brownies in Cinema, Wonderhills (FKA The Underhills), and the good ol’ boy Brian Berger.