From Aretha Franklin to Outkast: Tonic Ball reveals its honored acts

Outkast Tonic
Indiana musicians will perform songs popularized by Outkast (from left, Andre 3000 and Big Boi) as part of this year's Tonic Ball. (File photo)

Tonic Ball, the annual benefit concert that uses cover songs to help fight hunger in Indianapolis, is set to return as an in-person event Nov. 18 in Fountain Square.

Organizers of the 21st edition of Tonic Ball unveiled Thursday a quartet of honored artists: Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Outkast and Taylor Swift. Indiana musicians will perform songs popularized by Franklin, Hendrix, Outkast and Swift at four venues: Radio Radio, White Rabbit Cabaret, the Hi-Fi and Square Cat Vinyl.

In 2020 and 2021, Tonic Ball was presented as an online show because of the pandemic. Instead of celebrating the careers of a handful of iconic artists, the online editions of Tonic Ball featured renditions of one-hit wonders in 2020 and chart-topping hits in 2021.

“We are thrilled to be back in person for 2022, after two years of wonderful virtual experiences,” said Kirsten Eamon-Shine, Tonic Ball committee co-chair, in a written statement. “Being back in these amazing Fountain Square venues means that more bands will be back in the mix, and we’re excited to see how they show up to celebrate these music icons.”

Since its debut in 2002, Tonic Ball has raised more than $1 million through sponsorships and ticket sales to donate to hunger relief agency Second Helpings.

In 2019, Tonic Ball raised enough money to provide more than 150,000 meals for people in need through Second Helpings, a not-for-profit that collects prepared and perishable food from wholesalers, retailers and restaurants and also trains people for careers in the food service industry.

At the first Tonic Ball, 12 acts paid tribute to country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons. The 2022 roster of honorees includes a pair of Rock & Roll Hall of Famers in Franklin and Hendrix. Swift has collected 11 Grammy Awards, while Outkast won six Grammys from 2002 to 2004.

The Nov. 18 edition of Tonic Ball will feature only honorees who grew up in the United States, something that hasn’t happened since 2013​​—when the music of Tom Petty, Pixies and the Grateful Dead was celebrated.

In a change from the 2019 edition of Tonic Ball, four venues will be dedicated to specific artists rather than five. The Fountain Square Theatre, previously a site where a single artist was honored, will be used for a sponsor experience. Eskenazi Health is the event’s sponsor.

Meanwhile, Square Cat Vinyl becomes a first-time Tonic Ball venue by succeeding Pioneer, which closed in 2019.

Honored artists have yet to be assigned to specific venues, which becomes valuable information when attendees dart from stage to stage to catch Indiana musicians play renditions of familiar songs.

Artists interested in performing as part of Tonic Ball are encouraged to sign up through Sept. 23 at tonicindy.com.

Tonic Ball’s honored acts through the years

  • 2002: Gram Parsons
  • 2003: Elvis Costello
  • 2004: Neil Young
  • 2005: The Rolling Stones
  • 2006: Prince, Talking Heads
  • 2007: The Clash, Madonna
  • 2008: Elvis Presley, Queen
  • 2009: Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin
  • 2010: The Beatles
  • 2011: Michael Jackson, R.E.M., David Bowie
  • 2012: The Kinks, Stevie Wonder, U2
  • 2013: Tom Petty, Pixies, Grateful Dead
  • 2014: The Velvet Underground/Lou Reed, Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana/Foo Fighters
  • 2015: Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Beck, Tina Turner
  • 2016: The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, David Bowie, Prince
  • 2017: James Brown, Simon & Garfunkel, Dolly Parton, the Cure, Wilco
  • 2018: Johnny Cash, Elton John, ABBA, Pearl Jam, Beyonce
  • 2019: Radiohead, Beastie Boys, Ramones, Diana Ross, Bob Marley
  • 2020: One-hit wonders (presented online)
  • 2021: Chart-topping hits (presented online)
  • 2022: Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Outkast, Taylor Swift

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