Indianapolis has long had a thriving local metal scene, but for the longest time it seemed like very few nationally touring acts came to town—a fact that’s particularly surprising given that Indy is the 14th largest city in the U.S. Over the last year or so, though, that’s started to change, thanks in no small part to the efforts of R.J. Wall and Dahlia Presents. R.J. was kind enough to answer a few questions for us via email about what it’s like promoting metal shows in Indy.
Indy Metal Shows: How did you get your start promoting shows? And why promote metal shows in particular? What was the first show that you booked?
R.J. Wall: I started The Vollrath up when that was a thing. Did a lot more indie/hipster stuff back then. I love metal. When I was bar managing at the HiFi, I always wanted metal in that room because it’s the best sounding club in town. We had great success with the shows in that room and The Vogue and Live Nation asked me to help with their metal shows. To be honest it happened so fucking fast that I am just now getting my legs beneath me. Honestly, I don’t recall what was my first show.
IMS: I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of going to a gig where the turnout has been surprisingly low. How much of that is on the promoter, and how much is on the band? As a promoter, do you expect bands to do their own promotion on top of what you already do in order to sell tickets?
RJW: Some bands just have no following in Indy. It is up to them to promote themselves enough that they develop a base crowd. It’s my job to make sure the people that like them know the show is happening. Bands should absolutely help promote their own shows! I can promise you, the bands that we as promoters see working hard are the bands you see getting the opening gig for national touring acts.
IMS: I was recently surprised to learn that pay-to-play is still a thing. How do you feel about the practice in general? Is it something you would ever do?
RJW: Fuck that practice and fuck anyone that asks for a band to pay to play. I certainly think local openers should do several shows for free as support for national touring acts. It helps the promoter get bodies in the door and it’s an opportunity for the band to grow their fan base.
IMS: What’s your favorite show that you’ve done thus far? What makes that show stand out for you?
RJW: Man, tough one. I love Punk Rock Karaoke. I hope I can keep doing that in 10 years from now. That put aside, Pelican/Bongripper/Goatsnake was a brutal rager! Seriously great time. That show was the blending of three shows and a perfect circumstantial alignment.
IMS: It seems like the Indianapolis music scene has picked up quite a bit in the last year, with bigger bands starting to play in Indianapolis. Why do you think that is, and what do you think of the Indianapolis music scene overall?
RJW: I think the promoters are doing a really good job developing their respective brands and crowds without stepping on each others’ dicks too much. Obviously there will be some overlap here and there but Indy Mojo isn’t going to be booking High on Fire and I can promise you I’m not doing Bass Nectar. We all work together. I talk to all the major promoters here on a regular basis. Hell, Spencer, Jason, JB, Dodge, Ramsey all really helped bring me up and teach me what to do and what not to do. I kind of got grandfathered in and am very lucky for that opportunity.
IMS: If you had unlimited money to play with, what would be your dream lineup for a show?
RJW: Festival or show lineup? Haha. High on Fire, Skeletonwitch, Pelican, Amon Amarth, DragonForce or some variation of that.