I Made Rock ’N’ Roll Festival Set For Inaugural Year In Indianapolis

The first-year fest celebrates Black artists who are making noise in the rock genre.
Photo courtesy Doug Fellegy/GangGang

After visiting the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee, the wheels in GangGang co-founder Malina Simone Bacon’s head started turning, which eventually led to the creation of an Indy-based event honoring Black artistry and authorship in rock music known as the I Made Rock ’N’ Roll Festival.

“Since GangGang has been around, we’ve both been trying to find ways to realize our own ideas, and we’ve been asked more than any other time ever for new ideas that feel like equity in action,” Malina says. “This festival is a response to being asked, ‘What are you guys going to do in music?’ Having a Black rock fest is one of those things that we’ve been able to pull out of a bag of amazing ideas that can happen in such a time as this.”

Set to take place on Saturday, May 18, at the American Legion Mall in downtown Indianapolis, the first-ever I Made Rock ’N’ Roll Festival will feature performances from acclaimed acts such as Janelle Monáe, Gary Clark Jr., Robert Randolph, and more as GangGang presents its latest undertaking to Indy. An affinity for rock ’n’ roll music and a history of playing music himself gives GangGang co-founder Alan Bacon a leg up in presenting an event that will be much more than your average summer fest.

Photo courtesy Melodie Yvonne/GangGang

“This festival allows us to tell a very rich, beautiful story in a bright and experiential way,” Alan says. “Just being able to use this event as a campaign to really talk about authorship, identity, and Black artists’ contributions to the genre.”

While rock ’n’ roll may be at the heart of the fest, the GangGang co-founders assure attendees they will find a wide variety of sounds represented at the festival, from the hardcore punk of Inner Peace to the blues rock of Gary Clark Jr.

“The fun part for me is this is an opportunity to celebrate music and to celebrate artists,” Malina says. “What I like about how Janelle Monáe describes her music is that it’s nonbinary, just like her. So it challenges us all to find the rock ’n’ roll roots in all music. These artists represent reclamation. They represent authorship. They represent diversity themselves, and they’re representative of all genres and freedom in that expression.”

Photo courtesy Doug Fellegy/GangGang

In reflecting on the festival’s venue, the GangGang co-founders couldn’t be happier to host I Made Rock ’N’ Roll Fest in a location with historical significance.

“The venue is the American Legion Mall, which is a beautiful, urban green space in the middle of downtown Indianapolis,” Malina says. “We are so thankful for the General [Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin, executive director of the Indiana War Memorials Commission] at the War Memorial for his partnership and for wanting this festival to be there. He wants to encourage more conversations about rock and history, rock and war, and rock and remembrance.”

When asked what kind of atmosphere festivalgoers should expect at the I Made Rock ’N’ Roll Festival, Alan and Malina reference GangGang’s fine arts fair, Butter, in terms of its engaging, multisensory nature.

Photo courtesy Melodie Yvonne/GangGang

“There will be a station specifically for kids,” Malina says. “There will be opportunities to play music, to listen to music, and to scratch vinyl with Deckademics. There will be cabanas. We want people to hang out all day—it’s an all-day fest downtown. And local DJs will be the connective tissue for the festival to ground it in Indianapolis and maintain the vibe.”

When asked what impact they hope the festival can have, Alan and Malina ultimately want I Made Rock ’N’ Roll Festival to serve as another example of the innovation Indy is capable of.

“Indianapolis is coming together to show that it can do whatever it wants and that it can do it really well,” Malina says. “We have creative innovation coming out of Indianapolis on a global scale for a global topic. So if Indianapolis learns nothing else, it’s that we are leading here, and we have to pay attention to that and invest in it.”