If you're lookin' for me, you can find me in the Guinness book.
So our friend Angela worked merch for the first time ever Monday night, and Vancouver retro psych-rockers Black Mountain played Vaudeville Mews. A lot of the usual Fong's Pizza crew was hanging out by the merch table, and I got a better look than I usually would've at the band's wares. They were out of their own T-shirts and vinyl records, though they still had CDs for sale and records by side projects Pink Mountaintops and Blood Meridian. I guess this shows two things: (1) Black Mountain's members have too many sludgy grooves for one band and (2) People have been buying Black Mountain T-shirts and LPs.

I don't listen to Black Mountain's albums that often, but they put on a strong live show: "incendiary" guitar solos, banshee vocals, bass player who takes his job seriously and doesn't overplay, drummer who should challenge Zach Hill to a duel on Rock Band (which reminds me, is it OK if I post this? I hope so, because the Vaude's own Clint Curtis is really awesome in it). I always thought of them as super Zeppelin-influenced dudes, but a neighbor I ran into at the show reminded me their more recent work is a lot more varied and atmospheric (this person was enticed to come because he heard an album at the bar next door, the Lift, and couldn't believe it was all the same band-- Bradie, I think this means Ladd owes you $12). Anyway it took a little while to get into their set, and they maybe didn't bring out enough of their layered, textured approach until an airy keyboard section toward the end, but overall I was really feeling how their rumbling riffs and jolting tempo changes played out in a live setting, wreathed by fog machine fog. The place was surprisingly packed, and the cries for an encore were enthusiastic and genuine. "Des Moines is polite," I heard a voice behind me say.

Black Mountain played at least a couple of brand-new songs, about which I unfortunately don't remember much, except that one may have included the lyric, "Your family values have ruined this place," but I didn't write it down so I wasn't confident enough it was right to put it in the subject heading (and besides, it would really be out of place there, anyway, huh?). I've seen the openers, Davenport-based Mondo Drag, a time or two before, and I'm told they opened for the Black Keys in Iowa City, too. Whether Black Mountain or Black Keys, Mondo Drag fit the bill, with some primordial 1970s-rock ooze of their own. I put in earplugs midway during Black Mountain, because I remembered I might need my hearing, but then I took them out again, as I always do, because I remembered I like being able to shout in my friends' ears without worrying the entire bar can hear me. I guess main Black Mountain man Stephen McBean has been playing at Vaudeville Mews since like 2002, before there was a Black Mountain, which is a long time ago, my friends.

I was e-mailed this link to download "The Hair Song," from Black Mountain's upcoming Wilderness Heart. Jagjaguwar. Sept. 14.

Upcoming shows after the jump:



Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah!
The first time I consciously remember hearing Devo was in Nashville, Tennessee, in the mid-1990s. I was a freshman in high school, and I was getting a ride to basketball practice or something like that with a senior, Garrett Beasley, who listened to all kinds of weird music (everybody on the basketball team had a nickname; his was Fu-Schnickens). I wish I could remember some kind of deep emotional connection to the music, but I just kind of know I noticed that it was kitschy-- not that I probably knew that word then-- and offbeat and catchy and fun, particularly the song "Whip It," which I bet I had heard before without realizing it. Garrett went off to Baylor the next year and is probably long married with lots of beautiful children-- I would love to know how he's doing.

Devo age well. They were never about acting young and rebellious. They were already old when they broke out in the early 1980s-- as recounted by Chris Willman in the current issue of SPIN, band co-founder Jerry Casale was at Kent State when the shootings went down there in 1970, which makes him, like, my mom's age. If you don't know much about Devo, they're from Akron, Ohio, and along with groups like the B-52s and the Talking Heads, they helped pioneer what would eventually conquer MTV and be known as new wave: a quirky, brainy, leftfield sensibility, with twangy rock'n'roll guitars (one of the local DJ's pre-show selections was Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought the Law and the Law Won," which I thought was just about perfectly apt), synths, and clipped, deadpan, occasionally yelpy vocals. Lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh has since gone on to a wildly successful career working on movie and TV scores, most notably for the films of Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, etc.). Devo have been playing off and on at venues like Lollapalooza or Central Park Summerstage over the years, but their new album, Something for Everybody, is their first since 1990. Having them in Des Moines on the tour for their new album was a pretty big deal.

Devo's main shtick this time, as I learned from watching them on The Colbert Report and reading their interview with Joe Lawler in Juice, is that they focus-grouped their album, which when I told my dad made him say "sell-out," but see, that's the thing-- when your theory is that humanity is devolving, rather than evolving (think of the electrolyte-worshiping simpletons of Mike Judge flick Idiocracy), you can get away with engaging in a little conspicuous capitalism, because there's an inherent critique built in... I mean, have you seen the "Whip It" video? And when you've been the nerds making fun of the jocks all along, then when you're onstage at age 60 and a little pudgier, it's not the same as if Mick Jagger, whose entire image is built on youth and virility, were to lose his girlish figure-- it kind of doesn't matter. Ladd tells me David Byrne in Omaha was better, and I don't doubt it, as the former Talking Heads frontman is definitely dignified and old, and his last album with Brian Eno was totally great. But there was something really appealing about how Devo can go over your head without trying to intimidate you intellectually by going over your head (if that makes sense)-- they're simply working to entertain, and their cultural theories are built into that, not an unnecessarily pretentious addition, like Byrne's new agey dancers (again, I'm only going by Colbert Report appearances here). They did new songs like "Fresh" and old songs like "Uncontrollable Urge" or "Freedom of Choice" or (ahem) "Mongoloid," and it was all still wiry and tight and energetic, with hilarious visuals (was that a French fry going into that donut, or was it a stick of butter?) and focus group-tested costume changes and free junk thrown into the audience. Mothersbaugh returned for the encore as the band's old Booji Boy character, weaving a high-pitched tale about Michael Jackson and singing "Beautiful World." Turnout was pretty disappointing-- well, tickets were $50-- and the show had to be on the Walnut Street Bridge instead of the Simon Estes Amphitheater due to flooding, but it was without a doubt one of the best performances I've seen recently. And I've seen a lot of performances recently. This was a $50 concert, for sure.

Upcoming shows after the jump, with the additon of an August 28 Christopher the Conquered/Poison Control Center show at Des Moines Social Club:



School's out, what did you expect?
I wasn't going to go to any shows Monday night. Sure, Austin up-and-comers YellowFever were playing. And recent Des Noise live favorite Coyote Slingshot. And young locals the Seed of Something. Plus, there was a late show featuring recent Pitchfork "Rising" honorees Candy Claws, whose glo-fi primer "Catamaran" I positively reviewed, like, nine months ago. But Mrs. Des Noise and I had just made the six-hour drive back from Chicago after what felt like the biggest Pitchfork Music Festival yet, only a couple of weeks after spending Fourth of July Weekend on our feet for the 80/35 Music Festival here in Des Moines. Yeah, I wanted to see those bands. But not Monday night. Not like Japandroids a year ago. We just wanted to go home and crash. Does that mean I'm getting too old for this?



I think I can/ I know I can/ And if at first you don't succeed...

A fun night with decent if unexceptional out-of-town hip-hop Sunday at the Mews. I came for local rappers Gadema and Young Tripp, whose MySpace pages have intrigued me with their sweeping Southern-gothic beats and relentless grit, making me hope I'll eventually find something here like what Diplo dug up on his Hunts Vegas comp of Alabama rappers a while back. I got there around 9, which as it turned out meant I missed both of those guys-- bummer, but I'll catch 'em next time. The visitors on the bill brought the kind of relatively standard-fare backpacker rap that probably wouldn't bowl me over on record, but made for interesting viewing, at least. Musab, joined by his sister (in an eye-catching red dress) and a Weird Al-looking DJ (on a laptop), was unremittingly pleasant, grinning bigger than any twee indie-popper on songs featuring canny samples from Pitchfork/Jay-Z faves Grizzly Bear as well as the old PBS children's TV show "Reading Rainbow"; while the lyrics were fairly prosaic, it was easy to get caught up in the enthusiastic vibe, and I wouldn't even complain if they cut out the one or two weed/alcohol references and got a big break through Disney or whatever. Headliner Abstract Rude's beats were dustier and more classically hip-hop, with an affable, red-gloved hype man providing a lot of the entertainment; still, as the DJ played Michael Jackson and Prince songs to follow the set, I had to wonder why anyone who loves those bona fide stars would settle for hooks like "Life goes on," "Life's not like a TV show" (TV is baaad, kids-- but the shows mentioned suggest this MC hasn't watched any since the mid-1990s), or "Y'all should dance" (unlike with Musab, whose deep voice came through loud and clear, most of Abstract's impassioned verses were indecipherable to these ears, except for occasional forced-rhyme fragments like "To the top we soar"). Whatever, as I noted last year, I'm a guy who got bored at a Company Flow reunion, so this particular strain of independent hip-hop just often isn't my thing, I guess.

Gotta grind nonstop 'cause ain't no one recession-proof.



Photo by Mrs. Des Noise, on a vintage mid-2000s phone.
This was early Sunday, before most people (or the rain)
had shown up.

An announced 34,000 attended Des Moines' third annual 80/35 Music Festival over two days this July 4 weekend. That's nothing like the 120,000 who reportedly showed up to the five days of Denmark's Roskilde Festival. But that's still something for an indie, hip-hop, and jam-oriented festival in central Iowa, an area where even some of the festival's most veteran acts acknowledged they'd never played before. And it's particularly remarkable if you spend even a couple minutes suffering through the comments on 80/35-related newspaper coverage or the festival's own Facebook page, in which neighbors of the people I've found so friendly and welcoming over this past year make Brooklyn Vegan commenters look like Rhodes Scholar Eagle Scout Good Samaritans. Music fans who wanted to go to Sioux City for the time-tested sounds of Santana and Spearhead had that option, and that's cool; 80/35 is about something different, about pushing things forward, and by that measure (full disclosure: I volunteered a few ideas on the booking committee, so please feel free to take my observations as skeptically as you'd like) I thought it was an unqualified success. If we want Des Moines to compete as a world-class city for creative young professionals, we need more events like this.

You could divide 2010's festival experience pretty seamlessly between the two days. Between T-shirts soaked with sweat and T-shirts soaked from torrential downpours. Between sets where I was able to take notes and snap photographs and sets where I was keeping my phone in a plastic bag while my supposedly "water-resistant" watch stopped due to the rainfall. My friend Chuck aka Chet aka Chef aka Check lives in an apartment overlooking the festival grounds, so that was our home base, and also home to at least one 32 oz. incident of bros icing bros. Music took place on three stages, one paid and two free, with one of the free stages devoted to electronic and hip-hop artists. The rest of the acts broke down pretty cleanly between the critically acclaimed indie-geek bands and jam/roots/reggae bands. The atmosphere was appropriately relaxed and positive most of the time, with enough security to ensure people's safety but never so much that it felt oppressive. Water was freely availabe from faucets hooked up to fire hydrants, with free water bottles provided-- a great touch. It was clear at times that many people in the audience were unfamiliar with the bands performing, but there was still plenty of spontaneous clapping along. Heck, it almost made me think of Roskilde. Maybe we can get there someday, but for now 80/35 was a fantastic experience in and of itself.

 A ribbon in the sky for our love.

A few personal highlights after the jump:



The guy playing fiddle also shouts
into a megaphone or something 
and bludgeons a child's drum set.

While Justin Bieber was making his Des Moines arena debut, I was at a bar where there is no division between urinal and stall in the men's room. Not that I have anything particularly against the guy: He's a 16-year-old teen idol. They pretty much have the formula down by now. This latest is a guitar-strumming puppy lover whose 2009 debut album,  My World 2.0, expertly outfits 1950s teenybopper sweetness in up-to-last-year's-minute radio-killa synths. Swedish pop prankster Eric Berglund, whose ceo project just put out one of my favorite albums of the year, hasn't heard of him.

So instead, I went to see local instrumental-rock impresarios the Autumn Project, who create a sustained trance by never breaking between each epic build, nor skimping on smoke-machine showmanship; Denver, Colorado-based Woodsman, whose two-drummer psych-rock isn't totally instrumental, but often treats vocals as another fabric to warp; Statocyst, a Des Moines experimental duo who beat up a guitar, fiddle, voice-obscuring device of some kind, and the tiniest drum set you ever saw (I hadn't heard of them yet, but after I figured out it was their set and not the soundcheck, I was totally grinning and impressed); and Ames-based atmospheric minimalists Maid Marian (tonight just Trista Reis without brother Tre).

The Autumn Project work in the dark.
My camera doesn't.

It said in the Des Moines Register that Bieber "seemed unmoved." He was "singing and dancing the motions like any other night." This after bringing a "lucky young fan" to tears by presenting her with a floral bouquet. Enjoy the ride, kid; not everybody can be Justin Timberlake, but Usher's cosign still counts for something-- as it probably should, that divorce album notwithstanding.