Today’s Tonic Ball, the annual fundraiser for the venerable Second Helpings stands as our city’s version of an Amish barn raising. The Creative Class donates its time and talent to raise money and awareness for the outstanding work that Second Helpings does and the tremendous benefit it brings to Indianapolis.
And true to the nature of our fair city, Tonic’s an overnight success that’s taken a decade to get there. Tickets selling out two days before the event testify to that success, which is well-earned. NUVO runs the numbers for 11 years of fighting hunger in our community.
For a great rundown about the show, I dare not step on the toes of Matt Mays, chair of this year’s Tonic Ball and creative dynamo. He’s packed his preview with all the details. Instead, I’ll add a few tips as a veteran of several of these outstanding shows and a tremendous fan of one of Indy’s premiere events.
- Buy some art. Tonic Gallery at the New Day Meadery features great art by great Indy artists at $100 a pop, first come, first serve. Check out the likes of Kyle Ragsdale, Mike Altman, Jason Roemer, Aaron Scamihorn, and Kyle Herrington
- Take your kids to Ruditoonz. Yorktown transplant Scott Rudicel has parlayed his previous life as a jam-band rocker into your kids’ favorite local singer. Oh, and you’ll love his songs, too. At Tiny Tonic, Rudi will perform tot-friendly versions of Tonic’s featured artists.
- Eat. Pick your place. You have so many choices. I’ll most likely opt for some tacos in the back tiki bar atmosphere of Revolucion. Or maybe I’ll hit Bluebeard for a Vonnegut-inspired cocktail and some great grub. Then there’s always the Brass Ring or Siam Square. Or maybe Santorini’s…
- Shop. I always recommend Jennifer Von Deylen’s Indy Swank for the coolest couture and locally made swag.
Just like big music events — Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Bonnaroo — most acts are playing on multiple stages at the same time. If you’re new or unfamiliar with the music scene — and especially if you love one particular legend they’re covering — stay put at one venue. Moving freely between venues can get dicey, especially at Radio Radio and White Rabbit. They’re called fire codes, and if the bar is jammed, ain’t nobody comin’ in.
Last year, I just camped out at Radio Radio all night. I love early REM, so I was happy to stand pat at Tufty Clough’s music club decked out in furniture retrieved from the failed Planet Hollywood.
Also expect some musicians to pull double-duty and different venues — and not just drummers. So if you miss the unmistakable baritone of singer-songwriter Tad Armstrong at Radio Radio doing Kinks covers with the Haters, you can catch him later at White Rabbit crooning Stevie Wonder tunes.
The Tonic Ball organizers selected some stellar local acts, but if I may proffer a few of my faves…
Radio Radio – The Kinks
- Blue Collar Bluegrass features Bob & Tom’s longtime producer Dean Metcalf. Even if you never thought you’d ever hear a bluegrass version of the Kinks, you’ll be impressed. Last year, they nailed a cover of Roger Miller’ classic “King of the Road,” which REM covered in a drunken version on Dead Letter Office.
- Vess Von Ruhtenburg is a freakin’ Indy talent. Guitarist for punk legends, the Zero Boys and local pop faves The Pieces, Vess nailed Bowie last year. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with The Kinks.
- The Haters consists of Indy vets Tad Armstrong, Dave England, Wade Parish, and Matt Wilson. The band totally brought it posing as The Band for the reenactment of The Last Waltz at Radio Radio in May. Look for a reprise on Dec. 1 at the Bluebird in Bloomington. I smell a roadtrip to the Monroe County seat with a stop at FARMBloomington.
- Brian Deer was in one of this town’s great alt-country, Americana duos, the aptly named Citizen’s Band. Brian is a helluva songwriter with a throwback voice. Check him out with the Achievers.
- Pravada lead singer Jesse Lee is a huge Kinks fan, so look for him and his bandmates, which comprise former members of Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s, to really get into their set.
White Rabbit – Stevie Wonder
- The Pride of Paoli, young singer/songwriter Scott Kline has a great, soulful voice, and I’m excited to see him with his new band, The Illusion of Control.
- The aforementioned Tad Armstrong was in a wonderful band, Middletown, and he’s a veteran virtuoso.
- The other aforementioned Matt Mays is the epitome of Renaissance Man: video producer, musician, master event organizer, super dad, wearer of wigs. He arguably had the best performance in the Ramble—an event he organized—with the song “Caravan” as Van Morrison.
- Chad Mills and the Upright Willies bring a loyal college alumni crowd to any place they play. Just try to pigeonhole the music of Chad’s roots vocals, Grover Parido’s cello, William Rood’s upright bass, and Bob Stewart’s drumming. You could call it rural/suburban/Celtic/alt-country/rock/swing.
First off, know that this venue was built in 1928 for vaudeville acts, so it’s not built for amplified sound. That said, I do know that the organizers have brought in a sound pro to improve the acoustics from past years. Don’t discount this venue, especially when bands are playing U2.
- Methinks the band named Vertigo for the U2 stage should most likely resemble some semblance of the Born Again Floozies with the über-talented Joey Welch at the helm. These are the same guys who helped announce this year’s featured artists with a rooftop concert atop the Murphy Building in May.
- We’re Not Squibnocket reunites each year just for Tonic Ball and features guys who’ve been in city, state, and national government.
This is just a taste. The rest of the list is stellar, trust me.
If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket, come join the celebration of raising up this city.