Black Circle Provides Indy With a Wealth of Live Entertainment Options
Writer / Seth Johnson
Photographer / Michael Durr
Black Circle Owner Jesse Rice remembers when he first became enamored with the idea of throwing intimate live music events.
“I went to Purdue but my brother went to IU, and Purdue and IU are so very different when it comes to how the kids party,” Rice says. “At Purdue it’s all frat parties, but at IU it was a lot of house shows and house parties. So I started going to see my brother, who’s three years younger than me, at IU, and there would be bands playing in basements and stuff. I was like, ‘Dude, this is insane.’”
Upon graduating and moving back to Indianapolis, Rice began throwing house shows of his own at his home in Broad Ripple. Eventually this led him to start an actual venue, now known as Black Circle.
“The house shows sort of organically evolved over a 10-year period where we were making our own beer too,” Rice says. “Finally I was just like, ‘Let’s just open something up and see if we can do it.’”
Located on East 46th Street in south Broad Ripple, Black Circle opened in 2016 and has organically grown from a humble craft beverage producer to a beacon of Indy’s live entertainment community, regularly hosting concerts, drag shows, stand-up comedy and more. Having greatly expanded from the day they first opened, Black Circle now features an impressive outdoor event space, where they’ll be hosting two festivals, Wide Eyed Music Festival and Heavy Hell 3, on July 30 and August 13 respectively.
With a name inspired by the physical appearance of a vinyl record, Black Circle received an influx of shows not long after opening, due to the closure of longtime metal-centric music venue Fifth Quarter Lounge.
“Black Circle was actually just a reference to a vinyl record, but it sort of sounds metal and the Fifth Quarter Lounge closed the same month we opened,” Rice says. “I don’t want to say it was a windfall or anything, but what happened was all the shows that had been scheduled for the next six months at Fifth Quarter had to go somewhere else. So we got shows we had no business doing.”
Having since embraced heavier genres of music, Black Circle’s booking is now handled by Dustin Boltjes, an established Indianapolis drummer best known for playing in bands like Demiricous and Skeletonwitch.
“Fifth Quarter closing made us metal first, and then Dustin coming on and booking the shows definitely made the focus heavier,” Rice says.
Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Circle saw its biggest change to date, with the addition of a large outdoor stage. According to Rice, this move was one of sheer survival.
“I didn’t ever really have ambitions of having music outside – it was the pandemic that forced that,” Rice says. “Basically it was like, ‘Are we going to close, or are we going to make a move to continue to do what we do and try to survive this thing?’ So we fenced in the outside and built that stage.”
While they may be best known for hosting metal concerts, Rice makes sure the Black Circle event calendar includes a diverse array of happenings, in hopes of drawing people of different backgrounds to the space.
“What I see at Black Circle is my team of people putting together entertainment, anywhere from drag and comedy to metal and movie nights, so that there’s something for everybody,” Rice says. “We get a really diverse crowd of people from all over the city and I’m just really proud of my team for being able to put that stuff together.”
In addition to beer, wine and cocktail offerings, Black Circle guests will soon be able to purchase slices of pizza when they visit the venue as well.
“Unfortunately the Cuban restaurant [once linked to Black Circle] went out of business during the pandemic, so we have partnered with Futuro,” Rice says. “Luke Tobias used to own Kuma’s in Fountain Square. He and his wife opened Futuro, and now they’re opening a second location focusing mostly on New York-style slices. It’s a little different than Futuro, so they’re calling it Grumps.”
In addition to a full summer calendar of events at Black Circle, Rice also plans to get the venue more involved with the community, in hopes of quelling any stigmas.
“We’re in Indiana – metal music and alcohol aren’t really lauded,” Rice says. “We’re sort of a taboo business, so we’re just trying to reach out to the community and be like, ‘Listen, we’re just people too and we want to help.’ So our focus this year is community cleanups and involvement with the neighborhood association.”
Black Circle is located at 2201 East 46th Street in Indianapolis. Learn more about their upcoming calendar of events by visiting blackcirclebrewing.com.