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Oohs & Aahs from Blues Rock to Hip-Hop

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Israeli musician Yonatan Gat just doesn't like the feeling of being perched up on a stage in front of an audience. Instead, the guitarist, composer and improviser prefers to be right in the thick of things, shredding away alongside drummer Gal Lazer and bassist Sergio Sayeg, amid his audiences.

"They can be really close to me, really close to my amp, really close to the drums, and it's just a completely different experience," Gat explains. "Since what we do is improvised, it really depends on what happens in the atmosphere of the room in that moment, and where's a better place to feel the atmosphere than in the middle of it?"

If you like what you hear and want a souvenir, you can grab Gat's digital album Director  for $7 . - COURTESY OF JOYFUL NOISE RECORDINGS
  • Courtesy of Joyful Noise Recordings
  • If you like what you hear and want a souvenir, you can grab Gat's digital album Director for $7 .

Gat's floor-performing days started many years ago, while playing guitar in celebrated Tel Aviv garage rock band Monotonix. Known for its rambunctious live shows, the band unfortunately found itself with very few places to play in its home country though. Gat recalls, "We really pissed people off. Everybody would tell me to turn down my guitar amp all the time, and people would tell us, 'You can't do this, and you can't do that.' So at some point, we just couldn't get a gig in Israel." This led Monotonix to migrate to the United States, where the band's rebellious sound was met with acceptance.

Since his previous band's breakup in 2011, though, Gat has continued playing music under his own name, fusing elements of rock 'n' roll with many other sounds from around the world. This new improvisation-heavy path can be heard on his most recent album titled Director, which was released earlier this year via Indy-based record label Joyful Noise Recordings. But while Gat may have shifted his sound a little bit, he still lives a stage-free life. "We don't do a show if we can't play on the floor," he says. This prerequisite isn't keeping Gat away from visiting Indianapolis either. In fact, the upcoming Fountain Square Music Festival will have a special area set up for the guitarist and his band, explains FSMF Board Chair Adam Pederson.

"They don't like to play on a stage, so we're customizing this crazy platform to put in the middle of the festival for those guys to play on," Pederson says.

In its biggest year yet, the third annual festival will take place from July 1 through July 4, welcoming a diverse lineup of local and regional acts to several different Fountain Square locations. Unlike previous years, FSMF has teamed up with several venues in the neighborhood, which will be hosting indoor shows on July 1, 2 and 3 in conjunction with the festival. Like last year, the FSMF main event will again take place on July 4, with 13 acts performing on two outdoor stages.

Sky Blue Window contributor Seth Johnson  got a closer look at Pravada ahead of last year's WARMfest. - COURTESY OF PRAVADA

Between playing in bands and working in the bar and restaurant industry, Pravada vocalist/guitarist Jesse Lee has been around Fountain Square for more than a decade now. In that time, he admits that he has seen the neighborhood grow in leaps and bounds. Looking ahead to his band's July 1 FSMF appearance at The White Rabbit Cabaret with local bands America Owns the Moon and S.M. Wolf, he also acknowledges the festival's evolution as well. "I think that every year it continues to grow in amount of collaborators," he says. Additionally, he praises the 2015 festival's very diverse lineup, which includes everything from hip-hop to blues-rock.

Being the only rapper on the FSMF lineup, Indianapolis' Sirius Blvck (whose latest album titled Chedda Biscuits drops this Tuesday, June 30) is also excited about the vast spectrum of sounds that will be represented at the festival. "The best shows I've ever performed at or have been able to be a part of were multi-genre bills. I feel like it does something for everybody, because everybody's there together," he says. "No matter what you look like or what you listen to, everybody's there for the show and everybody's there to have a good time."

Sirius Blvck performs with fellow Rad Summer artist Oreo Jones. - PHOTO BY ROBERT CAMPOS
  • Photo by Robert Campos
  • Sirius Blvck performs with fellow Rad Summer artist Oreo Jones.

Those are Pederson thoughts as well. He thinks it's a good way to foster a greater appreciation for local artists. "My hope for people that come to the music festival is for them to see that there's momentum already being created, and hopefully they jump on board with that momentum and ... become supporters and advocates for Indiana music."

As the festival continues to grow and develop in the coming years, Pederson ultimately hopes that the city of Indianapolis can embrace FSMF as a mainstay music festival too.

"Over the past three years, we've just continued to progressively take steps into what we see as the right direction," he says. "So my hope is that Indianapolis will adopt that and come alongside of us."

For more information on this year's Fountain Square Music Festival, visit the festival's website.

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