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.
Zeitgeist Music Festival at DMSC Racquetball Court (October 24)
These noise festivals live in the shadows. Like the system of wires connecting the criminal underworld in Fritz Lang’s pioneering pre-film noir masterpiece, Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler, cords ran from the outlets like waterfalls and poured in piles from crowded desks. They lined the walls, weblike in their tangles. What they captured in their coils was something musically prehistoric. Anti-rhythms. Proof of ghosts in the machines.
The festival, which took place in the Des Moines Social Club Racquetball Court, collects some of the notable regional experimental music artists for an all-day fest once a year, and was arguably better than ever. The festival is now in its fifth year.
DJ DJ TANNER Mixtape
My pal, Nick, has single-handedly picked through the vinyl selection of every thrift store in Central Iowa, finding pop garbage and repurposing it for his sample-based DJ DJ TANNER project. The guy was nice enough to make me a tape of some of his choice 45s slowed down from their sugar-coated 60’s production to a more bellowing 33 RPM.
With the pitch change at that speed, the vocals became androgynous and genderless. The teen angst and frontier blues of those dusty old Iowa 45s, dating back to the 60’s, were given soul as the music itself took time to unravel like the solo before the curtain-drop revealing the gospel choir backing band. When the chorus of a radiowave boomer hits all slowed-down and lumbering, it hits all the harder.
Central Iowa Music Lab Spring Recital at Lefty’s (August 23)
There was a nice conversation between some of the dsmshows writers this year that took place indirectly through various posts. The discussion bridged out from a question of artistry vs. showmanship. I wondered if this commonly understood sense of stage presence interfered with the music, losing itself in mimicry. Casey suggested a happy medium between the two, wherein one couldn’t exist without the other, i.e pop music.
I wonder where the CIML Spring Recital at Lefty’s falls on the scale between our two perspectives. After all, it’s really just a bunch of students killing it playing mostly popular songs that they love and have spent the semester learning on drums, guitar, the mic and piano. It’s all the more fulfilling when we realize we’re actually seeing people learning to love music. It always showed in the performance, whether it was in the way some young chap in chucks was ripping out the guitar solo on “Black Hole Sun” or the way some little punk weaved her way through the squeals of Billie Holiday’s “Gloomy Sunday”.
Either way, seeing someone perform music on a stage in front of a crowd for the first time is always kind of heart-warming, even when stage fright gets the better of them.
Des Moines Yacht Club Shows
In 2014, it was The Fremont, and then this year, through sheer community force-of-will, the Yacht Club (re-)christened the bar’s tiny stage with Weirdo Wednesdays, which, by the end of 2015, were pretty much just Weirdo Whenevers. Odd Pets slayed early on, and Easy Fruit rang in the winter with an Odd Pets cover, and countless others graced the stage between them and killed because the place is tiny, there were stacks of guitar cases in the first booth, and the bar was always packed. Here’s to keeping it weird in 2016.