Considering the sheer amount of Iowa music that was available for us to cover this year and the tendency for blogs and netzines like ours to make lists at this time of the year, we decided we’d play our part. We’ve put together lists of our favorite musical events of 2015, including live shows, specific releases, or really any kind of music-related experience of any kind.
Mission Creek Music Festival (March 31 – April 5)
The Mission Creek festival continues to impress. Year after year they bring an incredibly high caliber of artists, writers, and speakers to a town that welcomes them along with the people eager to listen. Just take a look at their lineup for 2016. A great deal of those artists have never visited Iowa to perform, talk, or share. Over the years, I’ve gotten the chance to speak with a few performers, and the reaction is always the same. People like visiting Iowa City, and they love Mission Creek.
The amount of thought the Mission Creek staff puts into booking is apparent. The variety alone is enough to have me interested. But there is so much more than just music. There are deals at local restaurants, a book fair, art shows, screenings, and about everything else you would expect to happen when such talented people come to such an already vibrant cultural location. The festival is a complete and organized week with so many options to engage with, but it really the vibe of the festival that keeps me coming back. It is something you should definitely experience for yourself.
Anna G, Tree branch Twig, CJ Boyd, and DJ DJ Tanner at the DMSC Racquetball Court (May 1, 2015)
Trey said it best, “this is sure to be an experience.” It was one of those shows that left you reeling with an energy best described as inspiration. You leave feeling the music and taking the vibrations of that music with you. You feel everyone around you ascending to higher levels of vibration as well, and it isn’t ridiculous at all. It’s simple and beautiful and carries a deep meaning that is almost impossible to understand. The experience becomes a sacred one of the kind that are too difficult to describe because of how close it borders to some sort of enlightenment or divine knowledge, always fleeting in nature. I believe music is magic, and this particular experience was a showcase of its possibilities.
White Man’s Burden by marKaus (Released July 4)
By the time I got to the third track of marKaus’ White Man’s Burden, I knew it would become a steadfast album in my collection. I remember the specific line that sealed it for me” “Reagan did more to my block than Bin Laden did.” It was immediately clear to me that marKaus was out to be honest and true to who he is. He was rapping with purpose. As an emcee, you are given a voice, and marKaus has not let his voice flounder and fall flat. He is a truthsayer. I found a similar feeling of wanting to pull down the veils of society on these tracks, and I felt as if marKaus was someone to trust, so I listened closer.
By the time you get to tracks like “Counter Culture” or “Subtracted Morals,” the honesty becomes even more apparent. There are no apologies on this record, and marKaus consistently builds a case for how he sees the world. His views make a lot of sense, and it is obvious he carries a message with his artistry. His music has many levels and styles. Listen to “Sinners & Saints” featuring Gadema, and tell me you don’t feel it. There is something pastoral about it. White Man’s Burden is an album of thoughtful teachings, and the lessons you may find will surprise you.
Schubert Performance at St. Andrews Church (October 23)
In any given week you can listen to a wide variety of musical genres in Des Moines. That wide variety is something that became even more apparent to me in 2015. Much of the music I found myself listening to was grouped in genres I had spent little to no time with: jazz, Latin/Caribbean, noise, and classical.
With the exposure to these genres, I found myself wanting to experience the music in person. Once a search like this begins, it is likely to never end. With all the new sounds in my ear, I began to find out about events like the Schubert Quintet in C Major performance at St. Andrews Church. Also known as Schubert’s Cello Quintet, this piece was especially beautiful to hear and see performed live. Before this night, I was not aware of the opportunity to see performances like this extremely moving rendition of such an esteemed piece and having the performance be so accessible for me.
Ain’t Punk No More by Person Whale (Released November 21)
Person Whale’s Ain’t Punk No More was far and away the surprise record of 2015 for me. I found out about it one evening from our own Phil Young and spent a good portion of that night listening to the album on repeat. I didn’t know much about Person Whale, but I ended up talking to the bass player, Tony Weir, about his involvement in the recording. His insights only helped me to grow more fond of the record. Every track is a textural joy as the lo-fi nature of the recording only adds to the content of the songs. The band’s lead, Luke Belknap, did a tremendous job making the record come alive.
What really got me was how good the record feels as a complete listen. Each song is independent, but shares many qualities with it’s album-mates. “Lunar Cycle” is a banger which calls to mind not only the obvious surf rock associations, but also some seriously hallucinatory vibes that remind me of Jefferson Airplane or Silver Apples. I like that there are hints at different styles throughout the album, but the whole thing is driven by this overlying cohesive surf rock feel and texture. It is the style of the record and the tone of the music that keeps me coming back to this album even as I wrote this.