I haven't even arrived in Des Moines yet and it seems like all my posts are about Vaudeville Mews. This music venue opened in December 2002 and has put the city on the map as a place for new bands and old eccentrics to play while making their way across the Midwest. Smoke-free before that was the law, with a capacity about on par with an intimate venue like Chicago's Schubas, the Mews has played host to pre-fame Fall Out Boy and just the other night brought the wonderful Jonathan Richman to Des Moines. Joanna Newsom, Bonnie Prince Billy, Jens Lekman, and plenty of other bands worth seeing have also passed through its doors. I already spoke with the guy who books the Vaud's shows, Ladd Askland, and the guy who does the sound, Patrick Fleming-- now managing partner Amedeo Rossi, who also organizes the 80/35 Festival, was kind enough to talk with me via e-mail. An edited transcript of our conversation is below.
[One quick side note: Vaudeville Mews is hosting an event July 2 that I somehow overlooked in putting together my summer music preview: An 80/35 pre-party featuring local spazz-popsters the Poison Control Center with Pavement's Bob Nastanovich (!!). Mrs. Des Noise, can we please go?]
1. How has downtown Des Moines changed since you opened the Vaudeville Mews?
AR: Des Moines has a base of risk management in its blood. We are a center of insurance and banking. In the last few years the arts and youth culture have come more to the forefront. Having a good indie club helps. Other clubs have located in the downtown area as well. The advent of online social media levels the playing field in the spread of info. I believe it's been a time of growth.
2. A lot of memorable performers have come through here.. Which shows have been your favorites and why?
AR: My personal favorite is the Pernice Brothers. They are a gem of a poppy band I could relate to. Someone like Devendra Banhart, with his shirtless/shoeless Christ-esque presence made an impression.
3. What's it like putting together a second annual 80/35 festival as opposed to the first one?
AR: It's been hard to deal with the fallout of the economic collapse. A year ago we were a big idea. Now we are a reality and many think highly of the festival so from that perspective it's easier to get people/sponsors involved. Doing it for the first time is always hardest, but it’s a big undertaking.
4. What are the biggest challenges facing you as the manager and co-owner of a music venue in Des Moines?
AR: Paying the bills. It's an up and down business. Live by the show, die by the show. When it's right, it's great. When it's bad, it's horrible. We stay pretty pure and only open for shows.
5. Where do you see the Des Moines music community going from here-- what's next?
AR: More national acts wanting to stop here and more local acts trying to hit the road with the fan base growing.