by Ryan Fine

Fountain Square Music Festival is now in its fifth year and plenty of changes are coming to the event. Located in five tight-knit Indianapolis venues including a new outdoor main stage called THE NUCLEUS, the festival will welcome over 50 artists from all reaches of the nation on October 6 & 7.

Although the Midwest is home to several major music festivals including Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, nearly all of them require significant travel and financial commitments for Indiana residents. That’s why more and more Hoosiers are spreading the word that a fantastic new festival has been growing in their backyard.

The best part is that this festival is actually full of really great bands. I drove all the way to Kentucky this summer for Forecastle Festival, which was much more expensive and far away, and as it turns out, several of the bands I saw there are stopping by to play in Indy next weekend. But in addition to a number of major indie acts who are stopping by on national tours, Fountain Square will also feature a host of excellent local favorites.

With such a huge amount of music to choose from next weekend, it might be a little bit stressful to decide who to see. Here’s a quick guide to help you narrow it down.

The nationals

The setup of Fountain Square Music Festival is a little bit unconventional. Each night, the main stage will be the first to stop playing music, which means that once the night’s headliner is done playing, there will still be hours of music to experience indoors. Because of this, most of the big national indie bands will end up playing before 10PM.

On Saturday, the main headliner will be Phantogram, who will take the NUCLEUS stage at 8:20. This moody electronic duo caught my attention with their first album Eyelid Movies in 2011, but I was never able to catch them live until this year’s Forecastle Festival. Even though they sounded fantastic, I ended up pretty far away from the stage for their set, so I’m excited to see them in a more intimate setting, and the light show at the NUCLEUS should do them a lot of favors.

The first night at the main stage will be closed out by Dr. Dog, a prolific Beatles-influenced psychedelic band who has been around for almost two decades. This band released two albums last year, and it will be interesting to see if they stick to the new songs or if they venture into material from older albums like We All Belong or Fate.

Also making an appearance will be the indie darlings Real Estate, who was also at Forecastle this year, although I missed most of their set. This band blew up a few years ago with their critically acclaimed album Days, but I’ve also enjoyed the couple of releases they’ve had since then, including this year’s In Mind. The band WHY?, who will play on Saturday, has been a well-respected name in the indie sphere since their 2005 debut Elephant Eyelash. If hip hop-infused indie pop music sounds like something you would enjoy, be sure to catch their set.

The locals

If you’ve been paying attention to the Muncie music scene for a while, chances are you’ve seen some of these bands playing at Be Here Now or Village Green Records. Clint Breeze & the Groove, a vibrant hip hop and soul collective, has made several appearances in Muncie over the years, recently lighting up the front lawn at this year’s VGR back-to-school show.

The alt-pop quartet Shiny Penny, who may be the biggest stars of Kokomo, IN, will take the stage at the Hi-Fi on Friday night. They have played with the likes of Switchfoot and Bon Jovi, and their live set demands attention with a high amount of energy.

Some of the local bands will be a little bit more toned down and provide a necessary break. These will include the self-proclaimed “dusty sunshine rock” band Hales Corner, and Caleb McCoach, a local rock artist who has made multiple appearances at VGR in the past couple of years.

The somewhere-in-betweens

Bloomington indie rock band Hoops has had a busy year since they played the 2016 Fountain Square Music Festival. Having recently signed to Fat Possum Records, they had started to pick up some national attention on the strength of their debut EP. Now, Hoops is playing the same festival as a stop on a massive world tour that includes dates with The Clientele. Their debut full-length record Routines was released in May of this year.

Not long after that, the label debut Capture by Thunder Dreamer was released on 6131 Records. Thunder Dreamer, originally based in Evansville, has been playing the local scene for years, but their new album has picked up some very respectable press from Pitchfork. The band has also been named a Stereogum Artist to Watch. Meanwhile Amy O, who has been a local indie pop legend for quite some time, has released a new album called Elastic through Winspear.

Of course, the main appeal of music festivals for me has always been to discover new music. So even though there are plenty of great artists slated for Fountain Square who I’ve known for years, the biggest excitement for me is getting exposed to the dozens of artists I’ve never heard of who may soon become personal favorites.

For the full lineup of Fountain Square Music Festival, check out the event’s website.

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