I originally intended this site to be a place for me to write about pretty much any interest I have, and let my readers sort out what they want to read. I’ve had friends who’ve tried to have multiple blogs for different topics, and usually they end up neglecting to blog at all before too long. I think it’s just exhausting to try to manage multiple blogs on different subjects.
One of my subjects is local and independent music, particularly in and around my eastern Iowa home. Lately I’ve noticed that this blog gives the impression of being mainly about programming, with occasional short diversions into politics. I think about programming a lot, as it’s my profession. But I’ve really been meaning to write more music stuff, and maybe a little personal stuff. Yeah, I know, I’ve said that before.
Recently I had an experience that reminded me what an interesting little music scene we have here in the “Cedar Valley.” I went out and saw some local bands play. None of them are particularly big names, and most of them weren’t even what you might consider polished, professional acts. But I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience, and how it suggested to me that we have a really interesting and dynamic music scene going on here, much moreso than an outsider would typically expect to find in a place like Iowa, and that doesn’t get much exposure outside.
Friday night I went out to what is pretty well the only thing resembling a bona fide “rock club” in the Waterloo/Cedar Falls metro area, The Reverb. It’s a raw, dirty, rock and roll place, and wears that identity proudly. They also are known for giving stage time to acts, particularly local ones, without regard to their slickness, skill, experience, or more importantly, their lack of those things. Personally I believe this to be a very good thing. It’s hard enough to get noticed as a new band in a place like this, and I venture that, relative to comparable small Midwestern cities, we’re quite lucky to have a place like the Reverb. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll try not to reiterate it in future posts; I just sense that I have some newcomers here lately, for whom the exposition might be welcome.
I was prompted to attend this particular night by a co-worker, who plays guitar in the evening’s first act, Grave Corps. It was their second gig ever, and for that, they pulled it off nicely. I’m tempted to think their visual aspect (that is to say, the hair and outfits) a bit over-the-top, but there’s a conscious overall campyness to the group, reminiscent of The Misfits in sound and presentation, attitude, that makes it work even on a small stage.
Next up was Hegira. Hegira on one level was welcome in that they seemed to embody some of the amateur “now go start your own band” spirit that is sometimes to be found in the Cedar Valley and that I enjoy seeing so much. They had cheap amps that crackled a lot, and their midtempo songs stuck to one or two simple parts. The guitarist/lead vocalist pulled off quite a lot of nice blues licks, however. Their music seemed to be of the basic stoner-punk variety that had a lot to do with making Seattle interesting back in the late 80s/early 90s; overall, though, it didn’t take any real risks, so their set, and the crowd response, was lukewarm and didn’t make much of an impression. Their MySpace page claims to have been created late last September, so they’re new to the game; they’ll either disappear quietly, or get steadily more interesting as their playing together gets tighter and more confident.
Third came Independence-based punk rockers Dylan Shiv & the Shanks. “Dylan Shiv” certainly looks the part, with his studded leather jacket and big spiky mohawk, and I even get the impression that he dresses the same in civilian life. There’s definitely a heavy Social Distortion element to their sound, but they need to get some new recordings up on the MySpace page; what you hear there sounds like a new young band just getting their feet, but the Shanks I saw Friday night were tight, loud, and proud. Only possible complaint is some occasionally dopey lyrics, but you’ll have that with punk rock.
Headlining was the area’s premiere campy sleaze/butt-rock band Lyin’ Heart. These guys are always a joy. Take everything I just said about Grave Corps, amp it all up to 11, and replace the Misfits sound with more of a hair-metal thing, while keeping the horror-movie obsessions. If you enjoy the movie Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare as much as I do, you’ll enjoy Lyin’ Heart. Great fun.
So that’s my review. I’m working on a piece about The Teddy Boys’ CD Love After Dark, so expect more music talk, and if my plans work out, I may try to integrate the topics with some stuff about how indie bands can better harness technology in their promotional efforts. I have quite a lot of ideas in that area.