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Getting Fresh with the Talent

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This Friday night will certainly not be the first time Jacob Gardner and his Raw McCartney band mates will be taking the stage at The White Rabbit Cabaret -- nor will it be their first night of demolishing eardrums with a wall of piercing psychedelic sound. It will, however, mark the band's first time playing the rock 'n' fundraiser known as Tonic Ball.

For the event's 13th installment, 60 local bands and 270 musicians will come together to pay tribute to Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks, Velvet Underground/Lou Reed and Nirvana/Foo Fighters. Taking place at four Fountain Square venues (Radio Radio, the Fountain Square Theatre, The White Rabbit Cabaret and The Hi-Fi), all proceeds from Tonic Ball 13 will once again be donated to Second Helpings, a local charity dedicated to feeding people in need.

Evan Finch, right seen playing the 2013 Tonic Ball, will cover the Velvet Underground at White Rabbit with the reunited Lovemeknots.  - DANIEL AXLER
  • Daniel Axler
  • Evan Finch, right seen playing the 2013 Tonic Ball, will cover the Velvet Underground at White Rabbit with the reunited Lovemeknots.

For their set at The White Rabbit Cabaret, Raw McCartney will perform "a very weird, drawn out, spacey" 15-minute version of the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs," according to Gardner. In speaking to why they chose to perform at Tonic Ball for the first time ever this year, he reflects, "We just wanted to use the opportunity to do something different as a band." In truth though, newcomers to the Ball, such as Raw McCartney, are just what organizers of the event were hoping for.

"Getting some of the younger talent was definitely something we were focusing on, to keep the event fresh and to keep a wide range of people interested in coming to the show," explains Tonic Ball committee member Scott Watson.  "I think if the bill kind of remains the same 40 bands every year, it gets a little stale, so you've gotta keep things fresh. Plus some of the older bands are getting old, and they're going to stop playing, so we've gotta get young blood in now -- show them how cool of an event it is and hopefully rope them in for the long haul."

Bonesetters, seen here at the Indy CD & Vinyl Record Store Day 2014 stage, will play at Radio Radio's Nirvana stage. - WHITNEY WALKER
  • Whitney Walker
  • Bonesetters, seen here at the Indy CD & Vinyl Record Store Day 2014 stage, will play at Radio Radio's Nirvana stage.

The Bonesetters are another one of the younger acts performing at this year's Tonic Ball. After a positive experience in 2013, the group returns to the Tonic stage for the second time, playing a set of Nirvana tunes at Radio Radio this time around. Lead singer/guitarist Dan Snodgrass remembers what originally attracted his band to the event in the first place.

"I would see things about Tonic Ball all the time and the bands they would pull for it," Snodgrass says. "It always seemed like a fun thing to support a good cause. What could be better than playing a great show alongside so many great local acts for a cause that affects someone's life in my community?"

Brian Deer also recalls being drawn to the Tonic Ball cause when he was asked to play the first-ever fundraiser back in 2002. Since then, he's been involved with nearly every one since, witnessing the event's growth firsthand. The Indy music veteran reflects, "I love that it's grown into what it is. It started out with just a few bands at Radio Radio, and then it's grown exponentially over the years. I just feel like the level and quality of the people playing the shows has grown. This year, it seems like there are a lot of newer bands that are involved as well. It's always great to see that evolution." In examining the event's expansion since its humble start over a decade ago, Watson believes Tonic Ball's progress over the years has evolved naturally.

"We've got such a good past now that the growth has really just been so organic," he says. "We really haven't done anything that outlandish to make the show grow." 

Brian Deer has played guitar and sung in almost every Tonic Ball in a variety of bands.  - TONIC INDY
  • Tonic Indy
  • Brian Deer has played guitar and sung in almost every Tonic Ball in a variety of bands.

Ultimately though, its longtime participants such as Deer that have served as the foundation for Tonic Ball's development. Watson explains, "They help provide a solid base, and it lets us experiment a little bit more -- like adding new talent and that kind of thing." With the participation from these old-timers and newcomers alike, Tonic Ball 13 will mark the event's biggest year yet -- not only putting joy in the hearts of countless music fans, but also food on the plates of countless Hoosiers in need.

"We're going to raise the most funds we've ever raised, which, in the end, is what it's all about," Watson concludes.

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