Phono Fridays brings music to Monument Circle


By Rob Peoni, Spark Writer in Residence

For those that don’t know, the city of Indianapolis is using Spark Monument Circle to experiment with placemaking initiatives and evaluate the optimal use of its most prominent public space. In a broader sense, Spark also serves as a case study in Big Car’s mission to “bring art to people and people to art, sparking creativity in lives to transform communities.” Much of the Spark programming is possible to ignore, if that’s your prerogative. That will prove much more difficult with the onset of Phono Fridays, when Spark programming features a full afternoon of live performances spotlighting Central Indiana’s diverse musical offerings.

“I’ve always liked to describe Monument Circle as Indianapolis’ front yard,” says Patrick Burtch, co-organizer of Virginia Avenue Folk Fest and one of Spark’s musical curators. “It’s where visitors go. It’s our most visible, iconic spot in the entire city. It’s really awesome to have our name connected with an organization like Big Car and Monument Circle to put some music that we really like out there. Hopefully, this will become more of a regular thing. It’s just too perfect of a spot for music in particular, I think, to not take advantage of that.”

Phono Friday Schedule: August 14th

  • Noon – 12:30: Classical Music Indy presents Sarah Shreko and Deb Shebish
  • 12:30 -1:30: Musical Family Tree presents Caleb McCoach
  • 4 – 5pm: Rhythm! Discovery Center presents drum circle & percussion demonstration
  • 5 – 6pm: Musical Family Tree presents Rachel & Jonny
  • 6 – 7pm: Virginia Ave. Folk Fest presents Isle of Manhattan

Burtch and his partner Mike Angel are fond of Big Car’s approach to turning atypical venues and public spaces into artistic destinations. This shared vision has led the duo to try some innovative promotional techniques for their music business. Like pulling Kentucky’s Buffalo Rodeo down Virginia Ave. through Fountain Square while the band performed on a trailer or performing on a rooftop during First Friday. “Pat and I both have rebellious spirit,” Angel says. “We’re not going to ask for permission to do things like pull a band around on a trailer. If a band wants to do it, we’re gonna do it.”

Listen to Caleb McCoach ahead of his performance tomorrow:

Phono Fridays will kickoff at noon each week, with programming provided by four different curators. The curators include Musical Family Tree, Virginia Ave. Folk Fest, Classical Music Indy and Rhythm! Discovery Center. “We definitely wanted it to be family-friendly and all-ages friendly, but also wanted to incorporate as many genres as we could,” Musical Family Tree executive director Jon Rogers says of his approach to programming. “Keeping the line-up diverse in terms of having different ethnicities, genders, even different ages of musicians… I think we collaborated to get a line-up that was a good representation of the whole city in different ways.”

All of the Phono Fridays curators were excited about the prospect of bringing music to an audience they may not reach on a regular basis. “There’s a lot of people around here who don’t know what kind of music we have to offer,” Angel says. “It will be a good chance for them to realize that there are really talented people around here.”

Rogers reiterated that sentiment, saying, “That’s one of the main reasons I was attracted to [Spark], because we would be able to reach a different audience – say, people who work downtown and come out for lunch or happy hour. I’m assuming with all the other programming that Big Car and Spark are doing, that there will be increased interest as this thing goes on and continues to build. It’s an exciting opportunity.”