Tag Archive for 'The Mill Restaurant'

(Upcoming Show) Pieta Brown and Friends Present This Land Is Your Music at The Mill Restaurant 4/14/2012

Ms. Pieta Brown is bringing her “artist in residence” show called “This Land Is Your Music” back to The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City on April 14th, 2012. In a similar fashion to the last two the show will feature Pieta as the headliner with other artists with local ties opening and a gallery exhibit.

This year, the event has been condensed into one show–  but it is a powerhouse bill shared with The Pines and is a weekend show. Pieta’s set will be with a backing band that she is calling The Sawdust Boys– which is what she called her backing band for her recent tour of Australia. The Sawdust Boys are JT Bates and Michael Rossetto, who are conveniently also part of The Pines. I’m sure we’ll see Bo Ramsey as part of one or both band’s sets. Bo stopped by somewhat unannounced for the recent Pines show at CSPS and brought the house down with an unexpected solo song!

In the past Pieta has used these shows as a way to work out new material in a live setting– The Mill is a long-standing familial venue for the Ramsey’s and Brown’s and their associated friends. The audience for Pieta’s shows are by far some of the warmest and welcoming I’ve seen and impromptu sit-ins by friends and family are par for the course.

The gallery exhibit will feature pieces from Pieta’s private collection, including works from Greg Brown, Chris Carman, Constie and Zoe Brown, Mei-Ling Shaw Williams, Benson Ramsey, Sandy Dyas, and Cortnie Widen.

As with the previous This Land Is Your Music shows, this show is a benefit for Iowa Public Radio, and The Friends of Hickory Hill Park. Show is at 8PM on Saturday, April 14th with doors at 7PM. Tickets are $12.

Visit the Mill Restaurant webpage for details and how to order tickets.

Read my reviews and see pictures of the three 2009 This Land is Your Music shows. 11/5/09  11/12/09 11/19/09

Read my review and see pictures of one of the two 2010 This Land is Your Music shows. 12/4/2010

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the last shows:

Pieta Brown at This Land is Your Music II at The Mill on 12-4-2010

Pieta Brown

Pieta Brown

(Free Download) Pieta Brown Encore Daytrotter Session

Today Daytrotter posted a session I’ve been waiting over a year-and-a-half to hear– Pieta Brown‘s encore session!

The session was recorded Thursday, June 11, 2009 using a short-lived band lineup called “Dream #9” with Jim Viner on drums, Jon Penner on bass and Bo Ramsey on guitar. They performed only two shows in this configuration. June 11th at The Redstone Room in Davenport and then on June 12th at The Mill in Iowa City, which I reviewed.

Here is a picture of that band lineup from The Mill Show:

Pieta Brown and Dream #9 at The Mill

Pieta’s first Daytrotter session was recorded in March of 2008. Between these two sessions recorded less than a year apart, Pieta would go from being on a semi-major label to being “in limbo” with no label. A situation which was remedied by September 2009. Nevertheless, Pieta had self-released an EP titled Flight Time in October 2008 and both sessions include songs from Flight Time as well as her Shimmer EP— produced by Don Was and her debut release on Red House Records.

The session is a nice cross-section of Pieta’s career:

1. “#807” is from her 2005 release In The Cool, which was released on Valley Entertainment and apparently is still in print!

2. “Going Away Blues” is a Frank Stokes cover that Pieta also recorded for her self-released 2003 EP I Never Told which is impossibly out-of-print. I managed to get one of these when Pieta discovered a box last year.

3. “4th of July” also on In The Cool.

4. “Sunrise Highway #44” is from her self-released EP Flight Time which is still available on CDBaby.

5. “You’re My Lover Now” is from her debut Shimmer EP on Red House Records. This version differs from the EP version by having some nice subtle brushwork from Jim Viner.

Pieta Brown Daytrotter Encore Session: The Faint Light of All Lungs and Hearts

Pieta  Brown has tour dates coming up (from her website) with a show at the Mill Restaurant on April 9th:

Date Time Location
Sat Mar 19 Bluegrass & Roots Festival, River Falls, WI more info
Sat Apr 09 The Mill, Iowa City, IA more info
Sat Apr 16 Stoughton Opera House, Stoughton, Wisconsin more info
Thu May 26 SPACE, Evanston, IL more info
Sat May 28 Crossings At Carnegie, Zumbrota, MN more info
Fri Jun 03 Mountain Jam Music Festival, Hunter, NY more info
Sat Jun 04 Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, MA more info
Sun Jun 05 Club Passim, Cambridge, MA more info
Sat Aug 06 Edmonton Folk Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA more info
Sun Aug 07 Edmonton Folk Festival, Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA more info

 

(Upcoming Show) Charlie Mars with Griffin House at The Mill 3/5/11

This Saturday, March 5th brings to the Mill Restaurant in Iowa City former V2 Records singer-songwriter Charlie Mars. Charlie is wrapping up a run of dates that started at the beginning of February of East Coast and Midwest dates in support of his latest album Like A Bird, Like A Plane which came out in 2009. The bio on Mars’s site says that Like A Bird, Like A Plane is almost a “new debut.” While this album is his 5th release dating back to his 1996 album Broken Arrow.

The path to his major label release in 2004 on V2 Records (now folded– once home to The White Stripes and Moby) was an uneven one. The 150-dates-per-year touring over three years took a toll on him resulting in needing to enter rehab for substance abuse. Following that he split for Sweden choosing to recluse himself in obscurity. But, it was this move that allowed him to watershed the material that would become his self-titield major label debut in 2004. The major label backing gave his career the necessary re-launching. “I had no manager, no band, I hadn’t toured for about two years – I thought my career was done,” he says.

V2 gave him the radio exposure,  backing and critical praise. That ride ended in 2006 when V2 shuttered forcing Mars to reassess his career and start the daunting prospect of a follow up to what was his most successful release. He headed to Austin to assemble a band to record Like A Bird, Like A Plane.

The release has been out for over a year at this point and Mars spent most of 2010 touring in support of it. As I listen to the release, it strikes me as a solidly written and composed album. The album has a stripped down, acoustic approach with an almost Dub-like dissasembled percussion. The album is scattered with studio chatter and starts and stops that give the album a feel of immediacy and live performance. This is substantiated by the fact that Mars says that they tended to use the first takes and left in the “happy accidents” generated as they worked through the recordings.

The standout track for me is the slightly tongue-in-cheek “Listen to the Darkside” with its double entendre use of “darkside” to mean both the classic Pink Floyd record and possibly the advice of the narrator in the middle of a relationship. The song was featured in an episode of the made-for-Showtime series “Weeds” and benefits from a music video that features”Weeds” star Mary Louise Parker.

Charlie Mars will be performing at The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City on Saturday, March 5th at 9PM tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Charlie House opens.

You can order tickets from MidwesTIX.

Click Here to listen to “Listen to the Darkside” from Like A Bird, Like A Plane

Here is the video to “Listen to the Darkside”

(Review) Pieta Brown – This Land Is Your Music II: First Night – 12/4/2010

Pieta Brown at This Land is Your Music II at The Mill on 12-4-2010

Pieta Brown’s second songwriter-in-residency called “This Land Is Your Music” at The Mill Restaurant kicked off on Saturday 12/4 right on the heels of a six-day mini-tour of Australia which wrapped up the previous Saturday.  I had been looking forward to seeing these two shows. Last year’s three consecutive Thursday night shows in November (read my reviews for 11/5/09, 11/12/09, 11/19/09)  were truly magical, intimate shows. Pieta considers The Mill her home venue– she got her start playing The Mill, so she was happy to bring these shows to that stage.  The combination of music and art is a way for Pieta to give back to the community that spawned her career.

The opening band was the folk trio The Vagabonds which includes Sam Blickhan from The Mayflies. Sam is also in The Wandering Bears with Sarah Mannix of the Vagabonds. Their set was very good, pretty three-part-harmonies of original songs with the occasional cover– one of which was a Be Good Tanyas song. I really liked their original songs and am looking forward to being able to see them again.
The Vagabonds at This Land is Your Music II
Like last year, set and light design was done by Stan Crocker. Last year the stage was lit like a small living room with umbrellas and lamps– this year Stan washed the stage in dramatic blue light.

Pieta Brown at This Land is Your Music II at The Mill on 12-4-2010

Pieta’s set was a solo acoustic set and included primarily songs from her new album One and All, the Shimmer EP and Remember the Sun, but she also added some new songs. “Be With You” had only been played one other time according to Pieta. The song “No Words Now” was described as being influenced by meeting Mark Knopfler (whom she toured with this year) and JJ Cale, who are both heroes of Pieta’s (as is Tom Petty— the subject of “Faller”).

Not content to be the only performer, Pieta invited her sister Constie on stage to sing duet on “The Other Way Around” from One and All. Constie provides harmony vocals on the new album, as well. For the finale of Pieta’s set she invited the Vagabonds to join her on stage for a gospel track which drew some comments by Iris DeMent who was in the crowd and soon joined the crew onstage for a rousing version of the Reverend Gary Davis song “Morning Train.”

Pieta Brown Joined onstage by Constie Brown, The Vagabonds and Iris DeMent

As with the first This Land Is Your Music shows, there was an artist gallery. Lighting designer Stan Crocker had a really cool installation of light boxes in the green room. Each of the parts of the display had its own light source and illuminated individual subjects.

Stan Crocker Light Box Installation

Watch the video for a walkthrough I did of the installation while The Vagabonds play “Ransom”:

The entryway of the Mill had photos from regional photographer Sonya Naumann. Here is a set from her series titled “Dunce”.

Entryway Exhibit of Sonya Naumann

The This Land is Your Music shows are something anyone who is a fan of Pieta Brown or the Eastern Iowa music scene in general should really get out to see. I’m really happy that Pieta was able to pull this off again this year and am looking forward to seeing tomorrow night’s show. Pieta will be playing in a trio with Bo Ramsey and a drummer and the opening act will be Alexis Stevens. The gallery will be provided by Jamie Hudrlik.

The tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and the proceeds will again be donated to Friends of Hickory Hills and Iowa Public Radio. Pieta’s sister Zoe designed teeshirts for the event as well as the poster seen above and both will be available at the show along with Pieta’s new vinyl for One and All!

Click Here for the Mill Restaurant Website for more details.

Pieta Brown Setlist:

1. Be With You *
2. West Monroe
3. No Words Now *
4. Hey Run
5. Out of the Blue
6. Are You Free?
7. You’re My Lover Now
8. In My Mind I Was Talking To Loretta
9. El Guero
10. Other Way Around (w/Constie Brown)
11. Faller
12. I’m Gone *
13. Closin’ Time *
14. Calling All Angels
15. Over Your
16. Morning Train (Rev. Gary Davis) (w/The Vagabonds and Iris DeMent)

* new songs!

A slideshow of the pictures I took:

(Upcoming Shows) Pieta Brown & Friends – This Land is Your Music Residency at The Mill 12/4 & 12/11

It’s hard to believe that it already has been over a year since Pieta Brown hosted her first artist-in-residence at The Mill Restaurant. That show was three Thursday night shows in November last year (see my reviews for: 11/5, 11/12, 11/19). Next to the Daytrotter Barnstormer shows, these were some of my favorite shows of 2009– very intimate and special. The stage lighting and design by Stan Crocker was a great touch– an eclectic little living room. Pieta was using these shows to try out some live band configurations– solo, duo and full band. To help bring some awareness to the art scene in the area, she set aside the room normally reserved as the green room as a gallery which was really cool, too. The only disappointing thing to me about these shows was the lack of audience on a couple of the shows. By the 11/19 show, it seemed like word had gotten out about these gigs. But, mid-week shows are always hit-or-miss in Iowa City, even when school is in session.

Pieta is bringing This Land Is Your Music back to the Mill for two shows in December– Saturday 12/4 and Saturday 12/11. The tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door and the proceeds will again be donated to Friends of Hickory Hills and Iowa Public Radio. Doors will be at 7PM Here are the details:

Saturday, December 4. Pieta Brown performs a solo set. Her special guest will be Iowa City trio The Vagabonds. The art in the gallery will be done by Stan Crocker and Sonya Naumann. Sonya Naumann has a really interesting photography project called “Thousand Dollar Dress” that maybe we’ll get to see some of in the gallery.

Saturday, December 11. Pieta Brown & Terraplane headlines. We don’t know exactly who is in the band, but Bo Ramsey lists this show in the tour section of his site. Alexis Stevens will open. The gallery will have works by Jamie Hudrlik (who happens to be the very talented daughter of Iowa City photographer Sandy Dyas who showed photographs last year).

I suspect that Pieta will have some of her wonderful new 180g vinyl pressings of One and All with her, too. (I got my copy this week!).

Click Here for Pieta Brown’s website

Click Here for The Mill Restaurant website.

Click Here to visit midwestix.com to pre-order tickets to This Land Is Your Music II.

Here are my reviews for last year’s shows:  11/5, 11/12, 11/19

Upcoming Show: Cassie Morgan and Beth Bombara Make a Quick Run Through Iowa and Wisconsin

Right on the heels of a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise money to release her new album Wish I Were You on vinyl, St. Louis musician Beth Bombara is setting out to do a quick run through Wisconsin and Iowa to play some shows with her frequent partner-in-musical crime Cassie Morgan. This tour could technically be considered a Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine tour (a moniker under which they released Weathered Hands, Weary Eyes in April of this year) and certainly they will be playing together, but there will be some time to shine the spotlight on Beth singing lead as well debuting songs from her upcoming release.

The two of them load up in a car and head to Madison for a show tonight (October 2nd) at The Project Lodge (817 E. Johnson St.) opening for Anna Vogelzang who is having an EP release show. The cover is $6 and starts at 8:30PM. Anna is also starting a tour that will bring her to Dubuque and Iowa City at the middle of the month.

Following the Madison show, Cassie and Beth will be playing a show at Monk’s Kaffee Pub (373 Bluff St.) in Dubuque on October 3rd. The lineup of bands will start at 9PM and go until 11PM. While there is no cover charge, tips are always appreciated!

On Tuesday, October 5th Cassie and Beth hit The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City for a 9PM show which will also not have a cover charge. Opening for Cassie and Beth is local folk musician Seth Wenger.

Then the pair return home after the Iowa City show. Beth has a listening party of the new album scheduled at Foam in St. Louis on October 9th (Facebook Event) which will also have  Union Tree Review and Penny Hill performing live.

Here is a recent show with Cassie and Beth performing a set of all Breeders covers. This one is of “Devine Hammer.”

Death Ships – Maybe Arkansas EP Released – Upcoming Show at The Mill 9/17

Dan Maloney of Death Ships

Last February I reported about former Iowa City band Death Ships– a show at the Mill and a new EP that he was going to release on iTunes. Titled Maybe Arkansas, it was a 4-track EP of some really great guitar rock. I said that it was, “a flat-out charmer– hook-filled and standing out in my mind as a testament to the great music that comes from the Midwest. These guitar pop songs draw easy and complimentary comparisons to other Midwest greats like The Jayhawks, The Honeydogs and, yes, Wilco. Each of these songs stick in my head with earworm intensity.”

Over half-year later, I still feel this same way about the EP. Since Dan sent me the songs in order for me to review it, I was one of the fortunate few to get to hear it. Well, except for some tracks he gave to some blogs to post and all of the people to which I excitedly played it.

Last week the EP made it to iTunes and you can download it for $3.96 or Amazon for $3.56.  On a post frontman Dan Maloney made to his MySpace page, he announced the EP going to iTunes and also said that there will be a limited CD run of the EP. He also announced that they were going to start recording a new album next month.

Dan is bringing his Death Ships back to the Mill on Friday, September 17th opening for Ha Ha Tonka. In an e-mail to me this week, Dan said that they had a bunch of new jams he was excited to try out at this show.

I saw Ha Ha Tonka back in September of 2008 opening for Backyard Tire Fire and the then-Picador in Iowa City. They put on a really great show. You can see the pictures here. Since I saw Ha Ha Tonka, they have been signed to Bloodshot Records and released a new album in 2009 called Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South.

Also opening is Iowa City musician Brian Johannesen who performs as Grand Tetons.

Maybe Click to buy Maybe Arkansas by Death Ships on iTunes

Click Here to download “I Like It A Lot” from Maybe Arkansas.

Click Here for the Death Ships MySpace Page which has some of the tracks from Maybe Arkansas streaming.

Click Here for the Death Ships Daytrotter Session

Click Here for the Jay Bennett Daytrotter Session with Death Ships as his band

Click Here for the Splice interview with Dan Maloney from 2009 that has some unreleased tracks and a couple from the upcoming EP

(Upcoming Show) Kopecky Family Band at The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City 8/12

Growing up in Bellevue, IA there was a local family band with generations of members called the Sieverding Band. This band– as you might expect– was made up of a bunch of guys with the last name Sieverding.  They played the Catholic parish barbeque every year– and still do– and performed the polka mass as well. They are an institution, really.

The Kopecky Family Band is a band I hadn’t heard of before this week when their PR folks reached out to me. A group of seven from Nashville, they aren’t actually all related, but the idea of a tight-knit group of musicians being a family– sharing space and the closeness of working together– is one that clearly ties the members of the Kopecky Family Band together. In an interview with spinner.com from March of this year before they played SXSW, they talk about how Kelsey (the one member who is actually a “Kopecky”) gives the band members their per diem money in a hand-decorated envelope with an encouraging message before the tour. She’s also the person responsible for morning wakeup text messages with an inspirational quote or joke. Clearly, she has taken her role as the “mom” of this family band!

Disaster is the name of the new EP from the Kopecky Family Band and it was released on August 3rd. The band helpfully provides a streaming version of the album from their bandcamp page (below).

Some comparisons have been made to Arcade Fire by reviewers, and I think that is a pretty good place to start with Kopecky Family Band. I think that the anthemic style as well as their classical bent– strings and horns helps with that. My wife also said that the harmonies also reminded her a bit of Local Natives. But, you can listen for yourself:

The band has also made their previous EP Embraces available as a free download through bandcamp:

While the Kopecky Family Band won’t playing parish picnics or performing polka services at your local church, the will be playing at The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City on Thursday Night at 9PM. This is a 21+ show and the cover is $6. Evan P. Donahue will open.

Click Here for the Kopecky Family Band website

Click Here for the Kopecky Family Band MySpace Page

Click Here for the Kopecky Family Band Facebook Page

Upcoming Show: Local Natives are Back! The Mill in Iowa City on 5/18, RIBCO on 5/15

Local Natives perform "Sun Hands"
It was last July when Local Natives graced our bucolic farmlands as part of the inaugural Daytrotter Barnstormer tour. I saw them twice– once in Bellevue at Mooney Hollow Barn and once at the Secrest Octagonal Barn. I recount my experience here. It was the case that at least for the two shows I saw, the Silverlake, CA group really stole the show in my opinion, and which is why I’m really excited to announce that they will be back in the area in May!

Since they played the barns last year, the Natives have seemingly been on the road non-stop. They had a package tour with Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and Fool’s Gold that brought them to Madison, Chicago and Minneapolis at the end of November and beginning of December. It seems like they’ve been to Europe a couple of times already, and are currently there through March 11th before coming back to do a run of dates in the US which include some high-profile festival shows: SXSW on 3/18-20, Coachella on 3/18, and Sasquatch! on 5/30 and Bonnaroo on 6/10!

Local Natives’ album Gorilla Manor released in the US on French Kiss this week (2/16) and is available as CD, mp3 (with bonus tracks) and vinyl LP! I received my LP yesterday and because I pre-ordered I got a bonus 7″ of “Sun Hands” with a Daytrotter version of “Airplanes” as its b-side.

Local Natives will be hitting the very cozy Rock Island Brewing Company on Saturday, May 15th, The 400 Bar in Minneapolis on Monday, May 17th, and The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City on Tuesday, May 18th. That gap on Sunday makes me wonder if they might be sneaking in an encore Daytrotter session?

Click Here for the Facebook Event for the Rock Island Brewing Company.

Click Here for the Facebook Event for the Mill Restaurant Show.

Live Dates (from MySpace)

Feb 17 2010      8:00P SOLD OUT Maroquinerie     Paris
Feb 18 2010     8:00P Le Grand Mix     Tourcoing, Lille
Feb 19 2010     8:00P Le Normandy     Saint Lo
Feb 20 2010     8:00P Route du Rock Winter Festival     Saint Malo
Feb 24 2010     8:00P Thekla     Bristol
Feb 25 2010     8:00P Rescue Rooms     Nottingham
Feb 26 2010     8:00P Concorde II     Brighton
Feb 27 2010     8:00P Brudenell     Leeds
Feb 28 2010     8:00P Arts Centre     Norwich
Mar 2 2010     8:00P SOLD OUT Heaven     London
Mar 3 2010     8:00P Academy 3     Birmingham
Mar 4 2010     8:00P Club Academy     Manchester
Mar 5 2010     8:00P King Tuts     Glasgow
Mar 6 2010     8:00P Academy 2     Newcastle
Mar 10 2010     8:00P Academy 2     Dublin
Mar 11 2010     8:00P Limelight     Belfast
Mar 18 2010     8:00P SXSW     Austin, Texas
Mar 19 2010     8:00P SXSW     Austin, Texas
Mar 20 2010     8:00P SXSW     Austin, Texas
Apr 18 2010     3:00P Coachella     Indio, California
Apr 20 2010     8:00P Solar Culture     Tuscon, Arizona
Apr 22 2010     8:00P The Cavern     Dallas, Texas
Apr 23 2010     8:00P Emo’s (inside)     Austin, Texas
Apr 24 2010     8:00P Mango’s     Houston, Texas
Apr 26 2010     8:00P Sticky Fingerz Chicken Shack     Little Rock, Arkansas
Apr 27 2010     8:00P Thirsty Hippo     Haittesburg, Mississippi
Apr 29 2010     8:00P Cafe 11     St. Augustine, Florida
Apr 30 2010     8:00P The Basement     Nashville, Tennessee
May 1 2010     8:00P Masquerade     Atlanta, Georgia
May 4 2010     8:00P Local 506     Chapel Hill, North Carolina
May 5 2010     8:00P DC 9     Washington DC, Washington DC
May 6 2010     8:00P Bowery Ballroom     New York, New York
May 7 2010     8:00P Kung Fu Necktie     Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
May 8 2010     8:00P Great Scott     Allston, Massachusetts
May 11 2010     8:00P Beachland Tavern     Cleveland, Ohio
May 12 2010     8:00P The Basement     Columbus, Ohio
May 14 2010     8:00P Schubas     Chicago, Illinois
May 15 2010     8:00P Rock Island Brewing Company     Rock Island, Illinois
May 17 2010     8:00P 400 Bar     Minneapolis, Minnesota
May 18 2010     8:00P The Mill     Iowa City, Iowa
May 19 2010     8:00P Mojo’s     Columbia, Missouri
May 21 2010     8:00P Larimer Lounge     Denver, Colorado
May 22 2010     8:00P Kilby Court     Salt Lake City, Utah
May 25 2010     8:00P Empyrean     Spokane, Washington
May 26 2010     8:00P Neurolux     Boise, Idaho
May 27 2010     8:00P Mississippi Studios     Portland, Oregon
May 28 2010     8:00P Media Club     Vancouver, British Columbia
May 30 2010     8:00P Sasquatch!     Seattle, Washington
Jun 3 2010     8:00P Bottom of the Hill     San Francisco, California
Jun 10 2010     8:00P Bonnaroo     Manchester, Tennessee
Jun 15 2010     8:00P Shepherds Bush Empire     London

Click Here for Local Natives Website

Click Here for Local Natives MySpace Page

Click Here for Local Natives Facebook Fan Page

Click Here for Local Natives Blog

Click Here for the Local Natives Daytrotter Session

Upcoming Show: Death Ships Set Sail for Iowa City 2/27

The story of Dan Maloney’s Death Ships is one of a band outgrowing a local scene, gaining embrace of the Indie Tastemakers riding an arc of success but ultimately stalling. A familiar story to be sure (see: Tapes ‘N Tapes).

For over nine years Dan Maloney has been Death Ships— a band whose beginnings in Iowa City were as a side project. According to his January 2009 interview with Splice, he was in an Emo band called Faultlines when he decided to work on some solo songs. “…on the side I was experimenting with writing songs along the style of the music I grew up with. It took me a while to figure out I could sing better within a certain range rather than “shout/scream.”

Death Ships started initially as a solo accoustic effort and then expanded into a revolving cast of members and became known for having different lineups for every show. In fact, the first time I ever heard about Death Ships was in the context of them seemingly opening for every band at the Mill Restaurant. My friend saw Low and Why? at the Mill and Dan’s Death Ships were openers both times (without drums) and I believe that they opened for Tapes ‘n Tapes and The Hold Steady during their early tours as well. “When Randall (Davis) and Adam “Lars” joined the ranks,” Dan said in his Daytrotter interview, “they really helped shape Death Ships into a functional band.” In September of 2006 the debut Seeds of Devastation was released to some critical acclaim and Alternative Press named Death Ships “Best Unsigned Band.”

The band met ex-Wilco member Jay Bennett through a shared manager and he took the band under his wing and on the road with him as his backing band for two tours. In a recent email exchange with Dan, it is really clear that this time with Jay– who passed away last year— made a big impact on him. “[Jay’s death] was a big blow. I didnt know him better than others did, but from touring with him twice and spending a lot of time with him I got a good sense of the man he was: a caring, compassionate man with a love of music and joy that only comes from a child’s first Christmas. He picked us up and gave us a boost that I will never forget.”

Dan moved to Chicago from Iowa City a couple of years ago and has been carrying on the Death Ships name with occasional shows in the area and watershedding the follow-up to Seeds which will be called Circumstantial Chemistry. Additionally, a four-song EP Maybe Arkansas will be released on iTunes. The EP is produced by Luke Tweedy who runs Flat Black Studios in Iowa City and is in (ft) The Shadow Government. “I started working on a follow up a couple years ago and only scraped together four of the songs for this new EP. I moved to Chicago and basically had to start from scratch again. It’s hard– like any band– to sell everyone on commiting to [it], forfeiting the fact that there may not be much money involved but also requiring a lot of time and dedication. I hope I have this with this new group and am finally ready to start pushing Death Ships forward and getting these songs and new songs heard.”

Dan generously let me listen to the songs that make up Maybe Arkansas, and it is a flat-out charmer— hook-filled and standing out in my mind as a testiment to the great music that comes from the Midwest. These guitar pop songs draw easy and complimentary comparisons to other Midwest greats like The Jayhawks, The Honeydogs and, yes, Wilco. Each of these songs stick in my head with earworm intensity. Dan’s soft vocal approach on “I Like It A Lot” gives a breezy lead up to the break down “it’s dreams like these/ little melody/ i got plans for you/ you got plans for me” which very nicely launches in the double time and urging cry “put it all on me!”

This is followed by the fun, piano pumping, Beatle-y “Somethings Gone Awry” with its superb use of horns. I love how the song goes from this ironically upbeat drive complete with “do-do-do-do’s” to the mood change as the song runs out “It’s hard to blame the darkness for the rain/It’s hard to see clearly when when we’re reeling from a long black cloud…”

“Let Me Think It Over” is a promise to a former love. It has a undeniable 60’s R&B tinge to it– kind of like when Springsteen used to cover Mitch Ryder in concert– particular with the 3/4 time switch from driving 4/4 at the chorus. “We can get together like we used to be/the same old fool you’ve been dying to see.”

The EP wraps up much too early with the title track. It starts as a melancholy aching sentiment of escape to starting over. “With a furrowed brow you slide across the seat/So, maybe Arkansas– another change in plans” It’s the narrator’s thoughts at the halfpoint of the song of the people they are leaving behind halfway that transforms the song to shouting anger. “Write a letter to your dear sweet mother/tell her that we’re only running from our halted, November mind…”What’s that you gain from this song??”

This EP is a calling card and statement of direction for this new phase of Death Ships. Dan continues from the e-mail he sent me, ” There were times after Seeds where I felt the fruit of my efforts were grossly being undermet and underappreciated, but I have come to peace about being jaded. This is music I make and part of my story. If a few people enjoy it I’m willing to accept that. It’s truly a labor of love and sometimes I forget that. If it ever stopped being fun I would hang it up, but clearly I can’t, because I’ve been doing this project for over six years.”

Dan is sailing his Death Ships to Iowa City on Saturday, 2/27 at The Mill Restaurant in Iowa City. They will be headlining a show with Datagun, Olivia Rose Muzzy, and the Vagabonds. 9PM and admission is a measly SIX BUCKS!

Click Here to download “I Like It A Lot” from Maybe Arkansas.

Click Here for the Death Ships MySpace Page which has some of the tracks from Maybe Arkansas streaming.

Click Here for the Death Ships Daytrotter Session

Click Here for the Jay Bennett Daytrotter Session with Death Ships as his band

Click Here for the Splice interview with Dan Maloney from 2009 that has some unreleased tracks and a couple from the upcoming EP

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