Through performing, attending performances, and being an overall general consumer of performance-related necessities, I have had both the privilege and the burden of stumbling into opinionated conversations and interjections concerning the status of the Fort Wayne music scene. Although countless have found contentment, a select few remain feeling its stagnancy – a platitude where only few survive and even fewer thrive. They say that it has the potential to be great, but there are too many underlying factors that prevent it from exploding (small venues, limited performances at the larger venues, a lack of late night public transit systems for fans, etc.).
My intentions will never attempt to dictate whether or not the local scene is good, bad, struggling, thriving; as a new edition to this writing team, my focus will be simple. Work ethic. The bands that are doing what it takes to progress an artistic institution that once sparked their own creative spirit will be recognized for a commitment to putting music first. In my humbled opinion, I find optimism in the continued efforts being put forth by one of Fort Wayne’s veterans – Unlikely Alibi.
The band played a send off show last Friday night at the Gin Mill on State St. as they are preparing to embark on a month-long tour of the Eastern U.S. The Gin Mill (one of those “small venues”) was flooded with smiling faces adorning eager dancing feet ready to squeak in rhythmic unison. Mic stands lined the front of the stage while a sea of swaying bodies played various instruments closely behind. The raucous cries of brass mixed with a grooving foundation gave UA their unique yet familiar sound.
The music itself was fully capable of converting a lackluster barroom into a full blown dance party, so the accompanying layers of vocals that articulately divulged from skilled lungs created bonus layers of memorabilia. Lead singer and songwriter Todd Roth headed up the vocal medley while a number of others appropriately chimed in with poetic flows and ear-pleasing harmonies. The fullness of their sound acted as a justification for their stay power.
It would be impossible for me to agree with cynical opinions of the scene when my experiences lead me to conclude that a Fat Tire/Unlikely Alibi combo will consistently provide me with fulfilling weekend entertainment. I understand the concerns of those who find frustration in such a difficult industry. Being a musician is physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially demanding. When you work so hard for little or no pay off, it can be tempting to blame everything except our own shortcomings.
Look at some of the bands that continue to kill it every time they take the stage – Unlikely Alibi, Left Lane Cruiser, Moser Woods – there is a reason for their success. They have deeply rooted work ethic, humbled respect, and a confidence developed through experience collectively equiping them with the tools necessary to put people in their vehicles, drive them passed The Dirty to the “small venues”, and provide them with lasting impressions of what it means to be a real musician.
Unlikely Alibi by will leave on their well-deserved tour, only to soon return with more wisdom and more experiential poise. They will come home to the same scene that you and I exist in every day. They will play in the same clubs that they have been playing in for years and they will continue to turn masses of people into fluid waves of symmetry. If we were to desire a finite conclusion as to whether or not the Fort Wayne music scene could use some revamping, we would first have to ask ourselves if what we’re listening to and producing lives up to the level of professionalism set forth by those who’ve weathered the storm and proven themselves time and time again.
UA's homecoming show on May 1st at Columbia Street West will be a packed house example of those quality standards (applicable to all genres). The band will be hitting 17 spots over the next month - ranging from New York to Florida - so either trade in your SUV for an RV, or check them out online to get a quick fix.
Or become a fan on Facebook
P. Lewis Foster