Photography by Forgotten Aesthetics Photography, Article by Syd Innovaria
Sarah Grain and guitarist Doug Sauter.
Indy Folk Fest is one of those things that you just don’t want to miss all in it’s own. It’s held once a year over the summer in Indianapolis, IN, at the Indy Hostel in Broad Ripple (the north side of town before you reach Carmel). Indy Hostel has lots of performances throughout the year as well, being very artist-friendly and they seem to really give a lot of the artists most of the control over how their events run as long as everyone respects the guests of the Hostel. Our journalists have seen art shows, festivals, and parties being held there of all sorts, some with great attendance and others not so much. Indy Folk Fest always seems to bring a really nice crowd. We wrote about this event last year in 2017, when Sarah Grain and the Billions of Stars played the festival previously. They were the focus of the article then, and are the focus of our article today as well.
This time we were much more limited in our availability to enjoy the festival and only were able to be there for Sarah Grain and the artist who closed out the show directly after, Brandon Wadley. His band is named after him, and they are absolutely phenomenal. We will most likely feature an article on him in the future.
Back to the focus!
We arrived at about 8:30pm on August 18th. Sarah Grain had just begun, and it was just so beautiful. Her music- their music- is so relaxing, yet it pulls you in and makes you feel something.
Mina Keohane smiles as she plays the keys.
Last year we also covered their show where they released the album Something Wild. It was such an amazing record and still to this day the songs are so powerful. They played mostly songs from this record, even though they have been working on lots of new material, because they had a stand-in bassist, Jason McColley, for the evening who had limited time to learn all the songs for the performance.
“Heart At War” I think will always be that one song they have in their set that is super catchy and rings in your head for about 6 months after you hear it- I’m still hearing it, I was still hearing it before I came there, even though it was such a long time since I even heard the record. This song is NOT on their current record but it will be featured on their next release, so keep an eye out. I believe this was their final song at the end of the set, and it always starts out with a rhythmic clap and drumbeat and there’s some a cappella vocals and just everything about it feels so good. Sarah has such powerful vocals and when I say powerful, I mean it. They covered a James Brown song, “Man’s World” and I have never in my life heard someone sound so passionate, painful and beautiful at the same time. I also don’t enjoy female singers much personally, so this is really exceptional. You, reading this, must go see her live immediately. They play every 4th Tuesday of the month at the Chatterbox in Indianapolis from 8pm-11pm, 3 hours of all original material. I promise you’ll walk away feeling like you never heard music before.
Sarah belting into the mic with some James Brown- “Man’s World”
Another beautiful thing about their performance is her audience engagement. Between songs she talks to you like she is taking you on a journey, walking you down a path, introducing you to a new species of wildlife, showing you another world eerily similar to your own and yet you can’t stop listening in awe with your mouth hanging slightly open like she just told you exactly how the universe works and what your purpose is for being here. All your worries resolved, you break into a smile, even if you don’t try to. It happens. And she goes on, talking to you like an old friend, like the Earth Mother, someone who would have rocked you to sleep with an old time lullaby when you still sucked your thumb. You’re safe now. She knows what’s best.
Mina singing beautifully.
What’s really extraordinary is how well the band members mesh together. Doug Sauter is one of the more skilled guitarists and mandolin players in Indianapolis, and Mina Keohane (who sings backup vocals and plays the keys) is one of the most beautiful singers and plays the keys like she was born doing it. Something in this group makes you feel like you stepped into another world where everything fits perfectly together, like a nice little soup. They play their instruments so gracefully with such big smiles, as if to not even touch them at all but let the magic flow from their beings into the instruments and have nothing further to do with it.
Doug is one of the most skilled guitarists.
“Garden” is another absolutely fantastic piece. I remember when I first heard it I couldn’t stop hearing the chorus line “we’re going to the garden for some food today” in my head for weeks and at first I didn’t understand what she was saying because of the odd melody and how fast it goes. It’s on a different tempo and tone than you would normally imagine a sentence like that to be sung, which really threw me for a loop but it was so catchy I couldn’t stop hearing it and I was really thrilled when they played it again the next time I heard them.
I cannot stress this enough. Get to one of their performances. Also, pick up a copy of their record while you’re at it. They have T-shirts too.
“Something Wild” in their little merch case on stage.