In 2004 Jeb Banner launched a little website focused on something that meant -- and means -- a great deal to him: Indiana music. After years of playing, recording and listening to homegrown records, Banner recognized that there was a way for his increasingly scattered sonic community to remain connected through MP3 archives. Musical Family Tree (MFT) was born. In the decade since it launched, MFT has been through many changes, in structure, parts and leadership, but it remains steadfastly focused on amplifying the sounds that are rooted in Hoosier soil. Today, it hosts more than 18,000 songs by 1,200 bands.
- Courtesy Musical Family Tree
Originally launched in 2004, Musical Family Tree's structure has evolved, from MP3 archive to Ning site and back to an archive with added tools including streaming radio and a blog.
This weekend, the organization hosts two concerts to honor what it has become and, hopefully to build its capacity to go further. Since becoming an independent nonprofit organization after many years of being incubated by Banner's SmallBox web development and marketing business, the group has focused on both sustainability and new possibilities. With that in mind, Friday's show at The Speak Easy in Midtown is a fundraiser featuring Hen, KO, Jorma Whitaker and Heavy Hometown, and Christian Taylor and Homeschool. And Saturday's lower-cost show, hosted by both Radio Radio and White Rabbit Cabaret in Fountain Square, celebrates MFTÕs increasingly broad focus. From ByBye, a new band that includes musicians whose recordings were some of the original MFT content, to the hyper, sweaty sounds of Andy D, Saturday's concert has a genre-busting bill designed to highlight the diversity of Indiana songs.
For many local music makers, though, the events promise to do two things: celebrate MFT's impact on the state's scene and pay for programs that can support musicians and spark the next generation of listeners. The group's board and advisory collaborators have a lot of ideas for the future, but their implementation relies on additional support.
"We've been talking about everything from more web content to creating a kids' program to take into the schools, and they'd all need some more money," says Jon Rogers, MFT's executive director. "But we also want to really do our mission with these events, we want to give people a taste of where music has been and what's happening now."
MFT offers both an opportunity for exposure and a spot for inspiration to musicians and listeners. It's a role that recently led to the resource being recognized with a NUVO Cultural Vision Award.
"MFT is probably one of the coolest things happening in Indiana right now," says Kristin Newborn, whose pop and afro-grunge band KO, also featuring Toddrick Heaton, plays Friday night. "If you haven't spent an afternoon drinking Hamm's and traveling incredibly deep inside that website where you realize three hours just passed and now you're listening to a band called Patachou with song titles named after omelets, then maybe you should. MFT is what's up. There's something for everybody."
- Jon Rogers
Musical Family Tree added an extra night of anniversary celebrations with a 12-hour overnight "Noise-A-Thon" earlier this week.
The anniversary activity isn't restricted to the back-to-back concerts. MFT also published a special anniversary issue of its zine that includes a mix of comic strips, personal essays, rundowns on MFTs biggest years and a slew of illustrations. They also held a grown-up, life-streaming "Noise-A-Thon" with drummers, sound loopers and more collaborating on a sound collage accompanied by BrainTwins' projected images from 7 p.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday. But for those wanting to either fuel or just witness MFT's work with this weekend's shows, tickets can still be purchased online.