Make a Mixtape, It Always Helps- 80/35 Music Festival 2014

Chris Ford and Patrick Tape Fleming of Gloom Balloon

Chris Ford and Patrick Tape Fleming of Gloom Balloon

I almost bought into it. I did. I dunno if it is my natural depression, my often weirdly intense paranoia or the fact that I spend too much time on the internet, but the somewhat harsh outcry and the excruciating six week wait between band announcements and I almost caved into a thought that I just wouldn’t like this year’s 80/35, or maybe even worse, I nearly became apathetic to it. I knew I would go, and all the good things about the festival that I have spoke of the last two years were going to happen: the community building, the resume building, the memory building would all be there. But would I care? Continue reading

80/35 Schedule – Let’s Fight the Conflicts Together

(Here is The River Monks video for “I Am A Lake” shot by the good people at DEFT.)

Last week 80/35 released their schedule. When I first read it, it seemed kind of cut and dry as to which shows I would go to, so I didn’t think the column would be necessary. But now that I have actually sat down to officially plan out my schedule, it turns out there are a few absolutely brutal conflicts. So, let’s power through this together.

Don’t have tickets to 80/35, yet? How dare you.

If you do decide to head down and just go to the free stages (which I would support because those stages are awesome), please buy your beer there and maybe an 80/35 t-shirt. Or even just donate $10 to the Greater Des Moines Music Coalition. They are a non-profit, afterall, and I would like them to continue doing this each year.

Here is the full schedule, in chronological order, for your reference. 80/35 also has an app you can download if your phone is not a bunch of garbage (Incidentally, a solid fuck off to US Cellular for changing the date of my eligibility and destroying their phone pricing model, but I’m digressing) (MS – Main Stage, KG – Kum and Go Stage, HV – Hy Vee Stage)


12:00 p.m. Brother Trucker -MS
12:00 p.m. Quick Piss –KG
12:00 p.m. M34n Str33t HV
12:45 p.m. Fury Things – KG
1:00 p.m. Fire Sale HV
1:30 p.m. Gloom Balloon – MS
1:45 p.m. Chicago Farmer – KG
2:00 p.m. TWINS HV
2:45 p.m. TREE – KG
3:15 p.m. Dawes – MS
3:00 p.m. Cirrus Minor HV
3:45 p.m. Circle of Heat – KG
4:00 p.m. Bonne Finken HV
4:45 p.m. Black Diet – KG
5:00 p.m. Best Coast – MS
5:00 p.m. GoodcaT HV
5:45 p.m. Pert Near Sandstone – KG
6:00 p.m. MAIDS HV
6:45 p.m. The Hooten Hallers – KG
6:45 p.m. Ziggy Marley – MS
7:00 p.m. Max Jury HV
8:00 p.m. Surfer Blood – KG
8:00 p.m. The River Monks HV
9:00 p.m. Conor Oberst – MS


12:00 p.m. Boy & Bear MS
12:00 p.m. Dat Dude Biggz KG
12:00 p.m. Volcano Boys HV
12:45 p.m. Har-di-Har KG
1:00 p.m. Zeta June HV
1:45 p.m. Soap KG
1:45 p.m. Raz Simone MS
2:00 p.m. Foxholes HV
2:45 p.m. Shy Boys KG
3:00 p.m. Kris Adams HV
3:15 p.m. The Envy Corps MS
3:45 p.m. Useful Jenkins KG
4:00 p.m. James Biehn HV
4:45 p.m. The Whigs KG
5:00 p.m. Parlours HV
5:00 p.m. Xavier Rudd MS
5:45 p.m. Caroline Smith KG
6:00 p.m. Aquamarine Dream Machine HV
6:45 p.m. King Fantastic KG
7:00 p.m. Holy White Hounds HV
7:00 p.m. Dr. Dog MS
8:00 p.m. Those Darlins KG
8:00 p.m. The Maytags HV
9:00 p.m. Cake MS

(I didn’t include the late night shows because sadly, I will not be in attendance for them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, if that’s what you desire.)

So let’s talk this out, and maybe we can figure this out together. It will be okay. It will all be okay.

M34N STR33T vs Brother Trucker vs Quick Piss – July 4 Noon

The festival kicks off with three quality bands in three different genres. M34N STR33T is a hip hop act from Omaha, Quick Piss is grimy punk and Brother Trucker is good old-fashioned rock and roll. I really like all three, but I sort of feel like I can see some version of Brother Trucker a lot this summer, so if its a three way tie, sadly they’re probably out. The remaining two are super unique and I’m having a tough time picking. I would really like to see the show with the full projection art, though, and I worry that at noon, M34N STR33T aren’t going to have that element. But Quick Piss is playing an aftershow with Surfer Blood that I hope I can go to. It’s a tough call.

WINNER – Quick Piss

Surfer Blood vs The River Monks – July 4 8pm

Three months ago and this is a no brainer. Surfer Blood are awesome and they rarely come through here, if ever. The River Monks are a local, and they get gigs, so I could miss them and not fret. It’s just that River Monks put out the album that I am listening to more than any other right now, and I sort of feel I should see them play stuff off of it. Again, Surfer Blood is playing an aftershow, so I could conceivably just go to that, but I really like Surfer Blood. Guh, this one is going to hurt.

WINNER – Surfer Blood

Raz Simone vs Foxholes – July 5 145/2pm

The hip-hop acts have all been revelations this year. TREE, King Fantastic, Dat Dude Biggz, Kris Adams and M34N STR33T all have a ton of ability. The best of the bunch might be Raz Simone, a no-nonsense writer who speaks from the heart and from the soul. Foxholes have been a revelation themselves, bursting onto the scene with a riff and a yell. Maybe the toughest call of the fest and one I will probably catch a little of both. If I have to choose one, though, I think I know which way to go.

WINNER – Foxholes

The Whigs vs Xavier Rudd – July 5 454/5pm

I normally wouldn’t be that into a guy who appeals to the jam crowd, but Xavier Rudd is different. His sound is so unique and his live show sounds incredible due to the sheer amount of instruments and sounds he makes by himself. The Whigs are getting a lot of press and they have this classic rock grind to them that makes them special. Solid choice either way.

WINNER – Xavier Rudd

King Fantastic vs Dr. Dog vs Holy White Hounds – July 5 645/7pm

Three tough choices. I will probably catch the first few minutes of King Fantastic, so that may suffice, but they are so good. At 7 both Holy White Hounds and Dr. Dog play. Every Dr. Dog song I have heard I have liked, but Holy White Hounds are really putting together an awesome live show. I regret missing their turn at GDP, so I may have to rectify that here. The problem with the whole national vs local is that the locals really go all out for 80/35, so you can’t always just say “I will catch them another time” because another time won’t be as special. This feels like a set that is going to be special. Fuck it, going with my gut.

WINNER – Dr. Dog

So Friday looks like: Quick Piss, Fury Things, Gloom Balloon, TWINS, TREE, Dawes, Bonne Finken, Best Coast, Maids, Ziggy Marley, Surfer Blood, Conor Oberst

And for Saturday: Boy & Bear, Har-di-Har, Raz Simone, Foxholes, Envy Corps, James Biehn, The Whigs, Xavier Rudd, Caroline Smith, King Fantastic, Dr. Dog, Those Darlins, Cake

Best laid plans and all that, though, right? We will see where the days take me in just under two weeks.

Review: Emily Reo, Tires, Cuddle Formation and Ramona Muse @ Des Moines Social Club

2014-06-21 20.27.45

That’s a wallet I bought from Cuddle Formation. It’s pink and has stars. On the inside is scrawled “Balance: LOL” and “PIN: 6969420”. This is my wallet now. The one I use everyday to house my driver’s license and health insurance card and such is pink and has stars and says “Balance: LOL”. I threw away my brown leather wallet and transferred all of my identification and other personal effects into this wallet. I am almost 34 years old.

I have a problem where I forget just how old I am. This has been a long-standing issue where I don’t realize just how a person of my age and responsibilities should behave. In my teens, I still collected toys. In my twenties I worried and fretted about what people I went to high school thought about me. Now, I often forget that I am in my thirties with two kids and no job. Time just moves quicker than I realize.

Here is the thing about mental age: the rest of the world just keeps right on spinning. Time refuses to stand still, even if you do. People change and expect you to have done the same. People get older, sometimes they pass, and as you age you have to realize that more and more of the people you grew up with are gone, if not physically then they are different people than they were, and you probably should grow, too. Your possessions increase and so do your responsibilities, which then means that your possessions need to change to match your responsibilities and if you remain attached to things to showcase your youth while also trying to match your responsibilities you suddenly have a house full of crap you don’t really need. Even if you want to pretend you’re still 22, the rest of the world expects you to be 34. There are certain expectations of what a mid-thirties father should probably be. He should be working towards something, and should be well on his way to getting there. He should already have a moderate amount of success and should be parlaying that success into even more success so his family doesn’t have want or need.

That’s the dream, right? Or at least that’s my dream. To be as aged as the rest of the world sees me and needs me to be so my family can always be taken care of. I suppose the real dream is that the world just leaves me be and I can somehow co-exist with what I want to be and what I have to be to make sure my family is always taken care of, but the sad reality is that you need to have some sort of conformity. I need to give up the some of the trappings of youth and just get with the program. To grow and understand just what my position in life should be, but I often fall back into the trap of immaturity. I feel like once I realize that I am an adult and also how to be an adult I can then go be an adult.

It’s thoughts like that that lead you to going to shows with the fight of being in your thirties but wanting to behave like you’re in your mid-twenties. You overcompensate. You go with the thought that you can experience art, but you end up networking. You go with the idea that you can write things like:

“Cuddle Formation has a sound that differs from their band name. To me, I expected bouncy, peppy and happy. Maybe even cartoony. But it turns out it is weird, ambient and slightly dark. Also, beautiful as Cuddle Formation plays with noise, sound and light in a way that brings out a pulchritude that you wouldn’t expect. Maybe just an appreciation and joy of beauty that can bring people together. Maybe they’ll even embrace because of it. Huh, I guess Cuddle Formation is apt, afterall.”

And actually get swept up in that thought and not just write it. (It’s true, by the way.)

Instead, you spend a whole lot of time analyzing why you’re there and not trying to find a job and being insular when you should appreciate what you have in front of you. You end up envying Ramona Muse because of the freedom and confidence she exudes and then almost cursing her for the same things because you are no longer young and free and are super jealous. You end up missing a dynamic talent like Emily Reo so you can talk to someone who could potentially impact your career aspirations, whatever they may be. You worry that Tires is going to destroy your hearing instead of being excited that Tires is going to destroy your hearing (thanks to legendary and award-winning Iowa concert goer Andrew Smith for giving me an extra pair of ear plugs. They were needed.) You have constant internal debates as to whether the money for cover, beers and one accidental over-priced bourbon (C’mon, Bulliet is like the same price per bottle as Jameson, no way it should be four dollars more per glass) could’ve been better spent on things like toilet paper and applesauce. Then sometimes after consuming those drinks your brain revolts with this being old bullshit and you buy a pink wallet with cartoon stars. LOL.

It is the balance that needs to be achieved. Aging is fine, and should be understood and accepted, but not at a complete loss of what makes you you. If I could offer one piece of advice to a graduating class it would be, “Live in the now, appreciate the then and anticipate what will be.” But this mindset doesn’t happen immediately. It has to be developed, cultured and nurtured. If you push too quickly into it, you buy a wallet that is pink and has stars and says “6969420” instead of household goods so you can rage against what the world needs you to be in the silliest way possible.

I woke the next day completely embarrassed by my purchase, but I realize now that there has to be that balance. That I still have a little bit of that immaturity to me while trying to improve. So, I’m going to keep it as my wallet. I wanted that wallet, so I have that wallet. It will be my link to the past as I move toward the future. A reminder of the person I was and the person I am and the person I will be. I did end up scribbling over the inside stuff, because I am for sure too old to have a wallet that says “6969420”.

On Professionalism Featuring The Giving Tree Band and Twins

Twins at Vaudeville Mews - 5-15-14

Twins at Vaudeville Mews – 5-15-14

I got my first taste of the “business” side of the scene back in 2008. For a couple of years, I was booking shows for the Des Moines Social Club and I pretty much knew about a quarter of what I should’ve in order to be truly successful. When the first official space opened on Locust Ave, I booked mostly locals, but occasionally I would get a request from a touring band, and I did my best to be accommodating. I was hamstrung a bit by running a space that was trying not to do a cover charge and also by having a small room looking for more of a coffee shop vibe. The touring bands had to take a guarantee (but I always felt we were more than fair in what we offered) and sometimes had to play to crowds who were more interested in hanging out than they were the bands. It was an uncomfortable vibe at times, but I feel like most of the bands enjoyed themselves. At minimum they were happy to get a paycheck and almost always played well. Except once.

I booked a band from somewhere in the Midwest. I want to say Minneapolis. Might’ve been Madison. If I were better at holding grudges, I would remember. They were to play at 9pm. At 9pm there were three people in the bar. They decided not to play. This blew my mind. While I wasn’t happy with the turnout, we did what we could. Sometimes things just go south. It’s not like their paycheck was tied to the door. They were getting their money whether there were 3 or 300. I mean, I get it. I have access to my traffic numbers and my heart sinks a little bit when I click on a piece I am proud of and see how many (or rather how few) have actually read it. But sometimes you just have to make art for the sake of making art.

Now, I understand that writing and performing are two different things, but I think that’s what held me back for so long. I feel (or at least hope) that I have stopped writing for the attention it brings and started just writing. Sometimes, I half-ass things, but that’s because I half-ass things. It’s who I am. But here I am, half drunk on bad scotch, writing about two shows I saw two weeks ago, just so that I can write. No one needs my take on these shows at this point, but I just want to write about them. Even if the people who do read it hate it, so what, I wrote something.

I think that’s why I had such an enjoyable time catching both Twins at Vaudeville Mews and The Giving Tree Band at Wooly’s, because while there were some obvious differences: the size of venue, a “hometown” (Twins are from Cedar Falls, but whatever, they’re from here) show versus being on tour, etc., both bands did something that I respect beyond just being solid musicians. They performed. They proved that sometimes when you believe in what you’re doing and the art you’re making, it doesn’t matter if there are 50 of your friends crowded up front singing along, or 50 people who like your band, but not enough to stand anywhere near that stage.

My night actually started at Wooly’s. The Giving Tree Band were slated to go on at 7, but at a quarter after, they hadn’t. Now, I understand that this is a common occurrence, but standing around in a venue that holds 800 with 1/100th of that actually in attendance made me feel really awkward. I felt bad that a quality touring band was going to play to such a sparse crowd and worried that the show wasn’t going to be able to overcome the lack of crowd. So, I did what any coward would do. I left. I decided that I didn’t need to talk about the Giving Tree Band. So, I hauled ass the 10-ish blocks just in time to catch Twins at Vaudeville Mews.

All ages shows are such hit and miss sometimes, with shows starting at 5, there has to be at least a portion of the population that see such an early start time and just bail. Twins had a solid crowd. Not a sellout or anything, but a solid crowd. Most importantly they were an engaged crowd. The people that came to the show came to see them and to be a part of their live show. Twins fed off of that, bantering with the crowd whenever they could. It doesn’t hurt that Twins might be the best live band in the state. I would say they are the best live band from the UNI area (funny enough is that the only other band that I think touches them from that area is Dylan Sires and Neighbors, and they’re all from the same family. Well, I thought it was funny…)

While the rest of the band holds their own and the quartet are an in sync power pop machine, the live show is driven by the manic antics of Joel Sires. He twirls and spins and his expressive face is captivating. Whether he is singing or simply as back up, he still seems to lose himself in the performance. They played for about an hour, mostly tracks off their newest album Tomboys on Parade, and with time to spare they hit some of my favorites off of their seemingly criminally ignored first album Funny Faces.

After Twins set, I was able to run back across the river to Wooly’s to catch at least part of the Giving Tree Band. Sadly, the room hadn’t filled up much more than when I left, with maybe three dozen people total. Maybe even more egregious was that all of those people chose to sit at the tables towards the back of the room, so there was a fifty foot divide between band and audience. At one point, I went to the front and leaned on the stage, but after a few seconds, I again felt super awkward being in such an empty room. I have been at small shows before and I have been to shows by myself before, but when it is a room the size of Wooly’s, it is really noticeable just how alone you are. I began to drift through the room, a bit lost and distracted. When I finally settled I noticed two things: there were guys at the back of the room who likely paid money to go to a live show and then played cribbage, which seems pretty assholy to me, and Giving Tree Band weren’t fazed at all.

I would’ve figured the lack of vibe in the room itself would be noticeable, and maybe it was at the beginning of the set, but by the time I caught them, they were in a solid groove. Their art and their music and maybe just a groove of being veteran performers carried them through. Their music is roots-rock and really fun. In a different timeline, they’re Avett Brothers popular, as they really hit that same harmony and charm while playing bounce-able, enjoyable music.

What I think was most evident about both Twins and The Giving Tree Band is that they seem like the type of bands that just love to make music. That the art itself is what drives them. I have seen Twins and The Giving Tree Band play to big crowds before, and it doesn’t seem like their style or ability changes much in front of a packed house or just a roomful of friends or an empty room full of people sitting yards away. I am a little embarrassed by the turnout for The Giving Tree Band and I hope they are willing to give Des Moines another shot, and I hope Des Moines gives them one, as well. Their energy and ability seems really up the alley of many people in Des Moines, if they could just get in front of the right audience. They might be the perfect band for a Simon Estes Amphitheater type show as their jam tendencies would speak well to the outdoor showcase (they played 80/35 in 2010, so they have played that type of show to that type of audience).

Back in 2011 I saw a band I really liked with like five other people. They were awesome. I put them as one of my favorite performances of the year in my year end column and one of the five other people gave me guff for it simply because there were only five people. I just felt like they were extra special that night. It’s just a special feeling when the great ones hit a high level, and you know that it is for themselves as much as the audience.

Premiere: End the Wrld featuring Adrien Daller – I Don’t Have Anything

(Photo by Cody Osen)

Last year, I was introduced to End the Wrld, a project of Des Moines producer/musician Phil Young. End the Wrld’s first track, “5 to 9”, feautres vocals from Anna Gebhart and is this delightful disco-meets-Lady-Gaga-meets-Queer-Eye’s-theme-song-meets-the third-level-of-Double-Dragon track that kind of astounded me and made me very happy. One track in, and I got very excited for the future of this project.

It took a long 7 months for the second End the Wrld track to surface, this time a more modern dream-pop track with Gebhart and Dustin Kniffen providing vocals. While nowhere near the dicso blitz of “5 to 9”, the track is beautiful and a worthy successor. 7 months, though. That’s just not fair.

Luckily, End the Wrld let a little less time pass to release the third track, “I Don’t Have Anything”. “I Don’t Have Anything” is another disco track (produced by Young, but also featuring Jordan Mayland and Cory Wendel) in the same vein as “5 to 9”, but Adrien Daller (of Trouble Lights) gives it her own lyrical spin. For such a happy, bouncing track, it is actually kind of a sad story being told. The contrast of this Moroder-esque music with a tale of damaged love is a really neat, and surprisingly deep for such a sugary piece of business.

I’m really excited that I get to debut this track. I am also happy to say that they plan to perform the track live on Saturday, May 10th at the grand opening of the Des Moines Social Club’s permanent home at 900 Mulberry (an event that also features Dustin Smith and the Sunday Silos, Land of Blood and Sunshine and a keynote address by David Byrne). So click the track and share this with as many people as possible. Maybe if enough of us show how much we like it, new tracks will be released at a greater clip.

Review: Lesbian Poetry – Self-Titled


My time as a shut-in has not been going well. I lost my job two months ago and I sort of assumed with all of my new free time I would be able to really dive headfirst into this whole writing thing. Maybe I could improve my editing skills a bit and really put some effort into what I was doing. What has happened is I dove headfirst into hitting refresh on my Facebook page for new posts to appear, 1980’s professional wrestling and trying to figure out why my one year old is crying.

All of of this laziness and lack of adult interaction has driven me a bit mad. I find myself increasingly angry towards things of little consequence. My most recent anger has been towards internet commenters being rude towards things I care about, and even things I don’t necessarily. Here is an example: Lazerfest recently announced that they are changing venues from the outdoor space in Boone to Wells Fargo Arena. With just 12 days to go, this has put some people in a bind. I understand that changing travel plans can be a nightmare, and people have the right to be upset. I just don’t understand what the point of going to the comments section of an article about their move and complaining accomplishes.

What angers me the most, however, is the people who comment with something along the lines of “I wasn’t going to this crap festival because the lineup sucks and if your (because they seemingly always use the wrong “you’re/your”) going your stupid and deserve to be screwed. lol (because they always put “lol” at the end).” I just don’t get what sense of pleasure people get by going onto a public forum and stating that you don’t like what other people like. That you’re somehow a better human because you don’t like Queens of the Stone Age. I mean, I don’t like Theory of a Deadman but other than a poor joke on my Facebook, I don’t go around blasting those who do, especially in an open, public forum where you’re obviously just looking to pick an internet fight.

The normal thing to do is make a wanking motion and move on with your day. For whatever reason, I can’t let this shit go. I often type up long-winded screeds in response to jerks, but I almost always delete them because I know they won’t change anyone’s mind. Then that bugs me because I feel helpless towards these people. Then the helplessness seeps deeper into me and it’s just, ugh.

What does any of this have to do with Lesbian Poetry? Nothing, I guess, except that it might be the perfect album to chase away the pain of petty foibles. There is just something about Lesbian Poetry that just makes insignificant things just that.

Some bands and artists are presented in a way that they overcome pettiness and bring sheer beauty to the proceedings with their arrangements and their presentation. The pure scope, much like the electric feeling of a thunderstorm or the rushing waves of the ocean, makes that which doesn’t matter slide.

That isn’t Lesbian Poetry. They attack the overwhelming feeling of everyday life in a different, maybe more substantial way. Gone are the trappings of production and in it’s place is honesty, simplicity and a different sort of ability. An ability to tell a story. An ability to let you get lost for a moment in the words of someone else and a clear understanding about what songwriting can be when stripped down to its most simple form.

Lesbian Poetry is a simple band with a simple sound, but they aren’t simple people. What I like most about them is that the overall vibe and confidence they exude. It isn’t about being the greatest performer or the greatest musician, it is about telling their stories in their way with little regards towards what the outside world might think.

What separates this album from others is that it isn’t just a simple DIY album made on very little money because that was the only resources. It is an album presented in a DIY, low budget way because that is the best way to present it. So, it is that confidence that rings through whether it is the wonderful “Trolleys and Limousines” or the spoken word/acapella coming out tale “Joe and I”. I think “Joe and I” might be the best track to show my theory. It is obviously the simplest track, being that it is presented with no musical accompaniment, but is told with such confidence that I was spellbound.

That’s what makes Lesbian Poetry, both the band and album, so intriguing. It is the confidence to be yourself, to present your art and to be one with your life. Comfortable in their own life, their own skin and their own art. So comfortable that it makes you wonder why you cared so much about petty things to begin with.

Review: Twins – Tomboys on Parade

Want to know a random thing that sucks about getting old? The oldies stations stop being oldies stations and start being “play shit from when I was a child”. Soon, it’s going to get into “play stuff from albums that I bought the day they came out”. It will be sad when it hits “play stuff from albums I actively avoided when I was in my twenties”.

But it isn’t just the constant reminder of the ever depressing march of time. I really liked when the oldies station was hits from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s because a lot of that is just perfect music. Quick songs, simple chords, and a ton to say, or at minimum something enjoyable to say. Nowadays, it is harder to find a station that’ll play Everly Brothers or Ricky Nelson or British Invasion bands except for The Who, Beatles and Stones (and even with those, you get a choice of about seven total songs, and one of them is “Who Are You”). A station where maybe Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” was the most recent song in their catalogue. I mean, I get that we live in an age where pretty much anything is available at our fingertips, but sometimes it’s nice to flip on the dial and let the radio do it’s business.

I talked a lot about this in my review of their previous album Funny Faces, but Twins really fills that niche perfectly. This album is a fine follow up to Faces. They manage to take that same aesthetic, and almost crank it up a notch. I don’t know if it’s because this is their first time on vinyl (at least I think it is) but they really channel their inner KIOA. Its a quick and sweet album. They’re romantics and they’re occasional jokesters, but in more of a finger-wagging, boys-will-be-boys way.

That may sound a bit like a dis, but believe me it isn’t. Being a throwback doesn’t mean you don’t have something new to say. There are tracks that use older production and presentation, but still manage to sound like a modern indie song. I guess it speaks to how much modern power pop really just pulls from the legends. Twins wears their influences like a badge of honor.

In keeping with the tradition of three minute pop-rock songs, I will just get to the point. This is just about as easy to listen to an album that I’ve ever heard. It is simple and beautiful and powerful and is perfect for everyone, both young and old.