This whole local-music-blogging thing is going to be a lot harder than I thought. In Des Moines, I want to be friends with the bands. What's happening to me?
Ames, Iowa's own the Poison Control Center pushed, cajoled, and surfed the hometown crowd into arms-splayed fun-having with exuberantly gimmicky stagecraft (a good thing!) and some super impressive indie rock singalongs during last night's free pre-80/35 party at Vaudeville Mews. I had listened to their MySpace a bit before, I have the CD, and PCC guy Pat Fleming was kind enough to do a quick interview with Des Noise last month, but I still had no idea what awaited me at the Mews. A set of new material as well as songs from the band's 2007 debut album was melodic, energetic, and uniformly strong, with lyrical themes often addressed to the audience (touring/coming-of-age song "Driving", darkly optimistic help-us-sing song "Magic Circle Symphony"). They had the propulsive squall of early Pavement with the chops to pull it off: vocals ranging from Wayne Coyne beatific to Conor Oberst cathartic, and an overall presence that would fit in easily alongside late-2000s indie rock disciples Titus Andronicus or Los Campesinos! (and would blow Tapes 'N Tapes out of the water of 10,000 lakes). Oh, plus Fleming was a genial lunatic of a showman, clambering all over stage and the crowd. Doing the splits while playing guitar in the audience. No wonder we both like Super Furry Animals.
I'm totally biased now, though, because Fleming is also a really nice dude. Ryan Foley recently tweeted a quote from UK critic Nick Kent: "If these people turned up on your doorstep, would you invite them in? If not, why are you listening to their music?" In this case, the answer to the first question is a resounding yes. So much for being a cranky old rock critic.
Local singer/songwriter Derek Lambert opened with a solid solo acoustic set of whispery and introspective lo-fi folk-- occasionally drowned out by the crowd, but I'm looking forward to seeing him play again sometime. He was also among the most awesomely amped people in a crowd full of awesomely amped people during PCC's set. I came here hoping for audiences that wouldn't be the usual arms-folded Brooklyn variety, and I wasn't disappointed. I also met Kelly from the Besties, a sadly overlooked New York indie-pop band-- she just moved from Greenpoint to North Carolina, so I guess I'm not the only one looking for a change of scenery.
Pavement's Bob Nastanovich? Repeatedly mentioned from the stage as someone who will end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? He was there, too, as promised. Between sets by Lambert and PCC, Nastanovich sat upstairs spinning records, including New Order's "Ceremony" and Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone". At the end of the night, he joined PCC for a Pavement cover-- I think it was
After the song, Nastanovich declared, "This is the only fucking proper city in the United States of America." I obviously hope he's right. Too early for me to tell. But I can say this: I had a really, really great time last night, and so did a lot of other people.
...Anybody catch Toots and the Maytals? How was it? Also missed the fireworks over the Capitol building, though we did see the end of the ones from Principal Park. See you at 80/35 tonight!!