GDP Song of the Day-ish – The White Elephant – Airplane

Gross Domestic Product is just around the corner, April 14 to be exact, and I thought to help promote it a little, I would feature a song from one of the bands each day-ish. I probably won’t do it everyday, thus the -ish. For more info on GDP visit the Facebook Event Page or Des Moines Music Coalition’s website

This was one of two acts that I wasn’t even slightly familiar with coming in to this year’s GDP. I will get to the other very soon, I’m sure (spoiler alert: It’s The Beatnicks). With as much focus as I have on Iowa music, you’d think there wouldn’t be a single band that I don’t at least have a passing knowledge, let alone two that are featured at arguably Iowa’s biggest showcase for local talent. I think that just speaks to how much is actually going on in our state.

Every year, Joe Lawler writes a music award column for Des Moines Register’s Juice. Its is fun and local artists get some exposure (both musically and the artist who creates the awards). Well anyway, this year they released a reader’s choice category and the voting is here . On that list, there are a ton of acts that I’ve never heard of. I am a guy who spends a large amount of time studying Iowa music, and I still only knew maybe half.

I think it is a testament to this town, this state even as to just how much talent we have. And with the amount of acts sharing members, that list shows just how hard working this scene is. It is a full time job at this point for me to just kind of keep up, so just the vastness of our area is a little Carl Sagan level mind-numbing.

As for The White Elephant, I liked it. I thought it had a hard rock sound with a southern rock vibe. On Facebook they call themselves “swamprock”, and that seems very spot on. The sound is dirty and garage, but the vocals are crisp and bright. It reminds me of a swap in fact. Lots of beauty hidden among the grime and muck.

And now I realized that I spent nearly no time talking about the music. I promise I will do The White Elephant again. For now, go listen to their EP here.


Gross Domestic Product Song of the Day-ish – Tires – 05

Jordan Mayland and Phil Young are Tires (From their Facebook)

Gross Domestic Product is just around the corner, April 14 to be exact, and I thought to help promote it a little, I would feature a song from one of the bands each day-ish. I probably won’t do it everyday, thus the -ish. For more info on GDP visit the Facebook Event Page or Des Moines Music Coalition’s website






This was a little unexpected to me. I know of Mayland and Young’s work in other bands, and they tend to lean more towards the pop rock-punk rock side of things. So, to get smacked in the face by the noisy electronic instrumental brilliance of “05” was kind of just staggering. The layered drums and and the bleeps and bloops and the synths and the overall noise and I actually need a moment to catch my breath just writing about it.





This is kind of unlike anything I have heard from an Iowa band. I’m sure there are some folks out there who could correct me if I’m wrong, and to be honest, I kind of hope I am. I hope there is a whole community of Kraftwerk and Sigue Sigue Sputnik disciples just running around making electronic noises at each other in, say, Roland that I just don’t know about. In fact, the only Iowa band I can think of that comes close to this is a band called Blutiger Fluss. But they aren’t this wonderfully obnoxious with sound. This is a pretty rare and modern sound for us backwoods Iowa folks to handle. Just know that if you don’t like this, I will think less of you. Or, I won’t, but regardless, please like this so more people will do stuff like it.

Road Trip Tuesday – Nada Surf with An Horse – 3/30 The Waiting Room in Omaha

Here is something I don’t get. Flaming Lips are awesome. Their live show is unreal and their albums are unique and unlike anything other. Somehow, they have completely overcome their early potential one-hit wonder status from “She Don’t Use Jelly”. Every bit of praise and critical acclaim they have earned and is more than well deserved.

Yet, somehow whenever I tell someone that Nada Surf is awesome the first response is always, “Really? Those guys who did “Popular”?” So let me state once, for the record, Nada Surf is awesome. Yes, those guys who did that song “Popular”

Of course, it is a little unfair to compare the two bands other than their potential one hit wonder status. The Flaming Lips are stalwarts of experimentation. They are constantly trying new and mind-bending things whereas Nada Surf are an indie rock band. It would almost be more fair to compare them to, say, Pavement who almost never get just remembered for “Cut Your Hair”. Well, regardless, Nada Surf are great. They have found a way maintain their ability and integrity and still stay slightly under the radar. This is a solid show and they should be regarded in the same air as some of the other 90’s bands who are still spoke of in hushed tones.

I also really like An Horse. A two piece band who of course are going to be compared to The White Stripes, although I think they are close to a male female Local H, if we’re going with two piece bands. They seem to have more of a hard rock hit than a blues infused sound.

Didya Get Your 80/35 Tickets?

If you’re one of those people who want to wait to get your tickets once you know the lineup, here is you chance to still get presale tix, and know some bands. Watch the video, figure out the clues. Know the lineup. Buy tickets.

In all seriousness, there is something special about 80/35. There is the opportunity to learn about bands and be outside and drink and all that. But my civic pride also wants Des Moines to be a location that music fans look forward to every year. If we can build our rep into, say, a Midwestern Austin, we will get 80/35 caliber bands year round. We need this. I need this.

Concert Review: The Mynabirds with Big Harp – 3-21-12 at Vaudeville Mews

The Mynabirds. Shot with my cell phone from one of the unique vantage points at Vaudeville Mews.

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So, What the Hell Is Good Music Anyway?

I’m out of town, so in light of doing actual work, I thought I would throw this up and maybe start a discussion.

In my Des Moines Is Not Boring column, I talk a little bit about not being a huge fan of The Nadas. I would never go so far as to call them sub-par musicians or anything, they’re just not for me. But they seem to be super popular around town, so maybe I’m just wrong.

A week or so ago, I went to the Gas Lamp for a friend’s birthday party. The Gas Lamp is a cool joint if you haven’t been. The new varnished wood and the bright lights allow the bar to sparkle in a way that some of the other venues in town don’t. I suppose that can be a good or bad thing as sometimes it feels a little too much like hanging out at a bar and listening to music as opposed to being at a concert.

I set out that night to prepare a review of the venue, but my mood and the mood of the crowd kind of impaired me from being truly objective. On this particular night, there were two bands and (I won’t name them because I don’t want it to seem like bad press and that isn’t my goal) I wasn’t a fan. It just seemed a little too immature for my tastes, but man the (very inebriated) masses were having a good time.

So, for those of us in the audience, and heck maybe even some of the artists, how do we acuratly quantify what is “good” and what sucks? To those of us who think we have good taste, what are we looking for in our music? And can someone truly then have a “guilty pleasure”? Also, if we are turning our nose to other audience members for their tastes, why are they wrong? Is it a matter of not being exposed properly?

Anyway, give it some thought and have a good weekend.

80/35 Tickets Go On Sale Today…

…if you’re a member of the Des Moines Music Coalition. It seems silly if you’re not already a member, but if you’re not, head here to do that. Then go here for more info. April 3, bands will be revealed and well, you should get tickets.