David Cook's publicist never got back to me. So what else did I have to do, I figured than quaff a $1.25 beer on the patio at the Miller High Life Lounge, scarf down a Thai chicken pizza at Fong's in my ongoing effort to hang out wherever that Adrien Brody dude chills around here (not that I've seen his movies or would've even recognized him if he hadn't been pointed out to me that one time), and check out Friend of Des Noise and all-around nice dude Patrick Tape Fleming of the Poison Control Center playing a solo show over at the Des Moines Social Club. Wasn't sure what to expect, indie rock dudes strumming their acoustic guitars by themselves aren't always great entertainment, but I was sort of blown away by his band's acrobatic psych-pop singalongs at Vaudeville Mews a couple of weeks ago, so I figured why not come out and show some support?
Look, dudes. Quickly becoming biased as all get-out here-- like I said, Friend of Des Noise-- but I have seen a lot of guys with guitars, OK? Patrick was in Jonathan Richman, Jens Lekman, Gruff Rhys territory: managing to entertain a potentially tough crowd generously, daringly, and thoroughly.
Musta been only a few dozen people there, tops. There had been a fancy dinner function, $75 a plate, a bellydancer with a birthday cake on her head. Des Moines Social Club is arguably the place in Des Moines most reminiscent of Brooklyn-- art exhibits, theater modeled after the one on 1st Ave. in Manhattan, casual vibe at the bar, free live music. This used to be the Howard Dean campaign headquarters in 2004; in 2008, it was Barack Obama's. Before Patrick took the stage, a woman with a nice voice and her band were doing Fiona Apple and Sara Bareilles (sp? On phone!) piano stuff. Pretty good, but more in the background.
One minute I was talking to Patrick about how ballsy the Strokes had seemed back in 2001, or how Lou Barlow can kind of be a dick but for some reason that just makes us come back for more, or whether Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips likes to be called Steve (he didn't). The next minute Patrick was at the microphone debating whether to unplug and play in the crowd, saying he wasn't gonna tell everyone to "shut the fuck up," noting he'd played to crowds before that needed to "shut the fuck up," trying to gauge whether the $75-plate crowd wanted to participate or ignore him. Of course, he jumped right into where everybody was sitting. No mic, no amp, just shouting himself hoarse getting them invested in the songs. It helped that a few friends were there, too, including sometime PCC drummer Christopher the Conquered. In that kind of environment, people actually need to understand what you're singing, the songs actually need to go somewhere-- and you need the superhuman awareness that can only be developed through countless hours performing in front of people, so you remember to involve the woman who wants something "danceable" (she got to dance) as well as the guy who adds to your factoid about Toto backing MJ on Thriller by mentioning they did Dune too (thanked at least twice, asked his name). Sure, Patrick forgot words, and he didn't really know the bridge to Tom Petty's "American Girl"-- the sole cover, a good choice because it brought some departing $75-platers back and Patrick happened to have a friend there who sings it-- but he was also impossible to ignore. He revealed stuff about himself, his family, and well-known TV pitchmen that I'd feel like I was intruding upon if I posted it here. He scrambled around rooms, jumped on tables, did the splits. And all to make a roomful of mostly strangers with no prior interest in his music focus on the songs: simple, catchy, colorful, with top-of-his-lungs vocals, lots of personal detail, and communal themes (love, a maybe Buddhist-inspired sense of modest tranquillity). He asked us to sing along, and pretty soon I think even some of the $75-platers did. One refrain, which I love for being so true and unpretentious but also for performing a spectacular feat by removing mortality and extreme anguish from the realm of the sacred or profane and bringing 'em right back into our dang absurd human comedy: "Love/ Love is the answer/ Until you get cancer/ Then you're lying...dying... dead." Show was free, all merch proceeds to DM Social Club.
On road to Pitchfork festival in Chicago as I type this-- more soon! And thanks for letting me ramble.