If you didn't know, you wouldn't have known.

Hessen Haus, the German beer hall located on 4th St. near Court Ave. in downtown Des Moines, usually picks up around 9 p.m. on Sundays. That's when, for the past four-plus months, Bob Nastanovich has hosted a weekly trivia night.

Last night's trivia session was more crowded than usual.

It could've been the promise of a $100 food and drink tab for the winners-- twice the usual $50 purse. Sure enough, the former Jeopardy contestant's team was back in the Haus, after having gone missing the previous week.

Or it could've been the occasion for the double-size prize. Nastanovich, who works most of the year at the Prairie Meadows race track in nearby Altoona, was headed for Chicago, where he works the other four months or so at the Hawthorne Racecourse. This was to be Bob's last trivia night of a season that began May 17.

At least one person I talked to suspected all the people lining the long tables and bar were here for a different reason. "Oh, I think they know," said the woman, whom I'm only not naming because I didn't tell her she might be quoted for a blog post.

Local media have yet to pick up the story, and Des Moines locals can be forgiven for not knowing. But, right now, Bob is-- how did Kanye West and the Clipse put it?-- kind of like a big deal.

The buzz started last week. On Sept. 16, a friend from Brooklyn e-mailed me: "Any truth to this Pavement rumor? I know you hang out with one of them once a week."

"Hang out with" was an exaggeration. Bob's the host, and Mrs. Des Noise and I are just consistently underachieving contestants. The rumor, though? Totally true.

In the 1990s, Nastanovich was a founding member of the cult-adored indie rock group Pavement. He was sort of a utility man, starting as a second drummer but adding various instruments and vocals.

The band released five critically hailed albums, scoring a modest MTV hit with Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain's "Cut Your Hair" in 1994, before breaking up 10 years ago. Their final album, 1999's somewhat disappointing Terror Twilight, boasted production from Nigel Godrich, the guy manning the boards for all those classic Radiohead songs.

Lead singer Stephen Malkmus went his own way, backed by the Jicks, and came to town this summer for the 80/35 Festival. Guitarist Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg did his thing, too, starting a group called Preston School of Industry.

Bob, meanwhile, has been right here in Des Moines, occasionally helping out a band like Massachusetts' New Radiant Storm King with a guest vocal or between-set DJing at the Vaudeville Mews. You can see him join Ames' own the Poison Control Center for a boozy rendition of "Two States", originally from Pavement's 1992 debut LP, Slanted and Enchanted, right at the top of this page.

Pavement, as many of you will have read, is reuniting. As of last night, they had already sold out two shows-- or was it three?-- at New York's Central Park. Shows that won't take place until next September. Yes, Bob is kind of like a big deal.

If you didn't know, you wouldn't have known. Bob didn't mention it.

The Jeopardy team won, as usual. When the "Jäger train" rumbled by, signaling $3 Jägermeister shots, Bob's wife Whitney Nastanovich was the first to alert us all, as usual. (Somehow, she can do this while hula hooping.)

Only if you listened really carefully, a few minutes after the winners were announced, would you have heard Whitney grab the mic to share a bashful Bob's great news: "Pavement's getting back together!!!"

The Nastanoviches are returning to Hessen Haus for a trivia-night cameo Oct. 11, so if you didn't know, you'll have another chance to wish Bob well.

And you'll still have time to try the bar's great selection of Oktoberfest brews. I recommend the Ayinger.



I barely managed to post my summer concert preview before it officially became summer and my list would've no longer been even technically on time. I've been hoping I could be at least that punctual with my fall concert preview, especially after seeing the Cityview and the Des Moines Register's Datebook fall entertainment guides pile up on my coffee table. This is my best effort.

Britney Spears on Sept. 11, I'm sorry I missed you.

(Hat tip to Tom Ewing for the title of this post. Thanks to Patrick and Ashley Tape Fleming for making the adjacent photo with the IOWA shaved-head fan guy happen... it was our dirty iPhone, not any shakiness by Ashley, that caused the blur. Mrs. Des Noise is cropped out, to protect the innocent. And the jobs thereof.)


Friday, Sept. 18: Grace Basement @ Vaudeville Mews
Catchy, jangly St. Louis guitar-pop with reverence for '60s psych: "Today I made some hummus for you" (listen)

Saturday, Sept. 19: Silversun Pickups and Manchester Orchestra @ Hoyt Sherman
Two popular indie rock bands I've never seen live. L.A.'s Silversun Pickups go for taut rythms, Placebo-pinched vox, and post-"Popular" Nada Surf mellow anthemics, while Atlanta's Manchester Orchestra do the "grandiose 1990s alternative (slight keyboard)" thing. If I can convince Mrs. Des Noise, I'll go.

Sunday, Sept. 20: Laura Barrett @ Vaudeville Mews
My favorite moment for the kalimba, or thumb piano, so far is former Vaud-playing Swede Jens Lekman's cover of late Iowa native Arthur Russell's "A Little Lost". Expect Toronto's Barrett to play the instrument-- and maybe keyboard, kazoo, bass pedals, and "other percussion"-- when she brings her low-key, minimalist folk-pop to Des Moines. (listen)

Monday, Sept. 21: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band @ Wells Fargo Arena
The Boss returns to Des Moines for the first time since 2006, this time with his longtime accomplices. OK, I really like Nebraska, "The River", "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City", and probably plenty of other songs I'm blanking on right now-- I'm not a total Philistine!-- but I've always found "Born to Run" ridiculous, winced after Springsteen got a career boost out of 9/11 with The Rising, and I don't have $90 to shell out on tickets, so since I'm sitting this one out anyway I'm gonna have to side with Richard Meltzer, who compared Bruce's blend of 1950s nostalgia (Roy Orbison!) and 1960s nostalgia (Bob Dylan!) to another 1970s phenomenon: the Fonz. This view is probably the real reason I could no longer live in the mid-Atlantic states.

Monday, Sept. 21: Trivium @ People's
Three years ago, friend of Des Noise Tom Breihan called Trivium "the Jackson 5 of Underground Metal." I'm not one of those indie rock guys who nurtures a pet metal obsession; the only aggressive bones I have in my body are passive. But still.

Monday, Sept. 21: The Chambermaids @ Vaudeville Mews
Pedal-pushing Minneapolis power trio (their MySpace bio invokes shoegazers My Bloody Valentine, art-punks Wire, the Auckland Sound of New Zealand's Flying Nun, and the heady foreboding of 4AD) gets Down in the Berries. (listen)

Wednesday, Sept. 23: (early show) Good Old War @ Vaudeville Mews
My God, Fleet Foxes already have their own Thorns. At least that's what I thought when I first heard this band, a splinter project of Philadelphia indie-rockers Days Away, but it was only a live acoustic track. The full-band material is more textured and forceful; my RSS reader suggests these guys, like Jersey's Gaslight Anthem, are affiliated with the punk world despite their easygoing folk-rock sound. (listen)

(late show) Yourself and the Air @ Vaudeville Mews
"I don't know why but I feel so strange," these shimmery Chicago indie-rockers murmur plaintively on "So You've Come to Mingle", a buzzing, chiming, handclapping, whoa-oh-ohing stop-starter from their record Friend of All Breeds. "I don't know why but I feel like a mess... with you." I've only heard a couple of tracks, as with most of the up-and-coming groups playing at the Mews this month, but I could totally see myself bouncing around and making a mess of myself to this energetic, emotive stuff. (listen)

Thursday, Sept. 24: The Love Language @ Vaudeville Mews
Red-lining North Carolina indie band rocks nostalgic for Western swing, Buddy Holly, and a girl named Mary Lou who stole their heart. Says Ladd: "I really, really love this band!" Consider me there. (listen) Also: Saddle Creek-signed Toronto indie-folkers the Rural Albert Advantage (listen)

Friday, Sept. 25: Dave Matthews Band @ Principal Park
I understand Dave Matthews fandom. I heard about the band from an older cousin in 8th grade. When I moved to Nashville a year later and everyone was freaking out about some Hootie and the Blowfish band, DMB was common ground. They were even my first concert, in Phoenix in 10th grade. I still have some of the bootlegs. And I find this video hilarious. Everybody who goes will have a good time! I get it, and I think there's something good to be said for it, but I don't think anybody wants to read my take on it.

Friday, Sept. 25: The Shirelles, the Crystals, the Chantels @ Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino
What are the chances these are the people who actually sang on the records?

Saturday, Sept. 26: Dogtown Fest
The Register's Sophia Ahmad has the lineup (I've only see Beati Paoli; curious about the others):
  • Main stage at 23rd and University Street — 4:20 p.m. – Finn Miles, 5:30 p.m. – Menlo, 6:30 p.m. – Beati Paoli, 8 p.m. – Maxilla Blue, 9:30 p.m. – Cashes Rivers
  • Acoustic stage at Mars Cafe, 2318 University Ave. — 6:15 p.m. – James Biehn, 7:30 p.m. – Seedlings, 9 p.m. – Curry & Red
Saturday, Sept. 26: The Airborne Toxic Event @ People's
Earlier this year, I wrote: "When I read the Don Delillo book from which this band got their name, I thought it was overrated, the sort of thing a celebrity might say is great just to feel smart-- the postmodern Old Man and the Sea. OK, I was still just a freshman in college. There's a very good chance I was wrong."

Monday, Sept. 28: Mark Mallman @ Vaudeville Mews
Minneapolis piano-rocker with grandiose guitar touches befitting Wells Fargo Arena performers Trans-Siberian Orchestra toes up to the Weird Al irony line. (listen) (Star Tribune profile)

Tuesday, Sept. 29: The Rosewood Thieves @ Vaudeville Mews
Rootsy recent Hold Steady openers have the double-track vocals, syllable-stretching tunes, and melancholy guitar arrangements to earn comparisons to Elliott Smith or Earlimart, if not quite John Lennon. The folk and country tinges also align the New York band with the likes of Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes, or Whiskeytown. (listen) with Portland's slightly folksier rock howlers the Dead Trees (listen)

Wednesday, Sept. 30: Wovenhand @ Vaudeville Mews
Former frontman for Denver alt-country band 16 Horsepower gets heavy and Nick Cave ominous in support of last year's Ten Stones. (listen)

Thursday, Oct. 1: Wilco at University of Iowa Memorial Union, Iowa City
Wilco (The Des Noise fall concert preview item).

Thursday, Oct. 8: Owl City @ House of Bricks
Mrs. Des Noise has already instantly denounced this EXTREMELY Postal Service-like band's "Fireflies" as more or less a crime against humanity. So I may be in the minority here. But I like the Postal Service! I like the idea of a band revisiting the Postal Service/Discovery sissy electro-pop sound and translating it for a mainstream radio audience! I like "Fireflies"! And I hope to like Owl City live.

Friday, Oct. 9: Miley Cyrus @ Wells Fargo Arena
Miley's "Party in the U.S.A.", like Kylie's much better "Can't Get You Outta My Head" before it, sounds like a pop hit with both mass audiences and critics in mind. I don't know that I'd believe the KISS FM DJ I heard saying he saw a trucker blasting the Hannah Montana star's current hit with the windows down, but I do know that it's a fascinating song to talk about. Meta to the max, it's already been called "the first Michael Jackson tribute record," and it prompted Mrs. Des Noise to ask whether she's getting paid for all those endorsements: KISS FM, Britney, Jay-Z. The only people the Top 40 really matters to, though, in terms of IRL social impact, are teenagers and preteens, and I sort of hate how endorsing this song would suggest you're endorsing the conformity that makes Miley's tummy feel better. Hey young girls: Don't like KISS FM or Britney, let alone that sweet feminist Jay? You don't get invited to the party! I won't be showing up, either, but I am morbidly curious.

Friday, Oct. 9: Lamb of God, Gwar @ Val Air Ballroom
Yeah, so I probably won't go to this. I know that some of my friends probably would. Metal! And joke-metal! And unfair jokes about metal that write themselves, thereby perpetuating metal's embrace by indie kids who maybe used to joke about metal!

Friday, Oct. 9: Yo La Tengo @ the Slowdown, Omaha
I will, in fact, be heading to Nebraska to see Hoboken's post-Sinatra finest this night. New album Popular Songs is their second straight triumph after 2003's uncharacteristically middling Summer Sun. I wrote something about their song "Our Way to Fall" for one of Pitchfork's best-of-the-decade lists: here.

Saturday, Oct. 10: AC/DC @ Wells Fargo Arena
Totally worth $90, says aforementioned friend of Des Noise Tom Breihan, who wrote up the classic kilt-rockers' 2008 Madison Square Garden gig for the Village Voice. Almost certainly true, but anybody wanna get me on the guest list?

Wednesday, Oct. 14: Dethklok, Mastodon, High on Fire, Converge @ Val Air Ballroom
Finally! A metal show I really want to see!

Wednesday, Oct. 28: The Veronicas @ the M Shop, Ames
I'd still be curious to see this Avril-like band some time.

Thursday, Oct. 29: Matisyahu @ People's
Everyone's favorite Hasidic reggae-rapper from this year's 80/35 festival makes his autumnal return.

Sunday, Nov. 1: New Found Glory @ People's
Whoa, these pop-punks are still around? That one guy looks kinda like Morrissey with a skunk hair-stripe.

Sunday, Nov. 22: Minus the Bear @ People's
Mathy Seattle indie rockers.



It was a Sunday night in Des Moines. My chest had been killing me all week from (don't worry, we're totally OK, just a little banged up) a driver running a red light and totaling the Civic we'd hauled all the way from Brooklyn. (Like, seriously, it hurt pretty bad to sneeze, and sitting up in bed in the morning is still no picnic, either.) And I was jumping around deliriously next to Vaudeville Mews booker Ladd Askland and a few friends as six guys from San Juan, Puerto Rico-- including one with a mustache and a sailor's hat-- shook the small room with a set of blistering and exuberant garage-psych, Davila 666-style.

Davila 666 are signed to the consistently solid-or-better garage-rock and lo-fi label In the Red, and when I wrote up their track "Dimelo Ya" for Pitchfork last fall, I made them sound like sort of a Puerto Rican Black Lips. Which should've sent me immediately scrambling to get my hands on their self-titled LP, but I dunno, I must've been overwhelmed or something that week. Their live show has me already adding their LP to my cart. (Bought a T-shirt, too.)

I speak a little Spanish, but I couldn't understand a single word these guys were singing. Fortunately, as the title of this post indicates, comprehension couldn't've mattered less. As many as four of the six Davila 666 members were howling into the mic at a time, led by a singer who calls himself Sir Charles Davila. Their 60s Nuggets-style party rock was simple, loud, and irrepressibly fun, premature deafness you can dance to. The turnout wasn't all that great, as it WAS a Sunday night, but dance a couple of the people around me did. Their guitarist was overcoming a tonsil illness, apparently, but you wouldn't have known it. The highlight was "Basura" ("garbage", a perfect subject for a garage-punk anthem)--I've embedded a video from a performance at a slightly larger venue, Brooklyn's Southpaw-- and the band finished the night with a Heartbreakers cover (Johnny Thunders, not Tom Petty). Davila 666 have been touring recently with the Smith Westerns, an exciting young group who put a more glam-rock twist on the basic lo-fi garage rock framework (see my review, or check out their newest song)-- hey, Smith Westerns, you guys live in Chicago! Make a short drive down I-80 and see us sometime! Until then, Davila 666's set will be tough to top-- sort of like trying to show up inimitable labelmate King Khan. For more good Puerto Rican music, check out Balún and Superaquello (disclosure: both are affiliated with my old Chicago buddy Ed Menacho's Brilliante label).

The previous night, Mrs. Des Noise and I managed to catch Benjy Ferree and the Black Hollies, also at the Mews. Ferree was the reason I had come. I didn't know the DC/Maryland singer/songwriter's throwback Jack White pop-rawk that well, but I'd heard enough about him to want to come out and help represent Des Moines when he came to town. Performing as a two-piece with a multi-talented drummer (who would sing or play keyboards at the same time as playing a kick drum, as needed), Ferree played a detached but pretty fun set of originals as well as an improved version of Stevie Wonder's sappy intro song for the movie The Outsiders (R.I.P., Patrick Swayze; you were like the wind) and an electric Johnny Cash cover. I didn't know the music of New Jersey's Black Hollies as well, but they put a lot more effort into entertaining and got the crowd sufficiently riled up with their high-volume psych rock-- not so different from Davila 666's, really, though maybe less playful and distinctive.

Also saw local quasi-supergroup the Magazines recently, again at the Mews... the radio-ready, folk-flecked pop-punk on their debut EP stands a decent chance of getting them on, um, the radio (or at least mainstream movie soundtracks) sometime soon, especially their sly cover of Huey Lewis's "Power of Love." I had a good time, and all those guys obviously knew what they were doing on their instruments. But it felt like they were playing past the audience in the small venue, to the imagined arena crowd that may or may not be in their future, which is a risky strategy at a time when-- let's face it-- fewer and fewer new guitar bands are able to break through on that Killers level, and most have to build up grassroots fan bases first. Local rapper Aeon Grey joined for a guest verse.

Oh, and I checked out Minneapolis band One for the Team, too, whose Ian Anderson runs Afternoon Records (Poison Control Center)-- he's also a publicist, a blogger, and a real nice guy. They sounded rawer and poppier live, without the dreamy My Morning Jacket reverb of the album, and as nicely detailed as the record is, the live show was probably more fun. At least, the mostly under-21 crowd that came out that night appeared to agree.

A couple of other notable shows on the immediate horizon: Massachusetts indie rockers New Radiant Storm King at the Mews tonight with a bunch of local bands plus Bob Nastanovich spinning records. This week may be too hectic for me to make it out, but we'll see. Also, lo-fi upstarts Wavves and Ganglians play at Grinnell on Thursday. Plus, Andrew Bird at Grand Opera House in Dubuque on Thursday, Silversun Pickups at Hoyt Sherman on Saturday, and (!!) Phoenix in Omaha on Monday (too bad it's a school night!). And I'd love to have a proper fall concert guide up here by the time fall officially arrives.

If you're reading this blog, you may want to keep an eye on my Twitter and Tumblr posts, because I add a lot of smaller things there, sometimes Des Moines- and music-related but sometimes not, as I come across them throughout the week.