Ever since live shows have returned this spring, I’ve been gulping a dizzying emotional cocktail. It’s one part thrilled glee and one part stirred-up restlessness.
That’s a long way of saying that I’m excited about basically every live music show, play, dance concert, you name it, that’s traveling through Indianapolis. But my editor gave me a tough assignment, as editors sometimes do. She asked me to curate a list of summer shows that’s quick to read, and that means I can’t list every show, as much as I’d like to.
So I present these 10 — just the tip of my summer bucket list that’s overflowing after 15 months of staying close to home. The shows check a lot of boxes: first for a new venue, traditional favorites, all-female cast, Grammy greatness and Hoosier roots. These recommendations are worth cramming into your calendar app, which is no doubt already struggling to load all the cool things you’ve previously planned.
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
July 22-24 and 29-31. Taggart Memorial Amphitheatre at Riverside Park. Register: indyshakes.com
We’re about to see what $9.2 million from the Lilly Endowment built — and repaired. After sitting on more than one sad, endangered buildings list, the Thomas Taggart Memorial is no longer crumbling and now attached to a new companion: an amphitheater. It will be the home for the Indianapolis Shakespeare Co. I can’t wait to feast my eyes on those lovely sightlines and my ears on the multilayered jokes from my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays.
Band of Horses
July 29 at Hi-Fi Annex. Tickets: hifiindy.com
If you need to travel into the recesses of your mind to try and sort out 2020, this is the perfect show to set you on that course. Songs like “The Funeral” still prompt YouTube commenters to share some of their most vulnerable emotional moments — the type that crop up during late-night introspective listening sessions. While the show is sold out at this point, there’s still a waitlist — and, of course, a long summer packed with more great artists at the Hi-Fi.
‘Saturday Night Fever’
July 29-Aug. 1 at the Tarkington at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel. Tickets: civictheatre.org
Although the pandemic appears much less bleak than it was a year ago, I’m not yet ready to jump into the middle of a sweaty and crowded dance floor. But the vibe is still available from a darkened theater seat thanks to a talented cast on a colorful stage. Civic Theatre has cast the beloved gang, with Tony Manero and Stephanie Mangano, in the musical adaptation with Bee Gees hits.
‘Anton in Show Business’
July 30-Aug. 7 at The District Theatre. Tickets: indydistricttheatre.org
Our streaming services provide no shortage of satire, but it bites differently when it’s live. Enter the all-woman cast that teases modern theater, film and TV. The play, by Jane Martin, has an Anton Chekhov play inside it, leading to all sorts of delightful layering that speaks to theater insiders and casual audience members who are just out for a funny and thought-provoking evening.
‘The Two Kids that Blow Sh** Up’
Aug. 20-Sept. 5 at the Fonseca Theatre Co. Tickets: fonsecatheatre.org/shows
Max and Diana are forced into one another’s company when their parents strike up a relationship. Throughout the next two decades, the two become friends themselves, witnessing each other’s triumphs and failures. And then they have to handle falling in and out of love with one another.
We’ve seen plenty of plays about love and breakups. What’s so intriguing about this one, by Carla Ching, is that it’s about a relationship that’s bigger than all of that.
Sept. 3 at The Alley at Library Square, in back of The Cabaret. Register: thecabaret.org/events
AshLee Baskin has been singing all of her life, but in 2019 she decided to make it official. Now performing as PsyWrn Simone — a name that references the mind, the singing wren, the Greek mythological characters and the iconic Nina Simone — she weaves social justice into her compositions.
PsyWrn Simone was selected as a featured artist for Art & Soul 2021, and her performances have included a mixture of spoken poetry, hip hop and jazz, among other genres. With a voice that moves easily from the softest whisper to velvety power, she’ll be an Indy artist to watch as her career grows.
Sept. 3-4 at the Jazz Kitchen. Tickets: thejazzkitchen.com
Saxophonist Garrett is known for his rhythmic approach and, most importantly in the world of jazz, his own musical fingerprint sound. SFJazz called it “gritty, incantatory, like a preacher.” The Grammy Award winner has performed with Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis, among many other stars. His music nods to childhood memories, like watching westerns, along with mentors and his hometown of Detroit.
Mostly, his music just makes people feel that dancing groove deep inside — an experience that can’t be understated at this point.
Guns N’ Roses
Sept. 8 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Tickets: gunsnroses.com/tour
Axl Rose and company might not have played Indianapolis since 2011, but Hoosiers remain fascinated with the singer who grew up in Lafayette. He hasn’t always felt the same, given his on-stage banter in the 1990s, but he was a gentleman the last time he performed here.
A lot has happened since the height of the band’s fame, but its sound endures on people’s playlists and even as popular picks for wedding ceremonies. “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” anyone? Slash and Duff McKagan have been back touring with Guns N’ Roses, but not Rose’s childhood friend Izzy Stradlin, who also grew up in Lafayette. Another detail of interest: Slash said in an interview with Cleveland.com that new Guns N’ Roses music is planned possibly for this year.
‘Breaking the Surface’
Sept. 16-19 at Indiana Repertory Theatre. Tickets: dancekal.org
If you always meant to attend a Dance Kaleidoscope performance but haven’t yet, make plans to do so. Never have I seen a modern dance concert that was as polished and creative as theirs. The company produces the perfect collision of beauty, athleticism and talent.
On the program for this show are dances to music by Michael Bublé and John Adams. Choreographers include artistic director David Hochoy, Brock Clawson and Stuart Coleman.
TLC with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
Sept. 20 at TCU Amphitheater at White River State Park. Tickets: livenation.com
What’s genius about TLC is that their hits bring waves of ’90s nostalgia and still sound ahead of their time. The lyrics to “Waterfalls” and “Unpretty” have enough layers that they remain the subject of robust Internet conversations.
Since the announcement of the CrazySexyCool Tour, fans are begging for deep cuts on Twitter. We’ll see what they play in Indy. Here’s to a night of singing along and basking in some great memories.
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