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.