It doesn’t seem that long ago that Cedar Falls band TWINS released Square America, a manifesto of guitar riff-filled adolescent desire. It picked up from where 2014’s Tomboys on Parade left off– pulling pages from Rockpile, Cheap Trick and Big Star’s recipe books.
In those four years since the last album, TWINS sustained a lineup change and apparently a crash course in adulthood somewhere along the way. If you’ve seen TWINS or Joel Sires live in recent years you’ll have noticed the songs have switched focus. The songs still hang on the fantastic hooks the band is known for, but now with some introspection and willingness to let Joel Sires’s lyrics take precedent.
I was commenting to someone recently that the 2014-2016 shows seem like ancient history and even though the songs on their latest album Dream On (out June 5th) are new, Joel’s been playing them out for, I think, over three years. So, for some of us these songs are already like our favorite worn in shoes. Familiar and cozy.
In some regards, this approach of working the songs out live before hitting the studio is a similar process to one Springsteen, an obvious influence, was doing during the heyday of E-Street. The band played many songs live before the album came out and the fans came to anticipate the songs on the albums. We don’t see that a lot these days since the process for an album is typically in secret until BAM! The load is blown on release day and everyone is left to sort out if it was good or not while they collectively smoke a cigarette.
If you haven’t seen the band in action recently, the addition of Ben Rendall on keys and Toby Sires on lead guitar fills the sonic landscape of the band nicely.
It’s Time to Play B-Sides is honored to be able to debut the 2nd single from Dream On: “So Far Gone.” Joel Sires says this about the song:
It was one of the last songs I wrote for the record. I had been catching up on the news and whatever new crisis was unfolding at the time was particularly disturbing, even though I can’t tell you specifically what it was now, and had me worried about the current state of affairs and the future of our country. So I went downstairs and wrote this song in about five minutes without the intention of it being for the band or really for anything. Mostly just to make myself feel better. Nevertheless I played it for them and they took it in a whole different direction, sort of this swampy Stonesy groove you hear on the record was all their creation.
Be sure to pre-order Dream On from TWINS from their Bandcamp page (which includes vinyl!):
Which is good news for the many fans in Iowa who have been following his career. He wrapped up 2017 with a couple of shows: one at the Mill in November with a lineup that included new sidemen Matthew Bernemann on drums and Randal Davis on guitar in addition to original 90’s Backsliders band member Marty Christensen on bass. A late December show at The Octopus in Cedar Falls replaced Bernemann with longtime drummer Steve Hayes. These were both amazing shows with Bo in excellent form and clearly really enjoying himself.
Bo is playing with different band lineups and he also pulled in some deeper catalog songs for those shows, and it will be interesting to see if they stay in. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard songs like “On The Range” (from 1988’s Either Way). These have been the first shows that Bo has brought out the songs from his 2016 album Wildwood Calling. These instrumental tracks have been used to open the sets and do a fantastic job of adding some mood and atmospherics to the show.
Though some would debate this, it’s my opinion that American Idol’s Season 9 in 2010 was the last season worth watching. The winning chemistry of American Idol to me was always a combination of the judges and the talent, and 2010 was the year that Paula Abdul was no longer a judge and in 2011, show creator and longtime judge Simon Cowell was gone. My wife and I– longtime followers of Idol– didn’t tune in for Season 10.. Over the nine years that we watched, there have been standouts in the talent, Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Season Five’s edge-of-the-seat powerhouse of Chris Daughtry/ Katherine McPhee/ Kellie Pickler/ Elliott Yasmin, Jordin Sparks, David Archuleta, David Cook and Chris Allen. One of my favorites for that nine-year run was Ohio native, by way of Chicago Crystal Bowersox. Though most of the highlights of American Idol have been squarely Top 40 types, Bowersox was an honest-to-goodness songwriter who could play and sing. She, with her slightly crunchy hippy personae topped with questionable dreadlocks, came off somehow as an underdog contender that I had hoped would take the top honors, but complications related to her Type-I diabetes (of which she is a spokesperson) cost her the top spot (Though, it could be argued that taking the top spot doesn’t always help your career– I’m looking at you Ruben Studdard and David Cook).
Since Idol, Bowersox has released three albums, with her most recent full-length All That For This released in 2013 and produced by reknowned Los Lobos member and producer Steve Berlin and features guest Jakob Dylan. Notably, she also shed her dreadlocks in 2013. Her most recent release is a self-released 7-track EP titled Promises. It’s difficult to glean what her next steps will be in her career based on her website, but she’s touring quite a bit. I’m certainly interested to see her live. Check out this great performance of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah.”
Crystal Bowersox will be performing for the 2nd time at CSPS this Friday night with a small band. The show is at 8PM (the doors and box office generally open an hour before) at tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door (if there are any left). You can purchase tickets at the CSPS box office or online. Details at the Legion Arts website.
On August 2nd, Bo Ramsey is going to release his first new album since 2008’s fantastic and understated Fragile. Titled Wildwood Calling, the album is 13 tracks of instrumental guitar backed by a band which includes in addition to Bo, JT Bates (The Pines, Marijuana Deathsquads) on drums and percussion, Marty Christensen from Bo’s original Backsliders band on bass and son Alex Ramsey of The Pines on piano and keyboards. The album– which is on Pieta Brown‘s new “underground” record label Lustre Records— was recorded over two days in April at The Kitchen in Iowa City, and was mixed and mastered by BJ Burton, who is house engineer for Justin Vernon’s April Base studio, and also worked the boards on Brown’s Paradise Outlaw and her EP of outtakes Drifters.
I’ll be writing a review of the album for Little Village in the coming weeks. I’ll link to it here when that goes up.
Even though Kelly Pardekooper resides in Indianapolis these days, Eastern Iowa still claims him as its own. The bulk of his six albums to date were written and recorded while he resided here and his sound is one that draws heavy inspiration from the Folk Country sound that originated from local artists like Bo Ramsey, Greg Brown, Dave Zollo and their circle of friends.
Kelly has enjoyed some exposure recently not on the radio, but as incidental music on quite a few big TV shows including HBO’s True Blood, CBS’s Cold Case, FX’s Sons of Anarchy. This burst of popularity among the Music Supervisors for shows has given him the freedom to go back to the studio and record a seventh record and release something on vinyl! In an exchange of emails with Kelly, he admits that he’s “an odd fit for a record label at this point” in his career, and that this surge of publishing popularity has afforded him the ability to self-release the new album.
The new album, titled Milk in Sunshine will be released on October 14th on vinyl, CD and digital download. The CD has the eight new tracks of Milk in Sunshine plus what Kelly is calling “TV Gold” – a 16 track “Greatest Hits” of his career in chronological order by album (not including his debut release 30 Weight). The CD is also included with the very limited vinyl release of 100 which will be signed and numbered. It will also be pressed in orange and will include two vinyl-only bonus tracks! “Shit Out of Luck” by Greg Brown and “I Never Said” by Bo Ramsey!
If you pre-order you get a download of the new song “So Lovely.”
You can see the track listings of the vinyl and the CD below. I included links to the audio where I could find it– Kelly had a few mp3’s on his website (indicated with “full mp3”) and links to his CDBaby CD’s.
Certainly as the record industry machine is having to re-invent itself, it’s avenues like publishing that are helping many artists to continue pursuing this career, even if it is part-time. As a long-time fan of Kelly Pardekooper, I’m really excited for the prospects of a new record and the promise of a few more live shows.
Album Release show at The Mill in Iowa City on 11/29!
Vinyl Side A
1. So Lovely 2. She Moves
3. Milk in Sunshine
4. Release Me
5. Shit out of Luck (Greg Brown)
Vinyl Side B
7. I Still Cry
9. That Girl
10. I Never Said (Bo Ramsey)
Since I just finished my Top 20 of 2010, it has me looking towards 2011 and the releases that are rumored, speculated or actually announced. Here are some releases I’m looking forward to (in no particular order).
The Second Dawes Album (May 2011) – I wrote an article about this release and speculation about what tracks are going to be on it. The firstDawes album- North Hills was released in 2009 and has had pretty strong legs as far as carrying the band to national recognition. The songs that Dawes is playing on the road are as good as the ones on their debut, in my opinion. The album is already recorded and ready for release, but won’t see release until May of 2011, as it is waiting on…
The Middle Brother Album – (3/1/2011) I wrote about this “supergroup” made up of members of Deer Tick, Delta Spirit and Dawes here. For Christmas, the band made the track “Me Me Me” available as a free download if you signed up for their mailing list. Middle Brother are planning a tour with all three bands in the spring which should be one of the big indie tours of the year. I have already pre-ordered the vinyl, which will come with a bonus 10″ record with four songs from the sessions that didn’t make the final LP.
Chicago Odense Ensemble– (Spring 2011) – Chicago Odense Ensemble is another “supergroup” with members of Tortoise, Chicago Underground Collective and Causa Sui. The basis of this record was recorded when the members of Causa Sui were in Chicago in 2008. The sessions, which were largely improvisational in nature, were recorded and brought back to Odense by Causa Sui member Jonas Munk and edited into the resulting tracks on the album. I’ve had a chance to listen to a pre-release of this, and agree with the early reviews and press about the album in the references to late-60’s Miles Davis In A Silent Way era work.
Eleventh Dream Day – Riot Now – (3/15/2011) – When Doug McCombs played The Blue Moose in March of 2010 with David Daniell, I got a chance to talk to Doug about what was coming up for him. At that time he mentioned that Eleventh Dream Day was going to do a residency at the Hideout in May where the band was going to work out new songs for an upcoming release. Well, they did the residency, and their first new album since 2006 titled Riot Now is coming out on 3/15!
Kelly Pardekooper – untitled as yet – Former Iowan, currently Californian, Kelly has announced that he is going to start working with Bo Ramsey on his next album, which would be his first since 2007’s Brand New Bag, which is still one of my all-time favorite Iowa-related releases.
Ryan Adams – Blackhole – Another album in the extensive archives for Ryan Adams.Blackhole was started before he left Lost Highway (over Christmas 2005) and except for “Tomorrowland” and “Disco Queen” which came out as the third release of his aborted Digital Singles series in 2009, these are all songs that have not been leaked elsewhere. Based on posts on Facebook, Blackhole is actually completed– he did some recording with Jamie Candiloro earlier this year, and if we are to believe a picture he posted of him holding a record, also mastered for vinyl. Those posts were done before the May release of his metal album Orion. December brought another vault release Cardinals III/IV, which was distributed by Orchard/TVT which gave the release much more widespread availability than his own PaxAm website would. He posted to Facebook that Blackhole is “basically Love is Hell Part 3” with “lots of shimmery guitar love.” Certainly the two tracks already available sound a lot like his Smiths-leanings than his Grateful Dead-leanings and I welcome more rock from Ryan. Posts from this week on the archive have people freaking out that PaxAm’s online store is down and there was a now-deleted comment on Facebook that he was sick of dealing with customer service issues with the online store. I’d say there is a very good chance that we see Blackhole released this year since it seems to be mastered already, and it will probably get the same distribution as III/IV.
DJ Shadow – untitled as yet (Spring 2011?) The long-awaited follow up to DJ Shadow’s 2006 Hyphy-influenced release The Outsider is likely to be completed before Shadow ventures out for another tour in May, per comments made on a video about the “Live from the Shadowsphere” tour. Based on the live performances of “I Gotta Rock” and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vinyl single release of “Def Surrounds Us” and “I’ve Been Trying” we see a sort of return to form for Shadow. He stated in an interview that this release would not be as focused on collaborations as The Outsider was.
Lady Gaga – Born This Way – (5/23/2011) – I make it no secret that I’m a fan of Gaga, The Fame and The Fame Monster were both really strong releases. I’m not going to debate that it wasn’t territory that had been covered before in pop music. The leadoff single of “Born This Way” will be released on 2/13. Based on what I’ve seen so far of new songs on her current tour, we’re seeing some of her rock leaning material. The song “You and I” is constantly compared to Elton John and it is clear he is an influence. Notably, the new tour will have The Scissor Sisters as supporting act– they worked with John on a track on their last album.
Bermuda Report – untitled as yet (date TBA) – Bermuda Report is a new band from Abbie Sawyer formerly of The Diplomats of Solid Sound. She and her band jreleased a freely-downloadable EP of songs worth checking out in December– jazzy and bluesy. You can read my review with The Little Village. Abbie says that they will be heading back into the studio soon for a full album release this year.
This week marks the 41st anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which took place August 15th – 18th, 1969 in Bethel, New York. The stories and myths of Woodstock continue as that generation looks back on their history. A festival planned with idea of a gathering of music, camping and art grows to epic proportions as over twice the expected crowd shows up. The idea of a music festival changed forever and subsequent festivals in history would always be judged in the light of that event.
Last year saw the beginning of the Daytrotter.com Barnstormer shows– coincidentally on the year of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. These shows were and are the brainchild of Sean Moeller– the Master of Ceremonies for everything Daytrotter. The idea started simply enough– pick a handful of Daytrotter favorite bands, load them in a bus and tour the Midwest countryside playing in barns. Daytrotter fans will show up and hear these bands, generating interest in Daytrotter and in these bands and hopefully the bands will be able to make some money selling merch. After learning some logistical lessons in touring and playing non-standard venues a good time was had by all!
I draw the comparison between Woodstock and the Barnstormer shows not to suggest that the Barnstormer shows are or will make their place in music history like Woodstock did, but to show that the original idea of Woodstock is the same– bring good music talent to a rustic setting, provide camping and art to mutual benefit of everyone involved. Based on the buzz of last year’s small Barnstormer runs, and the first one from this year the formula works and people who aren’t from this part of the country are interested in being part of it.
Frankly speaking, some of my favorite bands of 2009 and 2010 came from these shows and most of the headliners have gone on to perform to larger audiences and have become regulars on the festival circuit– notably Dawes and Local Natives— but other acts like Suckers, Ra Ra Riot and Delta Spirit are also gaining in national recognition. Seeing bands that can play the big stages of Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo in a small intimate setting like Mooney Hollow in Bellevue, IA, Codfish Hollow Barn, Seacrest Octagonal Barn and others locations in the Midwest is nothing, if not pure magic. The bands and crowds feed from each other for what the bands generally say are their best performances.
The three Barnstormer tours (plus one Fourth of July show) have been in a changing list of towns with two notable exceptions– the Seacrest Octagonal Barn in West Liberty, IA and Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa, IA. Both locations draw very good crowds. In the case of Seacrest it seems to be related to the relative closeness to the Quad Cities and Iowa City/Cedar Rapids (and it is a really interesting barn!). In the case of Codfish Hollow it seems to be partially due to the proximity of these same cities, but also because of the efforts of Shawn and Tiffany Biehl who seem to have enough friends and relatives to damn near fill their barn– but also because they have really made the location part of the attraction. Literally located in a hollow– there isn’t enough parking near the barn for the growing crowds– nor is the winding gravel path down there wide enough for passing traffic. The solution? Have a shuttle to take campers and people parking down to the event. Not just any shuttle though– it’s an open-air hayride pulled by an honest-to-goodness International Harvester tractor! This year they opened a rustic art gallery on site making use of the unoccupied farmhouse, too. Adding to the charm of it all is an open field where fans and bands play horseshoes, fire rings scattered around to provide heat and light and the amazing food sold onsite by The Lunchbox which includes their famous “walking tacos” and chili.
Next Sunday brings a staggering number of bands back to Codfish Hollow— the headliner is Daytrotter and playbsides.com favorite Roadside Graves from New Jersey. I had the opportunity to see Roadside Graves last year in Bellevue at Mooney Hollow. They were in the area in between stops on their tour because they were taping their first Daytrotter session. Sean Moeller hooked them up with Mooney Hollow to play in trade for a place to sleep. It was a Tuesday night, so that didn’t bode well for a workweek crowd, but the few that showed up got an amazing and energetic show. People I’ve talked to that did make the show, still talk about that show– in fact, Tiffany Biehl says that show made her an instant fan of Roadside Graves and she is really excited to bring them to her barn!
This show on 8/22 was already an idea at the Barnstormer III show in April and has taken form and gained acts continually since the announcement of the show following the July 4th “Barn on the Fourth of July” show and the lineup is made up of some notable bands– most of whom are up-and-comers, but some are buzzworthy. When I talked to Tiffany at the Dawes show at Gabe’s last week she said that there might be a couple of other acts added to the eight (!!!) bands on the bill. Here’s the breakdown with a few words on each band with their essential links to help you learn more:
This week Daytrotter.com posted the details of the upcoming Barnstorm Tour– to be called “Daytrotter Barnstormier II” and will start Thursday, October 8th in Milwaukee, WI and wrap up on Tuesday, October 13th in Johnston, IA.
Via the @realdaytrotter twitter account and the weekly e-mails Sean Moeller (master of ceremonies, general cool guy) had been dribbling out details about the upcoming shows so very little of this is a surprise to those of us who watch Daytrotter goings on closely.
This tour, which is apparently “Barnstormier” than the July shows, happens to hit three of the same stops– the barn of the very cool Biehl’s in Maquoketa (now called Codfish Hollow), Mooney Hollow Barn in Green Island south of Bellevue and the Seacrest Octogonal Barn. Sean also added on two Wisconsin stops– the very cool Turner Hall Ballroom on 10/8 and the Treinen Farm in Lodi on 10/9. The tour wraps up on the 13th at the Simpson Farm outside Johnston, IA (Des Moines).
As with the previous shows, these will be free and all-ages– except for the Lodi, WI show where you will gain admission to the other attractions for a measly $5-$8. The bands and Daytrotter are just tryin to recoup expenses by selling posters, teeshirts, records and other stuff in addition to passing the hat.
The bands are a mix of new and some from the July run. Dawes is kind of the headliner– their sound is one that evokes the 70’s SoCal sound– slightly country rock with impeccable harmonies– think Eagles, CCR and CSN with a little Band thrown in. Christopher Denny has a unique sound that at times reminds me of Dylan’s Nashville Skyline period. The Suckers from Brooklyn sport an angular almost No-Wave pop sound and Milwaukee is bringing the guitar power pop. Listening to the Daytrotter sessions linked below, I’m getting pretty stoked for this run! On a couple of the shows we get Paleo and Snowblink from the first tour.
Here are the shows broken down with links to the bands’ Daytrotter sessions where you can find out more about them:
When I started talking to Sean Moeller of Daytrotter.com (who signs his missives as “Mr. Daytrotter” amusingly) in May about his idea of “an RV Tour of Iowa Barns” I was both excited and a little worried, frankly.
Sean said that he wanted to give something back to Iowa– his home state– in addition to raising the awareness of the “recording studio with a website” that is Daytrotter.com to its neighbors.
Indeed, while music geeks like myself have been aware of the freely-downloadable mp3’s of the recording sessions done in the Rock Island-based studio– few others I interact with personally (i.e.: not Internet-based life) are aware of the musical bounty that is Daytrotter.com.
Daytrotter has been compared to the infamous BBC Radio One John Peel Session done for almost 40 years by the late DJ-cum-tastemaker where bands recorded special sessions due to musicians’ union rules which resulted in oftentimes better performances than were captured for their albums. Similarly (though not due to labor rules) Sean and his staff of merry recordists are credited with bringing great bands and artists to the attention of the music community at large by recording special sessions, too.
These sessions, usually lasting a couple of hours are a stripped-down, almost “Unplugged” affair where the acts are encouraged to use the equipment– largely vintage– that the studio has which includes an array of pianos, keyboards, mics, amps and drums.
Many of the bands I’ve talked to who have done sessions at Daytrotter compare the experience to what it might have been like to record at Sun Studios during its heyday. Come in, plug in and record the magic– very much a warts-n-all approach as there isn’t much editing or “do-overs.” In some cases it gives the bands an opportunithy to re-imagine a song already released, or try a new song or possibly a choice cover.
The studio is in a perfect location– Rock Island is near I-80 and any act touring the U.S. will likely be driving by. The bands who are invited to do a session tend to be of the D.I.Y. aesthetic anyway so the inspiration that sometimes comes with improvising a session tends to be captured, making every session a gem.
Sean told me that up until the Daytrotter Barnstormer Tour, he hadn’t done any promotion of Daytrotter to speak of. Certainly, Daytrotter sells itself– any blog who covers the acts that Daytrotter records has linked to them at one time or another.
The idea was a simple one– take a handful of acts who have recorded with Daytrotter and take them on a “Caravan of Stars”– type tour to the towns and cities of Iowa and surrounding states providing a free show to the people. It was not designed to be a massive revenue-generating event– just a way to give back. These free shows would largely be put on in the most iconic of Iowa structures– the barn.
While I relished the idea of a collection of hip bands selected by Daytrotter playing for free in quirky barn venues, I was concerned about the turnout or how the promotion would work. Of course I’d do what I could from playbsides.com and I was spreading the word every chance I got– but having been in bands in the 90’s and knowing a bunch of regional bands over the years I’m well aware of the fickle tendencies of small town audiences. There is an addage shared extensively about the success of a band in Iowa and how many cover songs they do. My hopes were that that hip indie-lovin’ crowd existed where they hadn’t 20 years ago. Plus, the bands he picked were largely unknown– I didn’t know any of them (except Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin) before the tour and I follow the site!
So, did the tour go as planned? Given the really short window Sean gave himself to pull bands, transportation and venues together it was an astonishing success! On July 6th Sean had all of the details sorted out to post to his site. It would run five days starting July 26th and have Local Natives– a Silverlake, CA band as the one constant act. The other acts would dovetail in and out of the lineup as their schedules allowed.
I managed to catch two of the shows– the one in my hometown at Mooney Hollow Barn, and the West Liberty, IA show at the Secrest Octagonal Barn.
Mooney Hollow Barn Show – Sunday, 7/26/09
The Bellevue show didn’t have the attendance that we would have hoped. Sean was hoping for at least 100 people per stop, and the promotion for the event locally wasn’t extensive. I had a carload of friends coming in from Cedar Rapids and I knew that my family was going to show. The Bellevue Herald that week had a front-page article on the show and I think there were a couple of other places, but it was a Sunday-night show so that is usually a tough night for a draw.
As many times as I had driven past Mooney Hollow Barn on Hwy 52 with its iconic silo with the fiddle painted on it, I’d never actually been in it. It is an amazing venue– a barn converted to a dancehall in the late 70’s it enjoyed a pretty constant flow of middle-tier country acts until it closed in the early 90’s. It holds about 600 people and has a poured concrete dancefloor with the venue logo on it. The stage is outfitted like the Grand Ol’ Opry and has posters of some of the acts that had played there over the years. It has a two bars and a kitchen, so you can get food there, too.
It was a great place to see these bands, and every one of them commented on how cool Mooney Hollow was. The crowd was receptive and excited to see the bands and showed the bands their appreciate. Beer was cheap, and the crowd was ready for the show.
The first band up with a new band out of Chicago called Stranger Waves. They were raw, punky pop and kicked things off in high-gear. They played a 45-minute set running through all of the songs on their EP that they just recorded. Humorously, they needed to bust out their laptop to burn CD’s to sell to folks, but I think they sold a few! This was the only stop on this tour they played, but I think they were going to play some Chicago shows with Catfish Haven after their Madison stop. Certainly a band to watch!
Next up was Paleo, who did a solo acoustic set that was astonishing. Super low-key, but the guy is a gifted songwriter. I thought that this must have been what it was like to see Dylan when he played the coffee shops in New York City at the beginning of this career. He took a break in the middle of his set to let a girl he was touring with named Natalie Jean (from Flagstaff, apparently) play a small set of songs. She did a couple of original songs and a cover from The Wizard of Oz. A pretty girl with a pretty voice– I can’t find anything about her anywhere. I gave her a business card, maybe she’ll reach out to me.
From San Francisco, originally from Canada is Daniela Gesundheit aka Snowblink who brought with her a small band. Her Gibson SG with vestigial deer antlers seemed to convey the earthy-yet ethereal sound of Snowblink. She used two mics– one with a more dry mix, and the second mic an avalanche of reverb. I still have a major crush on the song “Stand Where A Fruit Tree Drops The Things It Doesn’t Need” from her newest release Long Live. She encourages audience participation on percussion, and she handed out bells to the crowd, which was neat. She invited the crowd to jingle along.
Shifting gears again, we got the R&B tinged rock from Chicago’s Catfish Haven. This was when things got back on to the party groove. These guys set up, plugged in, and damn near burned the barn down with their set. I had been listening to their new album Devastator regularly to get ready for their show. Two standout tracks from that amazing album are “Set In Stone” and “Play the Fool” I played it that weekend for my family to get them in the mood for the show. I can’t say enough about this band– they are like an update of Motown act Rare Earth. Everyone was on the floor shaking ass, which is the way it should be. In the middle of the funky mahem they pulled out a cover of “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)” by The Greg Kihn Band and I thought the roof was going to cave in!
Their set was done too early– they didn’t do “Play the Fool” and the crowd wanted to get more songs, but they stuck with the agreed timeslot and let Local Natives get set up. That is one of the impressive things about these shows– they get done pretty early, so even if it is a week night show, you get home at a decent time.
I was a little concerned about how Local Natives was going to follow the sheer rawk power displayed by Catfish Haven. Well, once the band got set up I didn’t worry any longer! Local Natives was the surprise of the evening for me (and pretty much everyone else). Two songs into their set, and I turned to my friend Al from Bellevue and said “WTF are we seeing!?!” I was astonished by how polished they were– spot-on harmonies and percussion-heavy arrangements. It was like seeing U2 before they got all PopMart and Blackberry– when they were hungry. The band performed with such commitment and emotion– I hadn’t seen a band perform like this in years. Their album Gorilla Manor has been delayed a couple of times, and it should be coming out in October. The set closer “Sun Hands” is nothing short of insanity on stage– raw emotion. They are playing a bunch of shows at Spaceland in LA this month before they tour Europe again. If you get a chance make sure you catch this band while the tickets are still cheap.
After Local Natives was done, people hung out for a while buying merch finishing beers. A bunch of us were seriously considering driving to Madison for the next night’s show. Thankfully, the 2-hour drive home sobered me up enough to just wait to hit the West Liberty show that Tuesday.
Secrest Octagonal Barn – Tuesday, 7/28/09
My wife and daughter didn’t make the Sunday show in Bellevue, but I convinced them to make the West Liberty show– it was less than an hour’s drive from Cedar Rapids so it was pretty easy to commit to. The only bummer for my wife was that she wanted to see Catfish Haven and their last show was in Madison the previous night. This show had Snowblink and Local Natives from Bellevue, and substituted Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Hip Hop MC Mac Lethal to the bill. I was vaguely familiar with SSLYBY through Daytrotter and only had a couple of minutes to listen to the Daytrotter session for Mac Lethal, but it sounded pretty good, and I knew that he was part of a group of MC’s that was getting some buzz.
The barn as described was an Octagonal barn and was a facility one could rent out, so it was set up for audiences, and the show ended up being in what would be considered the hay loft on the second floor.
The show was supposed to start at 6:30PM so we raced down there, and found out that things were running late and they hadn’t even set Snowblink up– who was the first act in this lineup.
My daughter was pretty happy to see Snowblink, and their sound is pretty much up her alley. The set was very similar to the Bellevue show which included a Snowblinkish version of “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, which was pretty cool. This time, however, they invited members of Local Natives to come on stage to help with percussionAfter the show, she went up and introduced herself to Daniela and they talked briefly about a possible show at Coe College in Cedar Rapids.
By the time Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin hit the stage there was a pretty large crowd, over the 100 desired, I think. They ripped through their set with good energy, I wasn’t as familiar with their songs, but I’d definitely see them again.
To shake things up, Sean put Local Natives up following SSLYBY leaving Mac Lethal as the last act of the night. I was really excited for Sherry and Rae and Rae’s friend Chelsea to hear Local Natives because I was so amazed by their live show.
They didn’t disappoint– in fact during their tribal percussion the floor started bouncing a bit unnervingly. I tried to reassure myself that this barn had been here since 1883 and withstood storms and the weight of hay for most of those years and a little bit of bouncing from a crowd of people wouldn’t be a challenge.
Their set was pretty similar to the Bellevue show and ended with “Sun Hands” which is an excellent way to end their set. I tried to capture the energy of that song in the picture above– the band is all over the stage for that song. I know that Local Natives made a bunch of new fans that night.
Next up was Mac Lethal. He was having to make do as a one-man show as his DJ/Producer was not able to make this show, so he commented about having to stop his set to switch songs. I think that he is a really skilled MC, but I got the definite idea he was a bit uncomfortable following these bands– certainly he wasn’t able to showcase the constant energy of his regular set having to mess around with his sampler. For whatever reason, his set had more negative tone to it than the other bands. He started his set talking about driving around lost that day and seeing a monkey doll hanging from a noose in a tree and dove into a tirade about that. Certainly, if he saw that it is pretty bad, and there is some of that in the in the sticks of Iowa. Not that I’m opposed to some pissed off MC’s, but the vibe of his set was markedly different than the rest of the show. He commented on the other acts performances being great a couple of times describing Local Natives show as effectively handing Jesus his pink slip, which I thought was pretty funny. One track I thought was pretty good was one called “Black Widow.” I need to spend some more time with his catalog and maybe see him in a different setting before I’d ever dismiss him as an artist.
I heard that the following night he collaborated with Local Natives– I would have loved to see that. I like MC’s fronting live bands, and I think the right combination can make for a powerful performance.
As I write this, Sean has started to “leak” the information about another Barnstormer run in October. Starting on October 8th and going to October 13th, the show will hit three of the barns from the July run– Maquoketa (10/10), Bellevue (10/11) and West Liberty (10/12). This is great news! The Biehls, who generously lent their barn in July had over 200 people at their show! We have enough time now, to really build the buzz for the Bellevue show, and I’m sure West Liberty will get the crowd from Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Iowa City again.
The bands confirmed so far is a band from California called Dawes, who recalls The Band, CSNY and a little CCR and has amazing harmonies to boot! Christopher Denny is a folksy balladeer who’s voice sounds a lot like Nashville Skyline-era Dylan. Another band committed is Milwaukee band Maritime who has a jangly UK pop influence like Smiths or the Alarm. Again, bands I’d never heard of, but already becoming a fan of. For repeat performers we get the dreamy, wonderful Snowblink (yay!) and Paleo. Apparently there will be other acts added as well.
Sean Moeller is one of those rare guys who just seems to know how to jump headlong into a project like the Daytrotter Barnstormer Tour and catch lightning in a bottle. He trusts that the people of state he grew up in will come out and support it. The buzz is growing, too.
So, if you have any possible way to get to Iowa to any of these shows– do it. If this run of shows is anything like July, it is something you will remember for a long time. Good people, great bands in barns.
Daytrotter Barnstormer 7/26/09 at Mooney Hollow Barn Slideshow
Daytrotter Barnstormer 7/28/09 at Secrest Barn Slideshow
Daytrotter.com— the purveyor of freely-downloadable mp3’s of sessions recorded by a wide-range of artists and bands– have decided that they want to take a handful of their favorite acts on a mini-tour through some Iowa towns with a stop in Madison (just because they love that place!). These shows are FREE and ALL AGES. All the bands are hoping for are some new fans, and possibly sell some merch.
It is a move which gets its tradition from the “Caravan of Stars”-type tours that happened during the 50’s and 60’s where bands would roll through a bunch of cities stopping of at ballrooms across the midwest– back when places like Melody Mill in Sageville, IA outside Dubuque would get bands like Johnny Cash, The Ventures, and the Everly Brothers. If the bands didn’t tour like that, these little towns and cities wouldn’t have been able to get this kind of entertainment.
Daytrotter reached out a couple of months ago looking for barns they could play in– I made a couple of suggestions, and one of the stops will be just outside my hometown of Bellevue, IA at Mooney Hollow Barn!
While exchanging e-mails with Sean from Daytrotter, he said that some of the impetus of this tour is to let people in Iowa know about Daytrotter. Certainly when I’m talking to folks I know about this they have no idea what Daytrotter is– even though the work that they do is world-reknowned and has been accurately suggested to be the successor to the BBC Peel Sessions!
I’ve said on more than one occasion that we Iowans should be proud of Daytrotter and its “little studio and website that could” success!
Hopefully, this will be successful enough that this becomes a yearly event!
The lineup of bands is pretty interesting and varies slightly for each of the five stops. However, San Diego band Local Natives will be performing at all of the shows. From this lineup, I was familiar only with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Paleo. Someone Still Loves You is a great indie pop band from Springfield, Mo that has done two Daytrotter sessions already (which is how I found out about them initially) and Paleo is known as the “song a day for a year” guy. So, it will be interesting to hear those acts in a live setting. Snowblink is a pretty dreamy type of music driven by the breathy vocals of Daniela Gesundheit.Snowblink has been compared to Cat Power, and I hear that. Catfish Haven is a surprising R&B powerhouse from the Windy City that reminds me of Mad Dogs and Englishmen-period Joe Cocker, frankly. I can’t wait to see them in a live setting! DAYUM! They’re going to be at the Bellevue stop, which is super-duper! Mac Lethal is an MC from Kansas City, MO. He has a great flow that reminds me a lot of Chief Xcel or Chali 2na.
So, a pretty wide swath of indie goodness represented. I’m going to hit the Bellevue stop and shoot some pix and provide some coverage. If you have the ability and are in the region, stop out to one of these shows!
11 am — Davenport, Iowa: Morning performance at the Bix 7 road race course at the turnaround: 110 McClellan Blvd. (Performing — Local Natives) Local Natives Daytrotter Session