Inaugural I Made Rock 'N' Roll Festival hopes to draw attention to the genre's Black roots

Rory Appleton
Indianapolis Star
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A new downtown Indianapolis music festival seeking to highlight Black artists' inalienable parentage over rock music has unveiled its inaugural lineup.

Janelle Monáe and Gary Clark Jr. will headline the I Made Rock 'N' Roll Festival, organized by creative advocacy group Ganggang and promoter/The Vogue owner Forty5. The festival will run on May 18 at The American Legion Mall.

In an interview with IndyStar, the festival's organizers stressed there will be an advocacy component to the event: Underlining both the key contributions by Black artists toward rock's creation and years of deliberate attempts within the industry to undermine their impact.

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Ganggang co-founder Malina Simone Bacon said several trips to the National Museum of African-American Music in Nashville helped to hone this message.

"There's an opportunity here to give creators love, and maybe someday even some money," Bacon said. "But at least to give them some acknowledgment."

Alan Bacon, founder and president of Ganggang, and his wife Malina Simone Bacon, founder and executive director of Ganggang, give remarks during the Butter fine art fair, organized by Ganggang, at the Stutz building on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, in Indianapolis. Butter is multi-day equitable fine arts fair showcasing excellence in black art.
(Credit: Michelle Pemberton/IndyStar)

The festival's website lists Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard and Chuck Berry as examples.

"Rock 'n' roll music has been this American construct that has been used to divide," said Ganggang co-founder Alan Bacon. "This is an opportunity where inclusion and camaraderie with and the connection to rock 'n' roll is being used as the beacon to shout out the word from Indianapolis."

Every band performing at the festival features at least one Black member. In addition to Clark and Monáe, the lineup includes Robert Randolph Band, Joy Oladokun, Meet Me at the Altar and Inner Peace.

The organizers hope the festival's name will clearly annunciate the event's purpose. Even the location is deliberate.

"We're pushing these conversations and having a hell of a show right in the middle of downtown," said Forty5 CEO Jenny Boyts. "We're not afraid to bring folks together and really push what we believe is really the rightful and just narrative around this kind of music."

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Ganggang and Forty5 will also host a series of listening sessions and conversations on race and culture in music beginning in February. More information on those will be released through the festival's website,

Presale tickets for the festival will go on sale at 10 a.m. Thursday and can be accessed by signing up for the festival's email newsletter on its website. Regular sales will begin at 10 a.m. Monday. Tickets start at $75.

The goal is to draw 8,000 people to the festival, with the hope it become an annual occurrence within the city's busiest month. Ganggang's fine art fair, Butter, has grown in each of its first three years.

"There's room for these kinds of conversations, this kind of community and this kind of celebration in May," Boyts said. "We think the city deserves that, and this campaign deserves that as well."

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Rory Appleton is the pop culture reporter at IndyStar. Contact him at 317-552-9044 and, or follow him on Twitter at @RoryEHAppleton.

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