2012 had many memorable moments in the arts and entertainment scene. Many of these moments came from daring bookings and moves. A little guts brought a lot of glory. Other moments helped beautify two cities and helped encourage young artists at the same time. Let’s take a look at what happened.
– Purdue Convocations surprised many by bringing in the Broadway touring production of “American Idiot,” the popular show fueled by recent Green Day music. Convos has had a winning streak of bringing in hot touring Broadway shows to Elliott Hall of Music, but “American Idiot” was much more raw and raucous than the average show. The punk-fueled score, drug references and swearing sent many a blue hair for the exits, but those who stayed were treated to a daring and fantastic show.
– The theater side of Convos went smaller for “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart.” It traded in the 6,000 seat Elliott Hall of Music for the Duncan Hall ballroom, which seats a little over 100. The National Theatre of Scotland brought in the unique drama from overseas. The ensemble cast of performers, who were as adept at traditional Scottish music as they were with drama, presented a gripping, hilarious and enthralling performance with “Prudencia.” Melody Grove, who played the title role, is still etched in my memory. It was the theater event in downtown Lafayette.
– Timing has worked in Convos’ favor in recent years and serendipity struck again with blues legend Buddy Guy’s appearance at Loeb Playhouse on Oct. 20, just two months before he was among the participants at the Kennedy Center Honors.
– The Reverend Horton Heat sold out the Lafayette Brewing Company on March 4. While a strong show is always received from the Rev, it was a relief to see this concert sell out and for Lafayette to show up in full force. The crowd was into the show from the beginning. However, opening act Larry and His Flask and the Party Wolf nearly stole the show. You had to be there.
– Less than two months before it’s closure, Jester’s was home to music history. Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys came into the West Lafayette venue armed with seven decades of music. The 85-year-old is responsible for many bluegrass standards but they never sounded so sweet coming from the unmistakable voice of the original. Again, Greater Lafayette represented well by enthusiastically clapping and hooting during the upbeat numbers. The audience paid its respect by being silent for the ballads. You could hear a pin drop during the chills-inducing a cappella rendition of “O Death.”
– The Friends of Bob had a strong year but the local music co-op hit 34 proverbial grand slams with the April 21 Nick Lowe show at the Lafayette Brewing Company. Fresh from his tour with Wilco, the veteran rocker bulldozed through various stints in his career at the show: a 1980s top 40 artist, a songwriting collaborator with Elvis Costello and a 21st century songwriting influence.
– For those who know him, Chris Toliver is usually the most creative, witty and sharp person in the room. The public was finally able to take in all facets of Toliver with his performance art piece, “Deep Woods,” which was held in May at Foam City. This event was a stop on the May Downtown Gallery Walk. Toliver is a longtime electronic music maker, but “Deep Woods” helped visualize his music and brought collaboration with the Purdue University Dance Division, digital artist Esteban Garcia and more. The show was one of the first to realize that Foam City could be utilized effectively as an intimate instillation art space.
– The City of West Lafayette thoroughly embraced public art in 2012 by commissioning a sculpture and numerous murals around town. The West Lafayette Public Library gained some color from Craig Martin while Chauncey Hill welcomed an abstract recycled steel work from young artist Ben Sutter called “Point of Departure.” The former Gumball Alley off of State Street now reeks of color and cleanliness instead of urine and vomit thanks to a massive new mural.
– Zach Medler used 2012 to become one of the most popular young artists on the Greater Lafayette scene. While his solo work does well in a gallery, his leadership in Tippecanoe Arts Federation After School Art Programs is even more impressive. Medler led dozens of budding, teenage artists on two amazing mural projects — the interactive “Inner Alley Symphony” in an alley near Sixth and Main streets and a robot-themed work under a bridge at South Indiana 43 and U.S. Highway 52. Newcomer Pete Brown was in on the West Lafayette mural, too.
– Most of the Greater Lafayette festivals enjoyed strong turnouts and fairly good weather in 2012. Of course, the Moseys got spanked with storms but OutFest, Feast of the Hunters’ Moon and others had picturesque weather and good attendance. The Taste of Tippecanoe got some rain but the festival’s staff did a good job of adhering to new state laws concerning outdoor live music in a festival setting. The weather cleared out as soon as the sun went down and fireworks lit up the sky yet again.
– The Lafayette Chamber’s decision to move the Purdue Farmers’ Market to the heart of campus from its original spot near Dauch Alumni Center was a brilliant one. Scores more Purdue students, faculty and staff got to enjoy fresh produce and hot meals cooked with local ingredients every Thursday.
– The formation of Jurassic Pop Records has caused a buzz in the local music scene as the label run by Jeff Mather and Dylan Schwab quickly cranked out new releases from Faux Paw, High School Girls, Mid-American and Dino DNA. While the scene is never short on good recordings, an established label that helps get the tunes to the people always helps.