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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Best Bang For Your Summer Buck - SummerBash Indiana 2021

Brandon and Raneigh Perkins

As we began to emerge from out self-imposed musical exile and enter back into a world where live music and larger social gatherings are approaching "normal" levels, I'm struck with the notion that these events will never be the quite the same.  Without engaging in pointless political or philosophical debate (which--in my opinion--have absolutely no place in discussing live music) the reality is that the COVID 19 Pandemic has fundamentally altered  the fan-musician-promoter dynamic and the ways in which the three interact to present live, local music events.  The pent up demand for live music coupled with the realities of providing a safe, entertaining and engaging event will--I pray--lead to innovation and evolution in exactly what constitutes "normal" in the coming years.   Perhaps the leaders in this new musical revolution are the crew behind Bud Light Presents Summer Bash Indiana 2021 at the Water Bowl.  This private-party-turned-mini-festival really breaks the mold of what these types of events could--and probably should--be going forward. 

The Native Howl Doing Their Thing
According to  co-founders Raneigh and Brandon Perkins, Summer Bash began eight years ago outside of Indianapolis as a back-yard party, a keg of beer and some burgers on the grill that just happened to feature a friend performing live music on a trailer.  As the party grew bigger each year, a chance online encounter led him to inviting a regionally touring band, The Native Howl, to perform at the party.  When you meet Brandon, you should have him relate this story to you, complete with sledgehammers, near electrocutions and waking up face down in the dew-damp grass the next morning.   Realizing that they were on to something, the party eventually moved to Walnut Grove Campground and featured an honest-to-goodness stage and professional sound system.  More bands performed and the Summer Bash "Family" continued to grow.  By 2019 Brandon, Raneigh and a close friend Sam Jackson got together and made if official...Summer Bash was now a public event and had grown from private party to "Central Indiana's Premier All Inclusive Music Festival".  

The Glory That Is The Water Bowl!

This year marked the inaugural use of  Summer Bash Indiana's  new home, The Water Bowl in Muncie, Indiana.  This vintage family recreation center offered not only a swimming beach and locker rooms, but abundant primitive camping sites, covered areas for stages and food and the most helpful (and hard working) staff you can imagine.   The potential for this site to host more, and larger events is unlimited.  And speaking of "unlimited", the folks at Summer Bash have taken the idea of "value added" to a whole new level with their concept of an "all-inclusive" music festival.   For the low (VERY low)  introductory price of only $80 this year,  their festival ticket covered everything!  And I do mean EVERYTHING!  Admission to the Water Bowl, parking, and primitive camping?  Yep!  Included in the price.  Two days of music on two stages with over 20 bands?  They covered that too (less than $4.00 per band...you just can't beat that price, even without all the extras)!  And on Saturday, they raise the bar again with free all-you can eat/drink (responsibly and within reason) burgers/dogs, soft-drinks, wine and beer.  They even pick up the ticket fees.  So what you see is what you pay with no hidden charges.   I know that just the food and beer is worth more than the ticket price!  

Hollow Intent (North Carolina)

The musical offerings vary from year to year, and continue to evolve, but I can guarantee that the bands are always top-notch--a mix of local professional bands and regional/national touring acts with a heavy emphasis on independent musicians.  While always an electric-rock oriented festival, this year's lineup tended to be a little more on the heavier southern rock/outlaw/metal side of my musical preference.  However, due to the quality of the bands, and the hard work the organizers put into vetting them, I was able to find something I liked about EVERY band on the roster this year:  a singer with a powerful voice, a lead guitar player strutting their stuff, a drummer with a killer sense of timing, top notch songwriting with something to say, a high energy stage show and (my favorite) a bass player/rhythm guitar player with enough drive, funk and groove to get the crowd up dancing.  The level of professionalism, musicianship and stage presence on exhibit at Summer Bash is as good (or better) than anything you will see this summer!

The Unexpected Sounds of Desevren

Even though ALL the bands at Summer Bash were excellent, there were a few performances that really stood out to me; either by virtue of their performance, or just because they were a wee-bit different than the other bands (and thereby caught my attention).  The first of these was the opening band, The Missing Letters out of the Ti-Cities area of Minnesota.   An endlessly entertaining and infectiously enthusiastic band, they stole the show on the second stage Saturday.  Read more HERE .   Smack dab in the middle of the Saturday Main stage was the band Desevren from Indianapolis.  I was familiar with their Metallica-inspired sound from a previous Bash but was totally unprepared for the storm of crazy cover tunes the band unleashed.  Dripping with energy, the band came out with guns blazing and never took their foot off the pedal for a nearly 60 minute deep-dive into everything a summer festival band should be: Interesting, Entertaining and Enjoyable. 

Glamerica In The House!
And speaking of cover bands (a genre I generally avoid), there is simply none better than Bash Favorites and Friday night headliner Glamerica (also out of the Indianapolis area) who recall those fabulous days when MTV actually played music and hair-metal bands captured all of our imagination.  And this band does it with STYLE!  Over a 3+ hour set (with NO break) the band delivered perfection.  Not only in their covers of the classic Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Whitesnake and Joan Jett classics we all know and love, but in their tireless commitment to capturing the look, the attitude and the SWAGGER of those bands.  Part theater, part modern-day burlesque (tease, don't show) and one hundred percent entertaining, this is one band where the audience can feed off the energy on stage just as much as the band can feed off the audience's enthusiasm.   One HELL of an entertaining show.   By the end of the show, I was physically and emotionally drained; held up by nothing more than sheer will, the friends around me and possibly a considerable amount of gelatin from the plentiful jello-shots circulating in the crowd.

Erin and Jake from The Native Howl

I have known the member of the Native Howl for a long time now.  Their blend of bluegrass musicality and instrumentation with the passion and frenetic energy of thrash metal music simply has to be witnessed to be truly appreciated.  Coming off a poorly timed COVID hiatus on the the heels of a couple viral videos, Summer Bash marked to return to live performances for the new, improved lineup and the stepping off on their inevitable rise to regional and national acclaim.   Original drummer Josh Lemieux has taken a semi-permanent break from the band to concentrate on raising his kids so "new" drummer Zach Bolling (who's been with the band for almost 2 years, but is still the "new guy") stepped in and filled those shoes admirably.   And speaking of fatherhood, new daddy and banjo player Jake Sawicki made his triumphant return to the band at Summer Bash and proved he hasn't missed a beat with his considerable banjo chops and vocal harmony skills.    Fans were also introduced to unofficial "fifth" member of the band, and front man Alex Holycross' songwriting partner Erin Zindle on the fiddle.   Her contribution certainly adds a new layer and depth to the band's songs.  As usual, their performance was over-the-top and accentuated by an incredible light show.  Their nearly two-hour set passed by in what seemed like mere minutes.  When they make there way close to you, go see the Native Howl.  You'll be glad you did. 

I could sit here and write for weeks, and not cover everything there is to love about Summer Bash Indiana.  The music is great.   The Water Bowl is a quirky, funky, cool place to hang out.  Those burgers hit the spot.  Who doesn't love free beer?  But who am I kidding?  It's the People, the Places and the Music (in that order)...and the People at the Bash are the best.  It was probably one of the Perkins' who said it first, but I heard it OVER and OVER all weekend long..."if you're not family when you come to the Bash, you will be when you leave!"  So...with Summer Bash 2022 just announced, keep in touch with them at www.summerbashindiana.com and/or follow them on Facebook.  See you there!

 Thank You Brandon, Sam and Raneigh - Team Summer Bash



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