"Do You Realize?" is to Oklahoma City acid casualties as "All My Friends" is to Downtown disco-punks
Column today in the Des Moines Register about Iowa transplants. "I learned a long time ago that newcomers must endure a waiting period before voicing strong opinions," Marc Hansen writes. "As in, 'How about living here awhile before telling us what we should do or think?'" And then he REALLY hits home: "Sophisticates from the bigger cities arrive with moving vans full of misconceptions and uninformed opinions." It's a nice column that actually turns out to be about a guy who wants Iowans to listen more to their non-native neighbors. Hansen also wrote a column recently called "Thugs from Chicago in Iowa? Fact or fiction?", which I was ready to read skeptically. It's a smart, appropriately and refreshingly modest, inquisitive piece on race relations and the relationships between the historically high-crime Chicago and sleepy ol'-- except for that guy who got beaten and stabbed almost to death around my block, or the guy who stabbed his mother, or the July 4 brawl that claimed two Des Moines women's lives, or the tragic shooting of a high school football coach-- Des Moines.
I can't help sometimes expressing strong opinions, but as a New Yorker for five years and a Chicagoan for almost five before that, I've been surprised how busy Des Moines has kept me since I landed in town just about three weeks ago. Part of the whole appeal for me of moving here from Brooklyn was the idea that suddenly I'd have more free time to sit around and read and listen to records, because hey, that's what I really like to do. Instead I've constantly been doing stuff, whether trying new restaurants and bars or going to the 80/35 music festival or checking out some really good live acts at Vaudeville Mews and Des Moines Social Club. And I still haven't been to all the other places around town where I'll end up seeing bands! Also, yeah, sometimes I'm working a little bit. So, in the interest of brevity and saving time for non-blogging activities, I'm summing up an insane amount of activity in a single post.
The Pitchfork Music Festival was a blast for me last weekend, probably more fun for me musically than last year's and with more good friends to catch up with too. And a new baby to hang out with, although she also got to hang out with Wu-Tang Clan's GZA. Didn't have electricity or hot water, but that wasn't my always insanely gracious host's fault. How do you get tobacco juice stains on a ceiling? Yo La Tengo and Built to Spill sounded great the first night, the former playing what sounded like a pretty varied set (including stuff from the most recent album, which I feel like I loved more than everybody else) and Built to Spill getting a little Dead-ier than I had even expected, never seen either band before (!!!). Lindstrom did his classic "I Feel Space" and just generally killed, space-disco-wise (somebody mentioned "Miami Vice" music man Jann Hammer), and Ponytail were a high-energy baby-talking highlight with a great drummer (Mrs. Des Noise: "Is it the same nonsense every time? She's OK, right?") (yes), and Wavves was better than expected, still a strange and bound-to-backfire vibe of entitlement around many of these new lo-fi ppl though. On Sunday, DJ /rupture (did I capitalize that right?) stopped sounding like a curator to me (Brian Howe's phrase?) and started a globetrotting dance party, Japandroids' set was this year's Art Brut look-at-us-we're-a-great-new-band-and-this-is-our-moment moment at least from right to the stage left of the mosh pit behind a guy handing out gum and a girl who was darn generous with her water bottle full of vodka, and Flaming Lips did the confetti and the balloons and the wacky video display and the great great psych-pop swooners (not exactly following the "Write the Night" fan-voting rules, but all the better for it)-- set was too short, if anything, a deal with the city I guess but all for the best. Had always found Frightened Rabbit a little Counting Crow-ish, but his voice isn't his fault and their set-- no banjos, unlike on the album!-- was much better than I expected. M83, Black Lips, etc. also sounded good from afar.
AHHH!!! AHHHHHH!!!!!! Des Moines is nice because I can be a fanboy here and not feel self-conscious about it, which is harder to do sometimes than you'd think. Japandroids came to the Vaudeville Mews for the first time last night. I'd been looking forward to it for months, and it definitely helped get me excited about making the move-- hey, if they can book one of my favorite new bands of the year before there's even a record out in the U.S. yet, this place is gonna be awesome, right?-- almost as soon as the virtual ink was dry on my "Young Hearts Spark Fire" track review. Opening locals Wolves in the Attic sound like early Sonic Youth, as observed to me by the guy who recorded them, the Poison Control Center's Patrick Tape Fleming. Except unlike many bands that would meet that description, they were remarkably tight and practiced, too, especially catching my attention with a blistering instrumental and a real energetic thrasher right before the end. About to listen to their album, which comes packaged in a book (I got The Expectant Father). Met Ryan from another local band, too, Beati Paoli, whose historical references and literary air put me in mind of pre-Hazards of Love Decemberists, only more electrified and voluble (I heard that Stone Roses quote, man!). Japandroids did their thing and it did well, despite a relatively small Monday-night-on-a-band's-first-time-through-town crowd and the fact that they were planning on driving toward Denver that night after the show: two dudes, a wind machine, anthemically synchronized guitar-drum pyrotechnics, sweating hearts and sparking fires and boys leaving town and staying crazy forever together and some new stuff I didn't recognize, too. There's a more 1990s Lollapalooza-style grind to them that's not in a lot of stuff I like, something that makes them more guy-oriented (could be the name), but I actually pretty much enjoy near-head-banging when it's to music like this. Their first driving album of the night was going to be Master of Puppets. EDIT: They did their cover of McLusky's hilarious and awesome "To Hell With Good Intentions," too, pretty faithful except with more "whoa-ohs," amazing hair.
Oh, and I told them "great set at Pitchfork" when they first walked into the building... they thanked me and apologetically said they had expected Des Moines to be a "shithole"-- "no offense" (none taken, esp. because they explained it could just be because it's a place you've never been before, so far from home in Vancouver). Drummer Dave Prowse (!) seemed to be digging Wolves in the Attic. So anyway, all this leads to them dedicating "Young Hearts Spark Fire" to the guy who saw 'em the night before in Chicago, i.e. me. Without knowing I was a Pitchfork writer-- who had reviewed that very track! Weird coincidence, and very fun. I bought a white vinyl album and a T-shirt.
Maybe Paleo (sort of Neutral Milk Hotel meets an M. Ward or Iron & Wine, on first cursory MySpace listens) tonight? We'll see when I can get my actual work done. Also want to see the Iowa Cubs this week sometime, and have great Chicago/Brooklyn friends coming to visit. Also, also: Gomez tonight at People's, Gogol Bordello tomorrow night, Derek Lambert working sound. So like I said, there's more going on than you might know about. I haven't been here long enough to say if it will last me through the winter, but it should be fun either way.