Review: 2012 Gross Domestic Product : Iowa’s Coming Out Party


Iowa has arguably the most unique and collaborative music scene in the country. It feels like true phenomena, and to some it probably feels phony or forced; maybe even backhanded or underhanded, like the graciousness of the artists is just so they can get something for themselves. The reality is, it is just the ideals so many of us who grew up in Iowa were instilled with: look out for others, take care of those who take care of you, respect and build up those who are working towards their goals, and they will respond in kind. It is a pretty simple set of ideals, and one that I try to adhere to as often as possible. This year’s version of GDP was the very essence of those ideals so many of us live with and work for and strive to attain every single day of our lives. Not as artists, but as people going to work every day whether we love what we do or we hate it and just do it because we have to. But for an artist, it can be especially tough.

Iowa has historically had a poor attitude about arts, thinking and being taught that you have to leave here and make it on your own in someone else’s city. As the new generations start to take over, however, you can feel the groundswell and the change that is coming to our fair state. This year’s GDP felt like Iowa was ready to be taken seriously. And it is by being uniquely talented and uniquely Iowan, that we finally have not only the goods, but the mindset to go along with it.

2012’s slate of bands are some of the hardest working, talented and gifted musicians in the state, for sure, which honestly doesn’t separate them from every other year’s version of GDP, in and of itself. What set this event apart from pretty much any other of this magnitude was the collaboration and support each band seemed to give each other leading up to the show, which was unlike anything I had ever seen on a promotional level. You had things like Jen Allen and Kristin Sauvago from Hath No Fury doing a small preview of each band on their Facebook pages. Or, a chunk of the members of Love Songs For Lonely Monsters and Tires screaming and dancing to Trouble Lights at their show the night before GDP

(Quick review of that show: Lots of fun. Jordan Mayland played some cool new songs and had everyone in the palm of his hand and Trouble Lights put on one of the best shows I have ever seen especially considering there wasn’t a ton of people there (shame so many of you missed it, unless you went to the Christopher the Conquered release, then I understand) and I can now say with complete affirmation that they will be the next big thing from Iowa. They’re for real, folks and you might as well get on the bandwagon now.)

Oh, and then there was this:

It wasn’t just to sell tickets it was to sell Iowa. Because they believe in themselves and in each other.

Saturday night continued the theme of collaboration and respect. I know there is a politeness to thanking the people you play with, but there just seemed to be an actual reverence and, I dunno, joy from the members of the bands playing with the people they got to play with. Like, they actually, you know, liked each other and rooted for each other. Plus, there seemed to be members of each band at each other’s sets, dancing and having the time of their lives. It was support. It was love. It was community and it was infectious.

At the center of this were the Kings of Iowa, Mumford’s. If there was ever a flag bearer for the state, it is these folks (hell, they have been literal flag bears for the state, bringing the state flag of Iowa with them on tour). Sure enough, not only was lead singer Nate Logsdon at the front of the crowd for each set dancing and swaying, but on stage he took it to another level. Manic and shirtless, eyes crossing and uncrossing seemingly without provocation, Mumford’s played a truly breathtaking show that shook the rafters and nearly tore down the chandeliers of the classic hotel. They also used the stage to continue being Iowa’s ambassadors to the world. Logsdon shouted out every performer and actually had kind things to say about each one. He had Little Ruckus from Utopia Park there as a backup dancer/hype-man. He sang a song from Ames artist Lesbian Poetry a capella and urged everyone to sing with him, teaching the crowd the lyrics as we went. He invited Tires’ Jordan Mayland up to play trumpet for a song and, in arguably the highlight of the night, was joined on stage by Trouble Light’s Adrien Daller for a mind blowing cover of Salt N Pepa’s “Shoop”, which I have to think has to be the first time that song has ever been referred to as mind blowing. So in one 45 minute or so set, Mumford’s managed to not only blow everyone away with their performance, but give the stage and spotlight to other Iowa acts as well.

And that in a nutshell is what the night was about, it wasn’t about who had the best performance or who made the most new fans on their own, it was making sure everyone got their due, their showcase, and their respect.

I will try to talk a bit about each act, but it seems trivial since that’s not what I took away from this. It felt less like separate performances and more like one big event. By the time Christopher the Conquered took the stage, the place was a euphoric glow of energy. Not just from the music, but from the community we, the fans, the promoters, the volunteers and the performers, had created. Chris also highlighted the Poison Control Center and bella soul during his performance, as well. So, on top of the ten bands, so many others were name-checked and highlighted.

Like I said, I’m not going to go through a whole playlist or anything like that. Unknown Component showed a complexity you don’t generally see from a solo artist and Trouble Lights crushed it, again (seriously, y’all). The few bands who maybe didn’t have strong Des Moines ties worked extra hard (or hell, maybe that’s just how hard they work all the time), and hopefully their hard work earned them some new fans. White Elephant were loud and gruff and seemed to be having fun the entire time and The Beatnicks charismatic and crowd involved performance was a highlight, for sure.

I also hope that the showing from Hath No Fury would bring some people to a heavier show who maybe wouldn’t have gone before (this would include me, unfortunately). The pure beauty of the River Monks was also a nice slowdown and reflection point in preparation for the madness of Mumford’s and Christopher the Conquered.

There were no duds in any performance but I did leave with maybe two new favorites, Tires and Love Songs For Lonely Monsters. LS4LM was a musically loud and somewhat heavy performance with an equally mesmerizing performance from front-woman Amy Badger. Her adorable, yet unhinged twirl and her shy and hair hidden face, yet mischievous smile was captivating. Musically, they were so in tune with each others movements and actions, yet at times it had the right level of garage de-synchronization that it felt a little more spontaneous and well anarchist.

Tires was chaos at its finest. They also had the advantage of playing their set inside, while outside, Mother Nature did her best to destroy our fair city. The combination of the three levels of percussion as well as Phil Young somehow managing to control the electronic beats while also crushing live instruments was such a unique and somewhat rapturous experience, and i mean that in an end of the world sense. For their last song, they did a remix of Utopia Park’s “First Evil/Weird Life” with Little Ruckus on vocals. They hit it all so hard and loud, and with the driving rain, hail and uprooted trees going on just on the other side of the wall and windows, there was a brief concern that the world was going to end. Instead it was just the end of their set, although if armageddon would’ve occurred, it probably would’ve fit in well.

Overall, 2012’s Gross Domestic Product felt like a force of nature, and not just because of the weather that surrounded it. It felt as if all the talk we have heard about Iowa not be a viable artistic or musical community was buried in a hail of guitars and beats and horns and sweat and love and probably blood. This seemed like the literal sounding of the trumpets for Iowa finally being ready to be taken seriously, and they moved heaven and Earth just to prove it.



  1. I really like your description of the Iowa music scene. I think you captured it really well. The first couple of paragraphs pretty much explain anything people need to know about our scene!

    • Thanks, Dan. I appreciate it.

  2. […] brought their magic to just last week (check out this great review of the show on the wonderful music blog, Little Big Fest, and more) to bring their Music University series to Ames! Music University has […]

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