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.