After a 9-year hiatus, the popular Indie Rock Ice Cream Social returns to Off Broadway on Friday, August 12. The event features four indie rock bands and a free ice cream bar provided by Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream.
Michael Tomko, the show’s organizer, announced the return of the event to social media at the end of June. He was reassured by the positive reception. “It’s nice to hear that they remember that niche stuff. It pushes me to keep going,” he said.
The last ice cream party took place in 2013. Tomko started organizing the event in 2006 when he was the manager and guitarist/percussionist of the band Gentleman Auction House. He then played guitar for the group Via Dove, which performed at IRICS for several years. In 2007, Tomko was also co-owner of The Bluebird, later called The Firebird, a Midtown music venue that is now closed.
“Originally events were meant to push my own club or group further, but after 2013 I didn’t have any of those things anymore,” says Tomko. “Life changed and other activities caught my attention.” Tomko’s daughter was born in 2014 and her job as a software developer was becoming increasingly demanding.
Via Dove finally disbanded in 2015 and “my longest running event An Under Cover Weekend [an annual concert featuring local bands playing tribute sets at Delmar Hall] went on hiatus in 2019. Tomko also hosted the Tritone Expo, a 2016 music and technology exhibition at Cortex.
Tomko is excited to bring back social ice cream. He says he gets his energy from creating “elevated experiences for bands and fans.” Reflecting on her events background, “While I don’t expect to return to doing events full time, I personally missed that energy in my life and realized that some of the things I had prioritized over musical activities were ultimately not as fulfilling.
Can we expect more events to return in the future? “Maybe [IRICS] is a gateway to bringing back some of my local favorites from the past – like An Under Cover Weekend – and creating something new for a new generation of fans also sounds pretty appealing.
star wolf, YOUPEOPL, Supercar of Jesus Christ and Amberskies are all performing at this year’s ice cream social. Tomko says the event and the formation of four bands brings “shitty energy” because it takes place in an intimate venue where the crowd and the bands can feed off each other.
In addition, the programming is not “homogeneous, rather there is representation for different districts of Saint-Louis”, he says. The lineup includes neo-soul, disco punk and psychedelic funk.
In the past, social ice cream helped people discover bands they otherwise wouldn’t have known. “It takes a lot for people to spend money on a local artist, it’s a huge accomplishment for the band.”
The lure of free ice cream doesn’t hurt. The iconic desert speaks “a universal language that brings a whimsical yet familiar feeling,” says Tomko. “It’s like when you walk into a party where you don’t know anyone but you see this person you recognize.”
Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream has hosted the free ice cream bar since the beginning, serving an array of custom flavors and toppings. In recent years, there have been fancy flavors like salted caramel, Irish cream and Bordeaux cherry. This year, while the flavors are still being decided, Tomko mentions that guests can expect “a few basics alongside a few more adventurous flavors that Serendipity is known for.” Tomko’s 8-year-old daughter is even involved in the decision-making process.
With the familiar treat in hand at a familiar event, Tomko hopes the event will just happen. “When everyone is doing their own thing and has their own worries, it’s the touchstone of familiarity that brings everyone home.”
Check Indie Rock Ice Cream Social at Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Ave, offbroadwaystl.com) Friday, August 12. Doors at 6 p.m. and the concert starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.