Via the We Hate Music podcast, I heard of a new website out there looking to pull together information about Des Moines music and musical happenings in one convenient location, Quarter After 5. I really dig the idea. Hopefully it doesn’t become merely another outlet for all the same local bands you already hear about everywhere else. Since it seems to be open to submissions, I’d say that’s only a matter of who gets involved with it. So please, go submit your band and help this thing be awesome.

They have a pretty interesting blog over there, and I was reading through some recent posts, and something really struck me. First there’s this bit from an interview with Brent Dean of La Strange:

Q: What’s your take on the local music scene?

A: The local music scene in Des Moines is really frustrating. There are so many bands and it seems like anyone can get a show and that anything passes as a band. I remember once I went to a show on a Tuesday night and the band opening came on an hour late, then the next band came on late and I was really pissed off because I was going to either miss seeing the band or stay up until 2, so I started shouting the name of the band I wanted to see. I guess with La Strange I just never want to be the guy people are waiting for to get off so they can see the band they came for.

Now, I’m not one of these guys that gets my panties twisted up if somebody dares to say something about local music that isn’t 100% glowing positive cheerleading. In fact, I hate that “if you don’t have anything [nice](” attitude, I think it’s poisonous and lets mediocrity flourish. I think if you think a band sucks, you should say so. It will either spur them to get better, or help them to weed out the element that doesn’t “get” what they’re trying to do. And I don’t know this guy, and never even heard of his band. But reading this bit, apart from the very last sentence anyway, just kinda made me think “geez, this guy sounds like a dick.” “Anyone can get a show and anything passes as a band”? Well dear sir, please do enlighten us on what your definition of a real band is, so we needn’t waste our time with anyone else. Also, guess what dude, at rock shows, sometimes shit happens. It sucks that a band you like got one set delayed because some noobs of the sort that play opening slots on Tuesday nights at the sort of the venues to whom it wouldn’t occur to just move one of the other bands’ set up to fill the time, couldn’t get their shit together. But this anecdote hardly serves as evidence that the local music scene as a whole is “really frustrating.” It seems to boil down to that this guy’s perspective on the music scene is that he’s bummed out that his amazing self has to slum it among lesser talents. Well then, go move to a city where only bands that measure up to your personal standard exist. Good luck finding it.

Then, the very next article, an interview with the always awesome Patrick Tape Fleming of Poison Control Center, we get this very contrasting perspective:

It is so important to say how incredible the Des Moines, Iowa, music scene is right now. The best bands in American [sic] are in Iowa right now and I think we need to make it a point to tour and show the country what we got going on here. I mean, coming back from SXSW, we played in Arkansas with Utopia Park and Mumfords and people were saying “holy shit, what’s going on in Iowa?” It’s incredible. I think it’s great we can roll into a town and they say it’s amazing. I can list at least 25 bands that are so great in Des Moines and Ames alone right now.

This might be verging on the cheerleading I called out above, but I can tell you that Pat’s enthusiasm is genuine and what he’s voicing here is closer to my experience of the music scene in central Iowa right now. It’s got areas in which it could use growth, but the number of quality musicians and projects they engage in is really something right now.

It seems like Pat’s attitude toward music and what makes it good is very different than this Brent guy’s. It is my personal theory that an environment closer to “anyone can get a show and anything passes as a band” is exactly what causes a thriving music scene. It gives new musicians and new ideas a way to get started and gives existing musicians room to experiment without needing an official stamp of approval from people who think that their idea of a real or good band has to apply to everyone. Without that, a lot of people who would otherwise have a chance to grow into great musicians might instead just conclude that music-making is for other, special people. And that would be a damn shame.

Charlie Schiz

Charlie Schiz
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. I've been weird all my life. It's my time to shine.

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