Nick Ohler is on a lifelong search for the origins of musical innovation. As a former record store owner, on-again, off-again concert promoter, and general music junkie, Ohler's quest has led him further into the fringe, where he believes pure, unadulterated creativity takes place.
"After you hear so much music, you start to learn that everything is actually a fragment of something else," Ohler says. "Usually the ensembles or bands that generate that core essence, not always but usually, they're the ones that don't make any money at it ... So the goal of our group is to take what I think is an innovative core and promote it."
The group to which Ohler refers above is his concert promotion company Mythopeic Industries. He launched the organization with the intent of becoming a nonprofit a few years ago, before his role as a father and family man took a higher priority. Even though the nonprofit never came to fruition, Ohler's reputation as a promoter of experimental, avant-garde music occasionally draws him back into booking events.
"I still do one or two things a year," he says. "Somebody will get ahold of me, and it will be something that I have to do."
Friday, Ohler's latest musical experiment will arrive in the form of the Irvington Creative Music+Film Festival. The event will take place at the historic Irving Theater and the performance space at Irvington Vinyl, in the basement of Bookmamas book store. More than a half-dozen musical performances will take place on two stages between screenings of a new documentary on avant-garde, jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, called The Case of the Three-Sided Dream.
"Irvington is very cool culturally," says Irvington Vinyl owner Rick Wilkerson. "There's a lot of good vibes and a lot of people doing interesting things, but there hasn't really been a music presence." Wilkerson says that's what distinguishes this historic neighborhood from Fountain Square.
"[It's the] same with art. We had the Irvington Guild of Artists disbanded around three years ago," he says. "I think we're going to see a big rebound with both of those things as time goes on."
Ohler, who booked a lot of shows in Fountain Square alongside his friend Matt Chandler prior to that neighborhood solidifying its status as a local music destination, agrees. He thinks "Irvington has changed a lot" since he moved there in 2003. Ohler says he used to spend a lot of time in Fountain Square, but these days Irvington is the place to hang with its additional options for eats and drinks from Black Acre and Jockamo's Pizza to Legends. "With events going on at The Irving and all that ... We've got a record store and a bookstore," he says. "It really kind of reminds me of Fountain Square when Tufty first opened Radio Radio and we were doing shows there."
In terms of musical curation for the fest, Wilkerson was more than happy to rely on Ohler to do the heavy lifting. Wilkerson recently finished the release of his retrospective Indy compilation, spotlighting local punk and new wave acts from the 1980s. The release was NUVO's cover story last week, penned by frequent Sky Blue Window contributor, Seth Johnson.
"I'm just providing the venue, and am happy to do that," Wilkerson says. "Nick is pretty advanced when it comes to avant-garde music. Although I know a lot about music, I don't know a lot about that. So, all of those bands will be new to me."
He says he's looking forward to the Rahsaan Roland Kirk movie, of course, but as for all the rest, he's going at them with judgment or set expectations. "It is going to be like, 'OK. My mind is open; Let's see,'" he says.
Eastside native and current Irvington resident, David Adamson leapt at the opportunity to perform at the single-day festival. "I pretty much just said yes right away, because it seemed like such a cool event," Adamson says. "I'm stoked that it's going on right around the corner from where I'm living."
As the former front man of Jookabox, Adamson has been making noise across Indianapolis and beyond for years. His current musical pursuits are divided between DMA, which released its album PheelPhree on Joyful Noise Recordings last year, a Chicago footwork-influenced project called TUFFBLADES, and his most recent instrumental endeavor Sedcairn Archives, which will release its debut LP on local label Warm Ratio at the end of the month. For the set at The Irving, Adamson plans to blend selections from all of his current projects.
Adamson will perform alongside locals Sea Krowns and Lost Cult. Lost Cult is the project of Eric Brown, who runs local label Audio Recon. Sea Krowns features Alix Cain and Tom Burris. Burris is a longtime friend of Ohler's, dating back to his days running A1 Records in Anderson. Their repertoire runs the gamut from avant-garde to accessible. Listen to a pair of tracks below for an example of the contrast.
"A perfect event for me is a local, regional and a national, because the local act gets to hang out with a regional, and that will usually get them a show in Chicago or Cincinnati or wherever," Ohler says. "So, a perfect scenario for me is that three-tiered approach, because it really helps everything in general."
For non-Hoosiers, Ohler tapped two Minnesota musicians who employ homemade instruments to create otherworldly sounds in Paul Metzger and Tim Kaiser, the heavier, guitar-driven sounds of Ohio's Hyrrokkin and hip-hop/jazz fusion ISWHAT?!. Metzger is known for his unorthodox play on his 23-string banjo. Kaiser built his reputation upon the ambient sounds culled from his vast array of Frankenstein-esque instruments, field recordings and the proverbial kitchen sink. As an introduction, scope a pair of videos on the singular musicians below.
Ohler believes The Irving's reputation as a welcoming space to experimental musicians through events such as Midwest Electro-Music Experience and its all-ages atmosphere should prove a recipe for success. "There's something going on at The Irving. I just like the vibe of it," he says." For the most part, the folks in Irvington have been fairly supportive. If this is successful, I would be totally down with making it an annual event."
Whether you're intrigued or confounded by the lineup Ohler has curated, the improvisational nature of the performers promises an experience that should prove impossible to duplicate. At just $10 (Tickets), the inaugural Irvington Creative Music+Film Festival is an auditory pair of dice worth rolling.