Indie Prog-rockers Stolas hit up Indianapolis’ Emerson theater recently, bringing along Icarus the Owl and Indiana’s own Henry Kohen (Mylets) while sharing the stage with local acts Arcadia and The Red Streak.
Arcadia kicked the night off with a set chock-full of shoe-gazey indie rock tracks that would sound right at home in a 2017 Juno remake. Musically the group sounds a bit like Sun Club mixed with The Kooks, but they manage to put an original spin on their sound. Lead guitarist Brittany Smith made full use of her fretboard, sprinkling in bits of flavor over singer Cameron Sheeks’ rhythm guitar. The group manages to implement an element of frivolity while tackling tough subjects in their songs, making for a fresh energy.
The Red Streak took the stage next and took total ownership in the first few seconds of their set. Lead singer Gavin Colavito paced the stage, not shying away from interacting with the fans right off the bat. The guitar work of Nolan Evans was absolutely mesmerizing, incorporating a myriad of intricate sweeps throughout the songs. Colavito took the time to explain a couple of the songs they were playing that night, mentioning that inspiration was drawn from Adventure Time and Nightmare on Elm Street.
After a brief set change Icarus the Owl appeared and kicked the show into the next gear. As the band broke in to “Ignore Check Engine Lights” fans cheered and eventually overpowered vocalist Joey Rubenstein as they sang along. For his part, Rubenstein sounded in top form, his wandering and weaving vocal style translated beautifully live and his higher notes sounding just as clean live as they do on the album, which is no small feat.
The only disappointing aspect of Icarus the Owl’s set was the absence of their cover of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” which took YouTube by storm when it released earlier this year. It’s understandable why a group would shy away from performing a cover, not wanting it to become gimmicky or whatever, but that particular cover was so good and packed such a punch that it would’ve made for a fantastic addition to the set! Icarus the Owl already had the crowd in the palm of their hand, and that performance just would’ve amplified that energy.
The award for ‘most interesting set of the night’ definitely goes to Mylets, who had quite a bit of support in the crowd with it being his first show in his home state in quite some time. Although he works alone his sound is bigger than that of many 5-piece bands, and it’s a real treat to watch him construct his sound piece by piece.
If you ever get a chance to see a Mylets set you’ll want to make sure you’re front and center, as half the fun is watching him navigate his pedal boards to start/stop loops and switch between effects. The only way I can even attempt to describe it is that it’s almost like watching a hyperactive kid play Dance Dance Revolution- the constant movement is dizzying, and it’s hard to imagine being able to keep all of that straight while performing a set.
At long last it was time for Stolas to make their appearance. Fans crowded around the front of the stage to secure a good spot, and the band blasted straight in to one of their biggest songs, “Bellwether” off 2017’s self-titled album. At first glance it seems a bit odd to have your third album be self-titled, but in Stolas’ case it makes perfect sense, as this truly is a reintroduction to the band.
Original singer Jason Weich left the group in late 2015, prompting drummer Carlo Marquez to shift from the drum throne to the spotlight of center stage. Marquez is a fireball of energy on stage, channeling a bit of old school Bert McCracken from The Used as he flails around, managing to cover the entire stage in the blink of an eye, leaving absolutely no doubts about his ability to captivate an audience as a frontman. Although the crowd was on the smaller end of the spectrum the energy in the room was absolutely massive and came to a peak as Stolas hit the stage.
Throughout the set the group had a myriad of technical difficulties- the drumkit started falling apart, but the band continued on. A few minutes later both the bass and guitar started going out and Marquez announced they were going to take a second to regroup. For many bands this could be a turning point in the set- the energy could start to fizzle and they could lose connection with the crowd as they get too wrapped up in the technical. But quite the opposite was true for the Stolas crew- instead of being a negative it just seemed to indicate how hard they were going.
Stolas’ 2017 tour was a bright light of young talent in the rock world. Sometimes it’s easy to feel that all the younger artists are focusing on hardcore/screamo and things are getting a bit stale, but Stolas, Icarus the Owl, and Mylets are proof that there’s a bastion of young talent that’s focused on intricacy and interesting soundscapes, as opposed to just going balls-to-the-wall and seeing how hard they can go. It will be a real treat to watch all three of these artists progress over the years and see where they decide to go as they continue to tap into the well of musical discovery.