Dear Chuck aka Chet,
I have decided to write this blog post in the form of an apology letter to you, because you're the one person I know of who said you have been refreshing this page every now and then for the however-ridiculously-many weeks it has been since my last update, only to glance at the first post and go, "Headlights?! Still?!!!" Sorry, sorry, sorry. A hundred times, sorry. I still can't believe you're taking the time to visit this page regularly, anyway.
Despite my blog silence-- which I realize is pretty much the most trite thing ever for a blog, next to writing apologies for how your blog has been silent-- I've actually seen a pretty good amount of music in Des Moines in the past month or so. As you already know, I guess, since I just talked to you last week. Whatever.
Let's go in reverse order:
Last night, I wrangled a photo pass to see the Black Eyed Peas at Wells Fargo Arena. I had an idea of writing about the show as part of a feature somewhere, but I didn't e-mail anybody in time to get actual tickets. So this meant I missed Ludacris (well, I could've gone, but only for three songs). And, in keeping with that three-song rule, it meant I saw only three songs of the Black Eyed Peas' set (well, make that two and a half). But-- it was a scene, man!!! I entered at the wrong entrance-- apologies to Adam and the great Wells Fargo Arena personnel for creating extra work; thanks for being cool about it, won't happen again-- and I had a hard time keeping up with the person who let me into the show for all the hyped/dolled-up masses going back for more beer as she led me toward the photo area. As a critic and a fan, I've seen lots of future stars on the way up, but I don't think I've ever been to a show quite this big, at least not an arena show. My 2.5 songs were well worth the effort: The photo pit was right next to the enormous stage, which had sort of a peninsula jutting out into the audience. The weirdest thing, which I hadn't expected, was seeing Fergie up close-- I should admit I'd never really thought much about the Black Eyed Peas until last year's The E.N.D., though I did really like Fergie's "Clumsy" and "Glamorous," but I used to watch the Disney Channel show KIDS Incorporated basically every afternoon for a little while there when I was a kid and she was a kid named Stacey Ferguson. All the sudden I had this odd sensation that this silver-suited fembot standing a few feet away from me should recognize me, because I had this vague memory of her from childhood or something. Like I said, it was weird. Will.I.Am flew around suspended from the ceiling by strings, Broadway-style. Dancers in boxy chrome-colored marched out onto the little peninsula like futuristic Tin Man Oompa Loompas. I heard "Get It Started," "Rock That Body," and half of one other song before I had to leave. Wanna know the rest? Hey, buy the rights. (Oh I also had to use a film camera because our digital camera is broken and my regular iPhone stylee would have made me look like a fake photographer, so I don't have the pictures yet. But I will. If they're any good, I'll save them for that prospective feature.)
Not alone in the new pollution: "Good Feelings."
Chicago band Light Pollution worked in an early set at Vaudeville Mews March 10. They've played here a number of times, apparently, but now they had a big booking agent and a track on Pitchfork's Forkcast blog (full disclosure, if you don't know me by now: I write for Pitchfork and used to write for Forkcast when it was in a more text-intensive format). Light Pollution didn't headline or anything because they had to drive up to the Ames Progressive for another set, but they played some promising if indistinct wavy electronic indie rock, in an Animal Collective-meets-Passion Pit way but with a way more subdued vocalist and bigger rock-style drumming.
Philadelphia sextet A Sunny Day in Glasgow were exactly the early highlight to spring concert season I had hoped, and not only because my good friend Brendan from Brooklyn, now of Madison, was in attendance. They played with the always excellent local band Wolves in the Attic, possibly (say it ain't so!) that group's final show, at Vaudeville Mews. But Chet, you were there! So I don't need to tell you: It was beautifully textured, ambient-pop stuff, with plenty from new EP Nitetime Rainbows (which I scored on vinyl) and fantastic 2009 album Ashes Grammar. Really great turnout for a somewhat challenging, harmonically complex (I think I know what that actually means?) band making their first appearance in town, even if the crowd seemed to dwindle a bit before the encore. Their fairly recently added female lead singers add some good on-stage charisma to the dense musicality (see previous parenthetical) on display. Sorry about calling them "tweegaze" that one time on Pitchfork-- I meant it in the nicest possible way, and anyway I stole the phrase from Eric Marathonpacks!
Blame this man for John Mayer's "Neon."
Jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter was at the Vaud on Feb. 28 with a drummer and a trumpet player, as I recall. He played bass lines and solos at the same time on a seven-string guitar. It was strange seeing the Mews with seats in it, and I'm guessing a lot of the crowd was made up of guitar students looking to watch a master, but then, Hunter and his band really did put on a clinic. The pieces were basically structured around your standard pre-free-jazz lines, with everybody getting a solo and everything really nice and tuneful and bluesy, but within that realm (in which I'm really not an expert) Hunter's playing would seem pretty tough to top. Only complaint: No CDs to buy!
Grab the CD May 18 and it all comes into focus. Magic Eye!
Ames' own the Poison Control Center were at the same venue on Feb. 26-- you were there, too, Chet! Which is good, because I don't know how else to keep saying how impressive I think these guys are. If there's only one Iowa band that I think deserves national acclaim, it's the PCC. They played songs from their forthcoming album, Sad Sour Future (apparently a pun on Stereolab's Fab Four Suture, because the PCC think of this record, like that one, as four EPs). Keep an eye out for their upcoming video, featuring the poppy "Being Gone", written and sung by drummer Donald Curtis (who really will be gone, unfortunately, on the band's upcoming tour, due to Ph.D. work).
So anyway, Chuck, see you soon, probably at Fong's Pizza! Maybe at GDP? Hope you and Angela are both great.
P.S. COMING UP:
- the fifth annual Gross Domestic Product at All Play March 27
- Red Pony Clock w/ Zoos of Berlin and Child Bite at Vaudeville Mews March 28
- Pocahaunted at Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City March 29
- Electric Six at Vaudeville Mews March 31
- Booker T of the MGs at Mission Creek Festival March 31
- Xiu Xiu and tUnE-yArDs at Mission Creek Festival March 31
- David Bazan, Headlights, and the Poison Control Center at Mission Creek Festival April 1
- Chuck D, Bomb Squad, Harry Allen: A Discussion on the Making of Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet at Mission Creek Festival April 1
- Acid Mothers Temple at Mission Creek Festival April 1
- Bomb Squad with the Hood Internet at Mission Creek Festival April 1
- Christopher the Conquered at Mission Creek Festival April2
- Tim Hecker at Mission Creek Festival April 2
- Little Dragon at Mission Creek Festival April 2
- Meat Puppets with Joe Jack Talcum of Dead Milkmen at Mission Creek Festival April 2
- Camera Obscura with Princeton at Mission Creek Festival April 3
- Grant Hart of Husker Du at Mission Creek Festival April 3
- Love Is All at Vaudeville Mews April 8
- the Morning Benders at Vaudeville Mews April 9
- Dum Dum Girls at Vaudeville Mews April 12
- Cowboy Mouth at Vaudeville Mews April 14
- Julian Casablancas at People's April 23
- Manchester Orchestra and Thrice at People's April 25
- Poison Control Center's Record Release Party at Vaudeville Mews April 30
- Brother Ali at Vaudeville Mews May 2
- MONO and the Twilight Sad at Vaudeville Mews May 18
- Mark Mallman at Vaudeville Mews May 19
- Damien Jurado at Vaudeville Mews June 6
- Keith Urban at Iowa State Fair Aug. 13
- Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon at Iowa State Fair Aug. 17
- Darius Rucker at Iowa State Fair Aug. 19
- Sugarland at Iowa State Fair Aug. 21
- Sheryl Crow at Iowa State Fair Aug. 22