Gross Domestic Product is Des Moines’ all local music festival. This year marks the 11th anniversary of GDP, and to look back at the past ten years of lineups is like looking through a photo album of the year in Iowa music. The festival’s continued success is due to the Des Moines Music Coalition’s ability to curate a lineup of local artists from a wide scope of genres and present those acts in conjunction with one another to paint a larger picture of the diversity of music our fair city has to offer.
This year, we here at DSM Shows were asked to write up the band previews for every artist on the GDP 2016 lineup. We, of course, accepted.
Over the next two weeks leading up to the festival, the Des Moines Music Coalition and our humble crüe of jotters here at DSM Shows will be releasing the write-ups for your previewing pleasure.
Our hope is that releasing these bios one-by-one will build an enormous amount of hype for Gross Domestic Product, so much so that in years to come, the engaged music audience of Des Moines will celebrate not only GDP itself, but the two weeks leading up to it as well in a manner consistent with what many have come to expect from a Naw’Leans Mardi Gras.
Our expectation is that every one of you reading this right now will attend GDP, support this grand opportunity for local musicians, and celebrate our lovely little music culture here in the City of Two Rivers. Or else…
DJ Eight Ten
By Trey Reis
There’s a real art to DJing. Between curating playlists, playing to the crowd, and seamlessly mixing between often disparate music, there is an undeniable amount of artistic ability required in order to DJ. It’s a form of music-making rooted in as much history as any other style of musical performance. Not to mention all the DJ technology rabbit holes one can go down given their interest and financial means.
DJ Eight Ten, on the other hand, keeps it real. In a time when second wave vinyl music culture is expanding around the world, DJ Eight Ten (aka Jeff Eaton) was making it happen here in Des Moines with monthly events like Pressure Drop, Modern Love, and Born Wild. Each event highlighted different eras and genres of music all curated from Eaton’s (and his co-DJs) own vinyl collection. It’s an impressive feat considering the otherwise digital nature of contemporary DJing.
We would love to see more mingling between the live music and DJ cultures of Des Moines, so kudos to GDP for putting DJ Eight Ten on the list. Catch him and show some vinyl respect as he closes down the Blazing Saddle stage at this year’s Gross Domestic Product.
By Phil Young
In the TMT preview of their debut 5cm Recordings-released cassette, Entropy, Nostromo was described as an answer to questions like, what if “Ozzy had joined Rush and crashed CBGB’s in 1975?” It’s hard to write better hype than that.
After all, Nostromo shreds through those late 70’s and early 80’s downtuned hard rock bangers with ease, the drums pounding out cavernous but tight. The sheer amount of power this band puts off is remarkable considering the band’s three person cast.
When you see Nostromo, you know you are watching upcoming masters of their respective crafts perform before you. We’re starting to see a lot of that here in Des Moines.
Photo thefted from Cityview Magazine
By Bruce James Bales
With their 2014 cassette, Bum Out!, The Vahnevants released one of the better albums in recent Des Moines history. Rolling loosely through elements of surf, punk, and rockabilly, each song on the tape runs comfortably at its own pace. The album itself melds the songs together with its appropriately lo-fi production and mountains of reverb and delay.
The Vahnevants have carved out their place among their Des Moines garage rock contemporaries by filtering the familiar through their devil-may-care delivery and refreshing lack of attention to detail. It’s textural and rooted in nearly 60 years of rock subgenres and culture. The result gives The Vahnevants’ music its signature timeless warble and warmth, and what a worthy warble it is.
By Trey Reis
Courtney Krause needs no introduction. The Des Moines based singer/songwriter has been building toward her 2016 explosion since she began writing music years and years ago. This March finally saw the long-awaited debut release from Krause, Thoughts and Sound.
The album is a well-balanced foray into the folk-rooted tendencies of Krause’s powerful blend of country, blues, and rock, and it flows with the confidence of an industry professional. Those who have seen Krause live over the past years have had the opportunity to see that change in her music occur, and that fan base has grown with every show.
So, it’s no surprise that Coutrney Krause was the Gross Domestic Product Community Selected Artist this year. It’s fitting, considering the way folk music and songwriting has long served as a grassroots way of connecting and growing communities.
In an era when the opportunities to hear, see, and experience music can be a cacophony unto itself, it’s a breath of fresh Iowa air to see Courtney Krause do things the good ol’ fashioned way.
By Trey Reis
When TIRES began rolling a few years ago, Des Moines had yet to hear anything quite like it. The band’s electronic barrage turned an otherwise content rock music scene on its head, filtering Des Moines’ history with the genre through walls of cascading synths, plugged-in psychedelia, and contemporary Krautrock.
And that’s just to comment on the music. As is the case with the increasingly tech-savvy collection of electronic musicians in this city, the band’s live show is crafted with the same maximalist attention to detail. The result is a kaleidoscopic experience of wired ecstasy that hits with the force of a knockout blow.
Following the recording of their debut full-length earlier this year, TIRES are set for a 2016 hat trick: an album release, an 80-35 appearance, and, of course, a set at this year’s Gross Domestic Product. Witness it for yourself on the Wooly’s stage at 8 PM.
By Trey Reis
Des Moines has maintained an impressively long-standing tradition of metal music stretching back as far as the early 90’s. But things were different then, and in our modern era when live music is inextricably linked to its own online presence, it can be hard to break through the noise.
Enter Green Death. The Des Moines five-piece has already had an astounding year surrounding the EMP Label Group release of their sophomore album, Manufacturing Evil.
The album has been praised for its far-reaching take on the many different corners of the metal genre. Combining elements of the more polished trends of power metal with the loose, raw nature of thrash, the album was featured in the premiere metal publication, Decibel Magazine, and eventually reached #1 on the Amazon metal charts.
Now, Green Death is following an April US tour in support of the album with the one-two punch of festival appearances at this year’s Gross Domestic Product and 80/35 Music Festival. Considering the year isn’t even half over yet, 2016 is poised to be the year of Green Death.
By Bruce James Bales
Media Fresh is one of the most active organizations in the Des Moines music scene. From the FreshenUP series to their recent announcement of Iowa’s first Hip Hop Festival, Fresh Fest, the group has been focused and intent on making their presence known. Now, Media Fresh looks to put hip-hop culture front and center at this year’s Gross Domestic Product festival.
In a city where music is said to be at the forefront of the arts and entertainment culture, hip-hop still seems to play the role of the underdog. Media Fresh is working to change that. They don’t just present music; Media Fresh presents culture in its honest form. It’s that passion that has us paying attention.
By Casey Erixon
As much as Odd Pets’ success in the past year is attributable to their undeniable talent as songwriters and performers, I tend to believe it also stands as a testament to the supportive and inclusive atmosphere of our little Des Moines music scene.
When Des Moines native, Lisa Burner, and long-time resident, Andy Buch, first started playing together as Odd Pets they were mostly just foolin’ around, playing some acoustic stuff one month, some noise stuff the next, and it wasn’t until Andy brought an electric guitar and some drums over that things really clicked and the punk-tinged, pop-forward Odd Pets we know today came together.
The real breakthrough came when they started playing around at the local venues. “It’s all been so amazing,” says Burner. “Odd Pets could not have warmed me up to the stage any better. It’s always so much fun playing and goofing off and meeting new people and meeting new fans.”
That outpouring of support and mutual admiration makes an Odd Pets show somewhat of an emotionally ambiguous prospect. On the one hand, you can’t help but dancing or swaying along to killer songs like “Stay Behind” or “Blackout” with lines like “My heart is a hole” and “I’m warmest alone.” On the other hand, you will invariably find yourself surrounded by some of the nicest, most decent neighbors you’ll ever met who are also dancing or swaying along to these killer songs.
You could trip yourself up on those inherent contradictions and go home befuddled and confused. Or you could embrace it, give yourself over to the complexity of the modern world, and find yourself warmly alone, together.
By Nick Williams
An amalgamation of noise, grindcore, metal, and depraved singularity, Agrinex is what happens when recognition is an afterthought and expression becomes the catalyst for inception and growth. This notion is enhanced by the band’s seemingly intentional lack of any kind of presence in the world outside of their live shows.
In a time when the WWW tells us what and how to feel about, well, everything, it’s refreshing to see a band raise a middle finger to all of the things about being in a band that don’t involve simply playing music.
That’s Agrinex. Pure music perfected in style, and devoid of image, aesthetic, a face. Catch a glimpse for yourself on the Wooly’s stage at this year’s GDP.
By Trey Reis
Iowa City has been keeping it weird since people in Iowa began flying their freak flags. It all rolls out of the university atmosphere as the curious go down the rabbit holes of culture. They start with novels and end with fanzines and vice versa. It’s a recipe for innovation.
Iowa City-based artist, Alex Body’s avant-electronic pop seems to encompass both ends of this spectrum. The music folds his particular line of apoca-philosophical lyrical content into the lo-fi, DIY muck of clamboring drum machines and analog synthesizers. It’s like a less heady John Maus with more of that 80’s pop apathy.
Alex Body has been digging away at his own electronic rabbit hole for nearly 10 years now, pushing the boundaries of Iowa City’s already impressive electronic music scene. Props to GDP for giving him a platform to share his findings with the plugged-in Des Moines crowd.
By Phil Young
Foxholes has been consistently stepping up their game since they began playing shows around Iowa in 2012. Formed as a three-piece indie-rock outfit, the band has now evolved into a five-piece sonic assault ensemble.
Their 2014 debut album, Can’t Help Myself, boasted eight straight-shooting rock n’ roll jams which carried themselves with the late 20th century influences from legendary acts such as The Strokes and The Pixies.
In contrast, Foxholes’ upcoming, yet-to-be-named album is much more sonically dense and presents an even more developed band. Check them out for yourself at this year’s GDP and rest assured you’ll be seeing one of Des Moines’ most exciting indie-rock offerings in a city where the roots of the genre run deep.
Vaj of Courage
By Trey Reis
One of the best things about Gross Domestic Product is the eclectic nature of its lineup. The festival consistently serves as a snapshot of the year in Iowa music. It seamlessly books artists from all genres throughout the state alongside one another in a way that speaks to the liveliness of Iowa culture moreso than any specific genre it may include.
On a smaller scale, Vaj of Courage does the same thing as a band. Their music morphs from song to song, often shapeless in genre but for the nods to Soul and R&B underpinned in various folk instrumentation. On top of that, the band’s multi-instrumentalist cast shifts between instruments throughout their live set, giving the band itself a certain undefinable quality.
In that regard, Vaj of Courage may just be the eclectic torchbearer of this year’s GDP festival, even with more experimental acts like Bob Bucko Jr. and Alex Body in the mix.
Bob Bucko Jr.
By Nick Williams
Remember when you were little and you’d eat all the marshmallows vowels out of your bowl of Alpha-Bits cereal, leaving only the soggy, buoyant consonants bobbing in the discolored milk? The leftover letters would group together to form unpronounceable, nonsensical words and sentences.
Half the fun of eating it was making sense of your meal. Sometimes though, a stray marshmallow or two would float up from the depths of your bowl and a readable message would appear in the sugary white pond. This is what seeing Bob Bucko Jr. is like.
Having confused and elated experimental heads and zoners alike with his constant touring across the country, his shifting live sets often meld buzzing drone, broken blues, pedal slapping freak outs, processed and unprocessed vocal ballads, and saxophone experimentation.
Whether solo, in collaboration, or while running his own DIY imprint, Personal Archives, Mr.Bucko is the real deal, always searching for the next sound to keep the day going. His set for this year’s GDP festival is sure to be unpredictable and certainly not to be missed. Bring your spoons.
By Casey Erixon
Glitter Density consists of Des Moines natives and lifelong pals, Catherine Lewin and Louise Bequeaith, both of whom attend Theodore Roosevelt High School. Though they hail from musical families and had been playing together since 2011, it wasn’t until early last year that they began playing around Des Moines.
Both ends of the band’s musical scope are represented by two of their pop gems, “Slushy” and “Lover Boy.” The first, “Slushy,” is a light-hearted bubblegum pop tune about old friends and long road trips and flavored syrupy ice water and the simple, pointless, indispensable experiences that make life worth living. Meanwhile, “Lover Boy” is not so simple, coming across like a crunchy punk rock tune about spurned beaus, half-hearted affirmations, and the crushing weight of misguided expectations.
Together, these two songs paint a picture of youth that is earnest without being naive, wistful without being innocent, curious without being unenlightened. Glitter Density reminds the listener of the urgency of youth, the imperviousness to reason that accompanies young love, and the fierce resistance to indifference of starry-eyed teenagers.
By Trey Reis
Making music since before the GDP rostermates, Glitter Density, were born, Fetal Pig represents a Des Moines DIY punk scene that’s been around since before nearly all of the currently active music venues and festivals in the city.
Their take on post-hardcore incorporates elements of noise and punk rock, taking a page from acts like The Jesus Lizard and Slint, and some of the more rooted Sonic Youth heavy-hitters. But then there’s a certain paranoia in the way Fetal Pig lead-man, Dan Hutchinson, carries the songs in jagged, claustrophobic angles that is entirely his own.
Considering the tendency these days for music festivals to book legendary acts, it’s great to see a festival like Gross Domestic Product pay respect to those responsible for paving its way.
Fetal Pig, we’re not worthy.