Through the back door of the Murphy Arts Building in Fountain Square, up the old wooden stairs on the right, and down a corridor filled with concert posters and a salvaged piano, you’ll find a renovated space that hosts MOKB Presents and Do317. As you pass through the halls of the second story, you’ll get a sense of repurpose. What was once neglected is now buzzing with renewed life. There is a direct correlation of renewed purpose of this building, and the efforts of the organizations hosted within, to the revitalization of Fountain Square.
As the owner of MOKB Presents, The Hi-Fi, and Do317, Josh Baker has had a heavy hand in Fountain Square’s recent rebirth. Having an extensive background in the music industry, Baker has put Indy on the music map through booking, promoting, and providing a hip space for bands to perform. Through the many hats he wears, Baker has created a magnet for attracting and retaining young talent in Indy.
MOKB Presents is an independent concert promoter, which, according to their Facebook page, has been ‘bringin’ the best concerts to Indy since 2008’. “When MOKB first started, we were booking six to seven shows per year. When we formalized as a company, the shows started to increase, and now we’re seeing over 400 shows per year as the demand has increased,” Baker says.
Some of the demand is due to the establishment of Do317 in Indy. Event promoters need several outlets to market shows, and when the Do Stuff Network approached Baker about starting a branch in Indy, he realized how strategic the partnership could be for the city.
Commenting on the strategic partnership, Baker says, “Do317 exists to help people have fun. The audience of 21-25 year olds in Indy has grown, and needs to be connected to events in order to keep them here. Even though we are small, Indy has a big city feel. To continue to grow as a city, we need more music options and venue spaces.”
Taking a bit of his own advice, Baker opened The Hi-Fi, a live music venue also located in the Murphy Arts Building in Fountain Square. “We needed a space that added to the vibrancy of our city and supplemented the already-fertile music scene. It had to host high quality, high caliber entertainment, accelerate the neighborhood, and give credibility to our city,” Baker explained. Before The Hi-Fi, Baker was booking concerts at the Do317 Lounge, but because of the demand, they quickly outgrew the space.
“When I was younger, I had to go to Cincinnati or Louisville to see a good show. I think many people like me enjoyed those cities so much when they visited, they stayed there. I wanted to create the same feel and draw in Indy.”
Baker credits other organizations, like IndyHub and businesses including Sun King Brewery for contributing to an environment that promotes young talent attraction and retention. Without the collaboration and creativity of like-minded individuals and organizations working toward the same goal, Indy would fall behind other metros in effort to build up and attractive a vibrant creative scene.
Thinking about the future, Baker says these efforts are multi-layered and his work at Do317 and The Hi-Fi are just once piece of the puzzle. Supporting other quality of life improvements like increased mass transit initiatives, Baker says, will provide a huge economic boost for arts, entertainment and talent.
To those with dreams of starting a space or platform for placemaking in Indy, Baker’s advice: find a mentor, start small, and let your idea build. Innovation drives success.