The secret summer festival you aren’t supposed to know about

by Heather MacIntyre

The Midwest MusicSummit sits rightfully atop of the summer festival mountain. Kids fromall over, not just the Midwest, gather in Indianapolis for a three-daymusic festival. Carpools of kids in their twenties come into the city,which also has its state fair the same weekend, giving a little touristaction to promote the community. This isn’t the typical weekend ofunbearable heat, because the promoter makes a point to safely book itevery year during the first week of August, unlike so many otherconcerts in the July sun that really leave you to weigh comfort againstenjoyment. Bonnaroo, Coachella and so many other events seem solarge that the tiny ants you are watching perform a half a mile awayhardly seem worth it. MMS has it covered: multiple venues that aremostly indoors and spread out over a few-mile radius so that you canpick and choose which you’d like to attend. But it seems like they’vehad just the perfect attendance every year – enough people to have afun and productive weekend, yet you can breathe and move around and nothave to worry about having to pay for a five-dollar water. Oneof the more business-forward aspects of this summer weekend areseminars full of panel speakers from record labels, booking agencies,press officials, magazines, radio stations, songwriters, musicians,promoters, venue representatives and advertisers, so there is plenty tolearn. And because of the ratio of opportunity to population of thefestival, you can even sign up for a one-on-one interview or meetingwith most of the representatives. You can learn how to start your ownlabel, get your band signed and study promotion and advertising viaradio station DJs. It’s basically a music industry "career day" weekend. Kick-offparties start the night before the fest begins, hosted by some of thelabels and XM radio, classes run during the day, performances start inthe afternoon and headliners rock at night followed by morenetworking/schmooze meet-and-greets (bands also attend). But thoughthis isn’t just for those involved in music industry, the music isalways a solid enjoyment. Thousands of submissions are sent fromartists and bands every year, and only a couple hundred make thestages. Margot & the Nuclear So-Sos played in 2006, as well asSilversun Pickups, Page France, Mickey Avalon, Murder By Death, the HotIQs and Dr. Octagon. One of the more important aspects of thisIndianapolis retreat is the diversity in genres of music. In the past,there have always been a wide range of well-known performances: theindie-blues queen known as Cat Power, Tegan and Sarah (indie-pop), FallOut Boy (pop rock), the French Kids (indie rock), Brazil, RachelYamagata (female singer/songwriter), Russian Circles(melodic/experimental), Love As Laughter and hundreds more. The WarpedTour is great, don’t get me wrong, but when you are looking at theschedule and have a conflict of three bands you want to see playing atthe same time on different stages, it can be frustrating. The set-uphere is a lot more convenient, with local restaurants and shopsdispersed throughout it like its own little town (well, it is). Theyskipped MMS last summer to really put more into the 2008 festival. Theywanted to get bigger and better acts, and continue to grow in moreactivity, press functions and seminars. To comment on this story, e-mail Heather MacIntyre at