Musical Family Tree

Spreading Indiana Music

Preview: LISTEN LOCAL July 19 (United States Three, Vacation Club, Amo Joy)

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Friday, July 19 brings the fourth installment in MFT's ongoing "Listen Local" concert series in Broad Ripple Park. All of the shows in the series are "pay what you want" with donations benefiting Indianapolis Parks Foundation. This round features three heavy hitters from central Indiana's rock scene whose influence touches a variety of projects spanning decades. The evening promises to be a bonanza of Indy's finest guitar-driven pop, rock and punk. If you haven't made it to a Listen Local show yet, check out some eye candy from our first two events:

Amo Joy

Music pours out of Amo Joy lead singer Adam Gross. When his well spring of creative energies begins to overflow, it isn't incoherent noise that spills in all directions. Gross has knack for crafting playful, imaginative pop songs at a prolific pace. My jaw dropped earlier this year when Gross released a solo EP under the moniker S.M. Wolf. The material was immediately addictive and relatable, with tracks like "King of the Suits" and "Wasted Eyes" feeling as if they had been residing in my back pocket for years. The remarkable strength of the EP was compounded upon learning that Gross had recorded the entire thing on his own, in two days.

Amo Joy recently dropped its fifth studio release, which MFT head honcho, Jon Rogers, covered admirably in a recent review. The last few years have brought some unforeseen changes to Amo Joy's line-up, after the band's longtime bassist Paul Cobb passed away unexpectedly in 2011. The band shifted focus in an effort to complete Cobb's unfinished solo work in a project called Hammer Screwdriver. Fortunately, Amo Joy is back and seemingly as strong as ever. The group's brand of straightforward melodies and whimsical lyricism should prove a delectable appetizer to longtime fans and uninitiated listeners alike.

Vacation Club

Vacation Club deserves a significant chunk of credit for the rise of the Fountain Square's tight-knit music scene over the last five years. The band cut its teeth in the historic, near-eastside neighborhood, transforming turn-of-the-century living rooms off of Morris St. into some of the best, sweat-drenched performance spaces in the city. Vacation Club cut the debut 7" release on local vinyl imprint GloryHole Records prior to its debut, self-titled EP released on cassette via Alabama's Happenin Records last year. For more on that, scope my review on Thought on Tracks.

The band borrows heavily from the jangly guitars and punk rock attitude of late 1960s garage rock. The sound is defined by the nasally falsetto of Vacation Club's lead singer Sam Thompson, whose vocals call to mind the post doo-wop aesthetic of The Ronnettes as much as anything more recent. It will be interesting to see how the band's blend of surf and garage rock translates to the spaciousness of Broad Ripple Park. After watching Vacation Club slam through an outdoor set at SXSW earlier this year, the band should prove poised to elevate its sound from the living room to the main stage.

United States Three

United States Three is a band whose influence stretches well beyond the sounds emanating from its member's various amplifiers and instruments. A brief glance at United States Three's list of related bands on its MFT Page serves as a veritable history of the last 30 years of central Indiana music: The Zero Boys, The Pieces, Tin Lounge, The Mysteries of Life, Marmoset, The Academy and many, many more. The group's impact, and that of its late drummer LonPaul Ellrich, prove as unwieldy and far-reaching as the MFT archive itself.

In his role at the recently shuttered Queensize Studio, front man Vess Ruhtenberg has helped to shape the sound of too many Indiana bands to name in this space. Enough about influence and impact. United States Three kicks ass. The band's heyday spanned the time from 1993 until 2000, during which it released four studio LPs. However United States Three has reformed in recent months with a vengeance, and has plans for a new full-length in the not-too-distant future. I caught the tail-end of the band's set at Broad Ripple Art Fair earlier this summer, which underscored the fact that Ruhtenberg hasn't lost his touch on guitar. Even in the middle of the afternoon while playing an abridged festival set, United States Three played a raucous string of songs built upon precision and power, offering up one of the day's most noteworthy performances. Needless to say, it's great to have these guys making noise around town again.

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