Indianapolis musician/concert organizer/Nice Grants recipient Jacob Gardner is having a busy week. When I spoke to him a couple days ago, he rattled off a quick list of tasks he has left to complete before the third annual Cataracts Music Fest kicks off this Saturday, August 24 at 11:30 AM:
"I have to have the porta potties dropped off. I have to buy the generators. We weren't expecting the generator cost, since we weren't really going to need them before we got moved to the park. Finishing up some of the cosmetics on the props. Letting the volunteers know when they should be there and what they're doing."
Even with a cohort of 20 or so friends and volunteers to help make it happen, putting together this year's Cataracts is a rather daunting task. Given a last-minute venue change to Garfield Park (local authorities apparently feel that the fest is no longer feasible in a neighborhood setting) and the labor-intensive nature of the homemade stage props that have become a trademark of the fest (I hear there's a "wall of fog" this year that involves a large sheet of clear glass), it seems like the Cataracts crew has plenty of work to do before Saturday.
Cataracts is a people-powered cultural force with distinct overtones of all things psychedelic, underground and Midwestern. Jacob Gardner and his friends have revolutionized Fountain Square's house show scene by hosting an undeniably awesome DIY music fest right where they live. In previous years, the fest has attracted national acts like Gap Dream, Magic Milk, Pomegranates and Natural Child, as well as Indiana heavies like Tammar, Marmoset, and TV Ghost (to name just a few).
As you can see in the photos below, the props Gardner mentioned are outlandish and elaborate, but they're no joke. The aim of Nice Grants is to give a boost to Indianapolis-based projects in need of a little funding, and Gardner was more than capable of putting his Nice Grants money to good use (as long as a 12-foot tall, mirror-covered pyramid falls under your definition of "good use").
Cataracts has always had a strong focus on community, which makes sense when you consider that the first two years of the festival took place at various houses in Gardner's neighborhood on Morris Street, in Indianapolis's arts-and-music-friendly Fountain Square district. This year, the festival has outgrown the backyards and alleys that previous attendees held so dear, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Garfield Park offers plenty of space, so it's less likely that any disgruntled neighbors will complain about the noise, and the crowd won't bleed over into any busy streets this time around. While the park also contains plenty of natural beauty, the charm of Gardner's neighborhood was always part of the appeal, but I have a feeling that this could be the biggest and best installment of the festival yet. And Gardner seems to have perfected the gritty Cataracts aesthetic, so I imagine the fest will still retain all the rough-hewn glory of years past, even in a somewhat more pastoral setting.
As in previous years, Cataracts will still offer four separate stages with staggered set times so that if anyone is dedicated (or just crazy) enough, it would be possible to catch part of every band's performance. Did I mention that there are 40 bands? Acclaimed underground acts like Cave, The Hussy and Bitchin' Bahas would be exciting enough on their own, but add local heroes like We Are Hex, Apache Dropout and Oreo Jones to the mix, and you've got yourself one magical day in what is quickly becoming one of the best music cities in the world.
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