by Ben Shine
This week, while most of us are making dinner plans and getting kids to bed, more than 250 local musicians of every age, rank and genre will head into basements, studios, offices and garages all around town to practice their hearts out playing someone else's songs -- for Tonic Ball 13. This Friday, they'll strut their stuff all over Fountain Square to sold-out rooms at Radio Radio, Fountain Square Theatre, White Rabbit Cabaret and The HiFi.
I help organize the event and have done so for several years. It's more than just a volunteer gig for me; it's been a great learning experience. In my years lugging amplifiers and rustling bands on and off stage, I've restored my faith in Indianapolis' music community -- not as an audience member, which I've always been, but as a community member. Because, time after time, Tonic's performers disprove everything negative you may have thought or heard about local music or bands in general.
With that in mind, here are four common myths about music that I'd like to put to rest:
1. Myth: There's not a lot of talent in Indy.
From full-time marketers who can whip out a spot-on version of the entire B-side of the Beatles' Abbey Road to a full-on hillbilly version of Stevie Wonder's Isn't She Lovely, it takes guts to cover rock icons. But it takes real skill and a lot of practice for so many bands to do it so successfully. Cover shows have become au courant lately in Indy, with tribute shows year-round. We're proud that the Tonic Ball has shown that it's about performance as much as it is making the audience happy.
2. Myth: Musicians are selfish and only in it for the money.
I've done my time with musicians and artists. It's true that they can be a self-focused bunch. But every year on the Friday right before Thanksgiving week, they lug gear, show up on time, ham it up for each other and high five on their way off the stage. They ask nothing in return, because they know that every dollar raised from every ticket, T-shirt and sponsorship goes directly to a worthy cause. Yeah, they get plenty of Sun King beer, but that's their only material reward.
3. Myth: Cover shows are a second-class musical experience.
Cover songs are sort of a lightning rod for some musicians, in that they think performing covers cheapens the craft and audiences should only appreciate original songs. But you'll never hear a symphony violinist or a great jazz pianist say that, let alone one of the 1,800-plus people who've bought a wristband for this sold-out show.
4. Myth: Music scenes can't and won't comingle.
No, the Indianapolis music scene is not full of independent duchies with an interest in establishing neither accords nor formal treaties with those outside their genre. This town's too small for that, and at Tonic Ball the punks play alongside the jam bands who follow the reunited indie rockers from previous decades and cheer on the electronica group. It's, perhaps, a pre-Thanksgiving miracle that they all coexist, but it's a lot of fun to see them interact.
Being a part of the Tonic Ball gives me faith in our community's ability rally together to do good work. It really is Indianapolis -- and music -- at its best. And it's poised to raise enough money this Friday night to ultimately serve 85,000 of our city's less fortunate folks. And, I'm sorry (not sorry), but it's sold out.