Snow Sucks. Let’s Go Do Something This Weekend

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I work retail, so it’s not like I get snow days or anything. During the mega-super-blizzard back in December, the idea of us closing early was not only denied, but met with derision from our corporate overlords. But today I ended up with the day off anyway, so I made a bucketheaded snowman with my daughter. It is always a little weird how Iowa handles inclement weather. Sometimes even the thought of flakes can shutdown the entire state. Don’t do that. Don’t fall into the trap of big weatherman. Ed Wilson cackles to himself when you stay home because of a slight amount of snow. Don’t let Ed Wilson win.

There is a ton of stuff to do, and as usual, I outlined some highlights in my Des Moines I Not Boring column this week. Also, check out that album from Angle it is good. (Aww shucks, here you go.) But let me highlight four here if you don’t feel like clicking on the column:

Backstage Ball – Val Air Ballroom 2/22 7pm

Okay, I’m getting honored by DMMC. Whatever. That’s not why I bring this up. I want you to go to this because they do a lot of cool stuff, and the $75 really does go to good things. Here’s a video of the honorees discussing Des Moines and stuff. I made it all the way through only sort of looking like a dork. Okay, not I didn’t. I look like a total nervous dork who says dork things and does dork stuff with his hands. And somehow, I am the freeze frame when you go to play the video. Shut up. I’m not good on camera or talking in public!

Dylan Sires and The Neighbors, Twins, Gloom Balloon – Vaudeville Mews 2/22 10pm

I put this show in here because it is awesome, because Gloom Balloon’s Patrick Tape Fleming is doing an entire set of only 60’s covers and because I promised I would review Twins’ album prior to their Des Moine.s shows, and due to some unpleasantness, I didn’t get a chance. Go to this show and redeem me. You can make it both the Backstage Ball and this show.

Wrestling With Wolves, Seedlings and Canyons – Vaudeville Mews 2/23 10pm

Josh Putney from Diamonds For Eyes will be playing this show with Wrestling With Wolves. And what do you know, Diamonds For Eyes have a new video. Check it out.

Diamonds for Eyes “No Lament For True Lovers” from DEFT on Vimeo.

The Deer Tracks w/ Analibera and Ramona Muse – Vaudeville Mews 2/24 7pm

I want more people to want to go to this show. Des Moines doesn’t get a lot of catchy, Swedish electronic pop duos. So show Deer Tracks we love them. Check out their video for “Lazarus”.

Safety in Numbers: The Space For Ames Music Marathon 2013

Is Home Is' Mickey Davis

Is Home Is’ Mickey Davis

When I was a kid, there used to be houses with blue stars in the window. It was to let you know that if you needed a place to go to escape a kidnapper or a bully or whatever, you could go there and there was a nice person who totally wasn’t a psycho who could look after you until a parent or guardian was able to look after you. In 2013, it is kind of a hilarious notion that you could just trust some random stranger with your flesh and blood, just because they had a placard in their window, but that was what they lead you to believe. If there was a blue star, it was safe.

The Space For Ames should have a blue star in its front window. There is this gentle vibe from the people who frequent the place that tells me there is no wrong way to create art at The Space For Ames. Even the room itself has this glow that says you are allowed to come here and try whatever you want, judgment free. The peace sign made of recycling, the holes in the ceiling and the art on the wall all spoke to what this room allowed people to do and that they shouldn’t be afraid to do it. This is as safe a spot to create art as I’ve ever been in.

While the safety certainly comes from the aura, it doesn’t hurt that it also feels like a clubhouse. The Space is this roughly 13′ by 20′ box tucked in a hidden mall in Campustown surrounded by a Korean restaurant and a Domino’s. The room itself is a drywall closet that arguably has no real business being a venue, but somehow this tiny room has enough heart to support whatever pre-conceived notions you can build based off of its appearance. For five years, The Space For Ames has hosted a ton of eclectic art events, a lot of music, but a lot of other things including plays, art openings and yoga. On its birthday each year, The Space holds an epic marathon of music and this year’s was the biggest of them all. Starting at noon and carrying on long past after I left at 2:15 am, The Space hosted 55 Iowa bands of varying disciplines and genres, twenty minutes at a time.

My original plan was to spend the entire 15 plus hours there, jotting down notes and maybe presenting a bit of a list column documenting each act, but real life interfered, as per usual. I had to lurch around in day job hell until 10pm, then race home for a change of clothes, then haul up to Ames hopefully by 11:15 to catch Brooks Strause. Here is the cross section of the festival I made:

11:15 – Brooks Strause
11:35 – H.D. Harmsen & the Electrophones
11:55 – Flavor Basket
12:15 – Secret Freedom
12:35 – Is Home Is
12:55 – Mumford’s
1:15 – Stewardesses
1:35 – Christopher the Conquered
1:55 – Surgery

From that list, there were several I was excited to see. But there was a big three that I had to catch (it was four, but, well, I guess see my note regarding Stewardesses): the coffee-house genius of Brooks Strause, the pop fire of Harmsen, and the industrial lust of Surgery. I was familiar with all three, but had yet to catch any of them live. A nice twenty minute set where I could get a taste, form an opinion, and move on. Almost like an artistic wine tasting. If I hated them, I could just spit, and move on to the next artist. So, while I would love to talk about Mumford’s, Is Home Is and CtC again, eh. I think we all know where I stand with them (hint: they’re awesome), I’m going to focus on these three. Quick and dirty on Flavor Basket and Secret Freedom: I missed Flavor Basket and most of Secret Freedom because I had to run out to my car and drink a beer (The Space is alcohol free) because I am despicable and can’t be in a social situation without at least a little booze.

And let me knock out Stewardesses here, as well. I was excited for their set, only I ended up having a long discussion with someone, quite unexpectedly, that took me out of their set, both physically for a time and mentally afterward. I wanted to watch, and they were actually one of four that I wanted to see, but yeah, it didn’t happen. Sorry. I will do my best to make it up to them.

Brooks Strause is a brilliant singer songwriter. His performance reminded me a bit of when I caught Jeff Mangum in Ames back in September. He was bearded and a little slouched, much like Mangum. Also, while he was super talented, his emotion is what carried him, much like Mangum. His ability to put his heart on his sleeve was hypnotic and what he had to say and how he chose to say it was wrapped in this emotional blanket and etched on his face. Only, the emotions weren’t just his. He projected in a way that you couldn’t help but feel what he felt and believe what he believed. I feel like if he sang a song about robbing a bank, I would have slipped panty hose over my head before he was finished. At minimum, I would’ve driven the getaway car.

HD Harmsen is a handsome and charismatic pop star. His backing band are powerful enough to turn dinosaur bones into petroleum. That is as enjoyable a way to spend twenty minutes as anything. There just doesn’t seem to be any reason why he can’t be a gigantic star. Where Strause had everyone in the palm of his hand just simply by performing, Harmsen was a classic charmer. Making eye contact with everyone and playing to the crowd as much as time allowed. His live set held enough of my attention that I am even more excited to see what his debut album will bring later this year.

The final band I caught was Fairfield’s Surgery. Surgery are a three piece synth and guitar industrial act that pulls a lot from 80’s acts like Depeche Mode. I was completely blown away. Musically, they are unlike almost any other band I have come across in Iowa, just dark beats and scary sex. There is just this aura of danger and debauchery that comes not only from the sounds they make, but from the performance style of lead singer Joseph Mayfield. He is so in tune with the music and what he is supposed to do as a performer that you can’t help but be simultaneously scared and titillated. While performing, he is a madman who oozes an uncomfortable amount of lust towards himself and everyone around him. Musically, though, they are dark beats mixed with a hypnosis guitar. They were amazing and their three song set left me wanting more and questioning several thoughts about myself that I am pretty sure I had concretely settled on years ago.

While all the acts I was able to catch in full were stunning in their own way, the real star on this night was The Space, itself. It seriously felt like a true judgment free zone. Where fearless artists can make the art they want and perform it in front of a grateful and understanding audience. Here’s to five more years as a safe place for people to make possibly dangerous art.

Let’s Talk About A Large Breasted Woman, A Lady In A Bikini And Lots Of Other Music Stuff

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I tend to get pretty personal on this blog, because I think of this as much as my own personal blog and less as an all encompassing news source. There are lots of other people out there who do music news and journalism a whole lot better than I (For instance, check out Band Bombshell. They’re pretty awesome). Plus, I am pretty cheap and use this as my substitute for therapy and just make an unsuspecting public who just want to read about Poison Control Center or something deal with my neuroses.

Since it is my style, I sort of figured I would have to write a post discussing the sudden loss our family recently suffered, just because that’s what I do. When shit sticks in my mind it helps for me to try and work it out someway. But I have been staring at a blinking cursor for a week or so, and when I do write something I select all and destroy. I think it is because I can’t wrap my brain around what happened or why. I have yet to quantify my feelings in any sort of rational or verbal manner. The fact that a person can be there and then just not be there is an altogether new experience for me, and no amount of drafts I have written have really come across the way I feel. I think mostly, because I don’t know how to feel. I am sad for the loss, I am baffled by how life and death works and I am inspired by the life she lead and my desire to live a life that would make her the most proud. But I still don’t feel like my words can honor and express my feelings. My heart is broken so much that I think it broke my brain, as well.

So, I’m instead going to talk about this large breasted woman I saw at the mall today.

She looked like Cartman’s assistant from that episode of South Park where he’s Dog The Bounty Hunter only with dark hair. And a tattoo of a dragon on her right breast. It was mesmerizing.

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Anyway, there are like a billion things I have missed in the last couple of weeks, so let me try and highlight a couple of them, since I think I can still handle that.

– Former Des Moines based singer Roxi Copland is in the running for a contest to help pay for her next album, and she actually has a real shot at this. Roxi is a hell of a talent, so if you could throw a vote her way, that would be swell. Also, she said if she got to fourth she would make a video of her doing a bikini clad snow angel:

So, she’s a good sport, too. Give her a vote .

– Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival announced their lineup and it is awesome. Grizzly Bear, Divine Fits, Deerhoof, Iris Dement, Thao and the Get Down and Jeff the Brotherhood highlight the multi-day, multi-venue fest. For more info click here.

– Several bands have released albums in the past, oh, month or so. I think the big two are MINT and John the Bastard. MINT is currently available on iTunes while you can grab John the Bastard from their Bandcamp. It is loud.

– I have a new piece up at Des Moines is Not Boring featuring Brant Williams of The Workshy. I censored myself in the final draft, but just know that where it says “Popeye Doyle” I meant to write “Johnny Wadd”. You can read that here.

-The link has a list to a bunch of cool shows, but none cooler than The Space For Ames Anniversary Party. 15 hours and 55 Iowa bands. That is pretty incredible. You should go for at least a little bit. More info right here.

-On the subject of Ames, one that I missed is the EP Release show of talented singer/songwriter Sean Huston. Tonight at DG’s Taphouse in Ames. Feel free to check out the EP here and be sure to grab a copy.

-If you are a long time follower of this blog, you know how much I love Gross Domestic Product. This year’s event will be held at Vaudeville Mews/4th St Theatre on April 13. If you’re a band and you’d like to play that event, send them some of your work. You have until February 11. More info for that right here .

-And speaking of DMMC, their annual Backstage Ball fundraiser is set for February 22 at Val Air Ballroom. The Backstage Ball helps fund all the cool shit DMMC does throughout the year, as well as gives them an opportunity to honor people who make the Iowa music scene better. This year’s honorees are Nate Logsdon and Chris Lyng from Mumford’s, Marco from Dark Mirror, volunteer and all around badass Becky Migas and two guys who are also way better at music journalism than I, Joe Lawler of Juice and Chad Taylor of Cityview. Oh, and me. They’re honoring me. That’s messed up.

I feel like I’m leaving some stuff out, but, eh, I did pretty well I think. I promise I will get my shit together soon.