Concertgoers danced without reserve. Lights shone through the haze of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Friday night and landed on the faces of hundreds of fans gathered beneath the stage.
As Kirkwood Avenue buzzed with homecoming-related activity outside, another celebration was underway.
The Main Squeeze was back in town.
The Los Angeles-based group got its start in 2010 in Bloomington, where it rose to fame among fellow IU students in the downtown bar scene.
Today its fan base has widened to include those who have heard the band live at Bonnaroo and Electric Forest festivals, to name a few.
Among the crowd was Erin Ritchie of Oakland, California, a self-described fan from the beginning.
“I have so much affinity for these guys,” Ritchie said. “I used to go hear them at the Bluebird every Wednesday back in 2011 when there was a $5 cover. They’ve actually been my favorite band since I got a CD of theirs, Sharpie written on it, in a summer camp parking lot.”
Lead singer Corey Frye opened the show with his characteristic deep-soul vocals, which he belted over a layer of lush synths provided by keyboardist Ben “Smiley” Silverstein.
The drums accelerated, and, like clockwork, the quintet settled into old-school funk rhythms.
The music was both danceable and contemplative, according to audience member Nicole Hunter from Indianapolis.
“They kind of trip over genres,” Hunter said. “It’s this very free, unbridled expression.”
The quintet performed songs from their latest album, “Mind Your Head,” which was produced in 2015 by American Idol’s Randy Jackson.
At times their style crossed into hard rock ’n’ roll. Frye stepped back to allow guitarist Max Newman and Silverstein to face off on grungy riffs reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, whom the group cites online as one of their many influences.
“They’re very fluid. They know how to reach the crowd, and they can really put on a show,” usher Jack Cathcart said.
IU Jacobs School of Music student Tony Maas said he was drawn to the band not only for its sound but its visual aspect as well.
“They’re very straight-ahead, in-your-face with a great stage presence,” Maas said.
Before intermission, Frye turned to address the audience.
“It’s so good to be back, Bloomington,” he said. “Now I want you to let all those worries and cares drift away. Leave them on the curb.”
Opening for the band was electro-funk trio Dizgo and rapper R-Juna from Bloomington.
It was Dizgo’s second performance with the band since this year’s Little 500 weekend.
Next month, the Main Squeeze has stops in Milwaukee, Denver and San Francisco as it moves westward on its fall 2016 tour to play for expecting crowds.
Despite their busy schedule, Frye said Bloomington provides a place to recharge and reconnect with fans where the band first established its roots.
“IU was the beginning of our musical journey as a band,” Frye said. “With all five members being alums or students of the school, Bloomington holds a special place in our hearts.”
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