Glitter Density at Vaudeville Mews, July 2

Glitter Density at Vaudeville Mews, July 2

Glitter Density is a great name, isn’t it? I mean like, truly great. I try not to put too much stock in judging band names for the standard, obvious, book-by-a-cover reasons but Glitter Density really is just spot-on. I can’t think of any other name that could as accurately describe, like philosophically and aesthetically, what this band is all about. I feel like I could spend pages and pages trying to explain what Glitter Density’s music means but I don’t think I’d ever be able to explain it as well as their name does. On the one hand it’s telling you all about your glitter, glitz, glamour, your summertime, your basic teeny-bopper bubblegum romance, on the other hand it’s warning you all about your dense, heavy, deep, your slime/ruckus, your basic gritty, stone-faced, fuck-this-shit punk. It really is just the perfect name for this promising young band. There was a time shortly after I first saw these dudes play when I thought that they were pretty fucking good for their age. There was an era in the life of this band when the songs these kids wrote or covered and sang showcased a level of talent that was impressive on account of the fact that they are both just out of middle school. That era is over. I’m not sure when exactly it ended but I know I saw them drive the final nail into its coffin at their GDP pop-up show at Preservation in the East Village. What I saw sitting on the counter that afternoon was one of the most talented and impressive bands in Des Moines,...
Interview with Leyla McCalla

Interview with Leyla McCalla

When you first hear Leyla McCalla’s voice emerge on her new record it feels like it has come a very, very long distance to get there, miles and miles and decades and decades away. And you’d be right. Leyla McCalla was born in New York to Haitian immigrants and, after training in classical music at Smith College and New York University, she moved to New Orleans to more deeply embrace her roots as a Haitian, as an immigrant, as an American, and as an inheritor of African-American culture. The result is an album that is steeped in 300 years of history and emotion. You hear the determination and resolve of rebels in Saint-Domingue and the German Coast in Louisiana. You hear the pain and loss felt by women who had their children ripped from their arms, never to be seen again. You hear the hopes and fears of migrants standing on a dock trying desperately to make a momentous and irreversible decision. You hear almost the whole sweep of post-colonial history in the Americas, in all it’s monstrosity and grace. On top of all that, her songs are just stunningly arranged. She has combined classical and jazz influences with Haitian and Creole folk traditions in a way that feels both freshly original and prehistorically natural. I had the incredible luck to ask McCalla a few questions about her art before her June 14 show at the Des Moines Social Club. I’m pleased and proud to present her answers below. CE: The long standing misconception that folk and Americana music is primarily a white genre dominated by legends such as...
What are we going to do about all these fucking manic pixie dream girl bands?

What are we going to do about all these fucking manic pixie dream girl bands?

You guys, tho: A few days ago, intrepid Des Moines music columnist Chad Taylor boldly and bravely put the Des Moines Music Coalition on blast for (what else?) their booking strategies w/r/t their three major festivals. He made a number of good points and put forward a broad set of constructive suggestions for ways to tweak and improve the way that the DMMC runs their events. The key take-away for me though was his call to action regarding the city’s over-saturation of manic pixie dream girl bands. At first I was skeptical about this, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how dire this situation is. If we are really honest with ourselves, we have to admit that, over the past few years we’ve really glutted ourselves on these manic pixie dream girl bands. It started rather harmlessly as they were but a small portion of a more balanced musical diet, but those days of balance have long since passed. Now-a-days, I can hardly turn my head without bumping into half a dozen new manic pixie dream girl bands, I think. Let’s back up for a second, because, while I’m sure the venerated Mr. Taylor is correct when he labels this manic pixie dream girl band infestation as one of many key problems facing our music community, I think it would be helpful for some of our less informed readers to define some identifying characteristics of manic pixie dream girl bands so that we can remain vigilant and resist their influence. Unfortunately, Mr. Taylor declined to cite any examples at all of manic pixie dream...
Best of 2015: Casey’s List

Best of 2015: Casey’s List

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. Jack Lion and marKaus at The Basement (October 17) I wrote all about Jack Lion when they played the Des Moines Social Club earlier in the year, but this show really blew me away. The combination of their genre-defying approach to jazztronica is seriously one of the best things this state has to offer right now and the new material they unleashed that night felt like a major step forward for the Iowa City-based trio. This night was also my first introduction to the music of MarKaus and it was eye opening. Expect big things from this dude. This show featured a jazz band that heavily employed electronic instruments and a rapper that was backed by no electronic instruments whatsoever and it was the best show I saw in 2015. Interview with Justin LeDuc of Jack Lion CTC Holiday Jam at the Basement (December 3) Tina Haas Findley is a queen. Her acapella rendition of “Silent Night” at this show felt like it existed outside of time and space, unscathed by the concerns of lesser songs and performers. Aside from the scattered affirmations and Amens, you could have heard a pin drop at any point during her performance. Lesbian Poetry’s performance of “Do...
Karen Meat & the Computer at Des Moines Yacht Club, Dec. 2

Karen Meat & the Computer at Des Moines Yacht Club, Dec. 2

A couple months ago my dear friend and fellow dsmshows contributor, Trey Reis, wrote a preview for the Zeitgeist Music Festival in which he put forth the idea that, by and large, more conventional forms of live musical expression primarily offer entertainment or are devoid of, or at least deficient in, artistic merit. He described and decried a “culture which focuses more on the musician’s ability to get a crowd moving rather than thinking” and likened the contrast to that between a laser light show and a curated art exhibit. Now obviously there is some truth to what he had to say. I can think of a handful of acts, in this town alone, that more closely resemble a laser light show than they do an act of live musical expression. But on the whole, I found his argument incredibly dismissive of a whole host of forms and functions for music that may not be as aurally challenging but are no less vital and no less emotionally resonant. In order to refute this argument, I went in search of a conventional musical act which proves that art and entertainment are not mutually exclusive concepts, that proved that something capable of making you move is equally capable of making you think. It wasn’t hard. From the heartfelt grooviness of my precious Maytags to the plaintive requiem of my underrated Maids to the disquieting vastness of my roving Field Division(s), this town is teeming with music of all stripes that is worthy of our thoughtful consideration and capable of asking us why. But there’s one band that I kept coming back...