I've going to shows since the mid 80s and promoting/talent buying off and on since the 90s. There are periods that stand out. Where all the stars aligned and I either saw a great number of shows or booked a number of shows in a short period of time. November was one of the biggest. November 2016 will go down in the history of Des Moines Live music and Lefty's Live Music as a month of incredible music. Oh and this is just the highlights. When you see about 20 or so shows a month often it's hard to remember everyone that stood out. So, if you aren't mentioned here. Don't worry I'm sure I will mention you in the future. In the mean time, keep up the good work.
11/3 The Bones of J.R. Jones / Julian Davis & The Hayburners / Stutterin' Jimmy
Jimmy has been kicking around Des Moines and impressing everyone that has had the pleasure of hearing him. There really isn't an easy way to peg him. Many point to Tom Waits but I have always felt there is more Armstrong there. Part Jazz, part Blues and part Rock. Julian Davis and the Hayburners have gained some attention on America Got Talent but the fact can not be disputed that this kid has something that can't be taught. His boots heals are firmly placed in old school country and traditional blue grass but there is something more that points to Lefty at time and Hank at others. The Bones of J.R. Jones is deeply placed in primitive Blues yet unlike a lot of the one man band acts out there there is talent under the hood.
11/4 Hunter Dumped Us Here
I'll admit it, I missed this show. However, I have had the pleasure of seeing them a number of times before this. If you haven't checked these guys out, do yourself a favor and do so. Out of all of the Iowa bands that I've encountered over the last year, they are a huge stand out. Catchy pop with dark lyrics that showcases strong songwriting. If these guy were prettier they would be huge.
11/10 Fort Defiance/ Adam Bruce / Ben Schrag and the Cautionaries
OK I have a thing for Fort Defiance, nothing dirty or seedy but a true love for what they do. Unlike a majority of the Americana Country that I come across, there is a call back with these two to a music line that traces back to the Carter Family, Jimmy Rodges and Woody Guthrie. A simple pureness that is rare and often overlooked. The modern harmonies add only a new level to the deeply planted lyrics. On top of all that they are in fact entertaining to see. They put in over 200 shows a year and they have a polished yet lay back approach that will only broaden the smile on your face.
Adam Bruce bring a level of prefect harmony that is fresh to the local Des Moines scene. I see things developing for these guys. Ben Schrag and the Cautionaries traveled in from Ames and bring their raw edge and I have to say get better every chance I get to see them.
11/11 The Tossers / Fort Defiance
I must have first heard the Tossers in the mid 90s and dismissed them as another Pogues rip off. At the time I was on a Pogues hating kick. Not sure what had sparked it but they were always one of those bands that everyone said I should like. So in public I claimed to hate them but carried on a secret love affair on the down low. Now that said I have to admit that I was completely off about the Tossers. If the Pogues are traditional Irish Music on gin than the Tosser are traditional Irish Music on cocaine.
My first time doing the Tossers was back in 2006 while they were on tour with Murphy's Law. Both the night was over, I was a life long fan and brought them back one other time before Mary's closed for good. I had caught them at the Gas Lamp a while back and was a little disappointed. I think it was an off night for the band but they just didn't have that fire they once had. When I talked to Kevan at Live Live about doing this show together we jumped at the chance. Tossers have had installed a new fiddle player and I have to say when they hit the stage the fire was back in the boiler. They drilled through many old favorites from the countless recording including The Emerald City, No Loot, No Booze, No Fun, Buckets of Beer, Good Morning Da and a solid mix of new material. I'm guessing there will be new solid album in the near future.
Of course it was a pleasure to see Fort Defiance for a second night in a row which just added to what was already a killer night.
11/12 Red Stone Souls/Longbottom Leaf/Son of Morning
I don't think I got there in time to catch Son of Morning but it was a busy week but I was there for most of Longbottom leaf. They have been on a number of bills over the last six months and I've watched as they have progressed. That night they really seem to have hit a new level. Their music is experimental, noise, raw, haunting and ugly. They will be a powerhouse in the weird Des Moines rock scene and people should pay attention.
Red Stone Soul are a Heavy Rock and Roll with just enough Blues to call back to the former Monsters of their hometown of Detroit. While some say they have that early Black Sabbath vibe, I personally think that whether or not they know it they have been drinking from the same water as the MC5. Powerful steady riff and a good sense of pushed back pace. I would rather not label them and just say they are a fucking good time.
11/16 NOFX at Sokol Auditorium in Omaha
Yes. I do in fact go to shows outside of Lefty's and some time even out of town. Omaha has been a long standing favorite city to see shows dating back to Hall shows in the late 1980s. It's close, the people have always been cool and it always feels like people really have a passion for it. If you haven't visited it is and always has been a live music town. It's what Des Moines could be if maybe we had a little more support from Radio.
We headed over a little late but did get into town in time to meet up with my son and his friends at the Pizza King in Council Bluffs. Thanks to Sophia John, it and their Bullseye Pizza has become part of the Omaha bucket list. BBQ Chicken, Jalapeno Peppers and Cream Cheese.
We got to Sokol a little ways into the first bands set and saw most of Pears set which reminds me that I still need to dig into them a bit more. They were solid but my mind was fixed on seeing NOFX. After waiting in line for what seemed like an hour for some bottled water without caps, I settled in to a area to the back for the main event. It wasn't a disappointment. This has got to be the 5 or 6 time I've seen NOFX and the thing about them that makes them stand out is they know how to throw a good time. The music runs the emotional gambit from political to the loss of parents and even though the music is a lot more difficult to play than you think, they always seem to be doing like it the easiest 3 cord punk. Unlike many of their generation the music still seems to be modern and on point and it maybe because they continue to grow as a band. I'm not going to list songs they just played what I wanted to hear. If you have never experienced this band live, regardless of what music club you belong to, you need to. They are a reminder of why Rock and Roll in every form has continued to be such a power force in peoples life, it's fun!
11/18 The Dickies/The Queers/North of Grand/Broken Ones
I've done a number of huge shows over the years. They can be a complete stressful pain in the ass but often they are some of the most enjoyable events in my life. A few times these involve something I thought I'd never experience at all, let alone in my hometown. Seeing the Dickies is one of those that I never thought would happen. I thought for years that the only chance I would have would be flying to LA or maybe some 30 minute set at some huge Fest.
So, when I saw they were touring in the area, I jumped at the chance. I'm lucky in the fact I'm in a place where I have the support of Lefty's and it's owners Erik and Anne to be able to bring shows like this to Des Moines. You all should not only support them but should go out of your way to thank the two of them. Not only for opening a great venue but having the vision to take a chance on shows like this.
So, then there is the stressfully part. Of course there is the endless worry about ticket sales but often that is only a distraction for the common stress of any punk show, the schedule. Now, I try to stress to everyone I work with to please, please, please advance shows but often either lines get crossed or there is some misunderstanding. In this case, the show advance was sent to the wrong e-mail and luckily Stan called me around 1pm on the day of the show to get the schedule. Of course this would have been more productive the day before but it's not uncommon that I inform a band that they are needed for load in in about two hours. Of course they were in fact 4 hours away. I've learned over the years and got broken in early on by Murphy's Law(the last time I did a show with them they were 5 hours short) that you have to go with the flow and hope for the best.
Broken Ones showed up on time and got their first soundcheck of the band's short life. If you haven't seen them, get off your ass and see them. They are one of the best new punk bands Des Moines has produced in years. Straight ahead driving Punk Rocks with a little New York Trash mixed in. They are long time Des Moines veterian Michael Clabaugh's(Radio Caroline, Street Urchins, Jitz) latest project. Also on board is Brian on Drums and the man in about 8 bands Rob Ogg on Bass. I think their next gig is NYE at Mews. Though they will be back on bills at Lefty's soonish.
North of Grand is by far one of the most underrated Punk bands in Des Moines. Their forcefull tight brand of the Punk Rocks and the Rock N Rolls has been putting a smile on my face so too many years to count. They are fun. I said it no gmicks, no effects, no fireworks, just well pollished fun. More than even that they are some of the nicest fellows you will ever have the pleasure to meet.
The Queers pilled in shortly before the Dickies and got up on the stage and kicked in the nitro. I've seen them a number of times over the years. My first impression of the band came from the Killed by Death #3 that I picked up around 89 for the Plugz track that was on it. Killed by Death was a set of bootlegs that featured all these rare and out of print records by many short lived bands. The Queers three tracks from their hard to find single were a stand out. Now it was a bit of a surprise years later when I started seeing new releases by a band called the Queers. Unsure if it was the same band, I avoided buying their records for a number of years. When I finually got my head out of my ass, I was pleasantly surprised that they were in fact the same band but with different line ups. Joe though has been there for their full existence pounding out their own mix of the Ramones meets 60s Bubblegum rock. Now a lot of bands have tried to sound like the Queers and a few have come close but there is something about them that sounds like no one else. Live they are blusteringly tight fast and a fist to face good old punk time.
The Dickies came up next. I was a little too busy to really interact with the guys. As a fan boy I was a little disappointed but when they hit the stage and jumped into so many of my favorites, any disappointment melted away. They did just about every song I would have requested with the only one really missing was Killer Clowns. When the curfew approached and they existed the stage around 8:30pm, I rushed to the back to let them know if they wanted another 15 minutes they could have it. Personally they could have played 2 hours and I still would have left hungry.
An old tradition we had in the Safari days was to try to have a 21 & Over event after bigger shows to keep the party going. With this show I decided to do an after party and a number of people hung around and a few new people showed up to see No Good Deed and Broken Ones. NGD is another overlooked local band. I think I enjoy them a little more everytime I see them. BO put on a full fevered set and got the collection of old punkers and others dancing. Though the level of intoxication was a little on the high side, the drunken pit was not only a good time but extremely entertaining to watch.
If anyone has talked to me about upcoming shows or new bands they have gotten an ear full about Marbin from Chicaog. They bill themselves as a progressive rock/jazz band but I think they trasnsend the progessive tag. There is something going on here that flows from rock to bebop to jazz in a loose structure that keeps your attention in a way that prog doesn't. That and they are some of the most talented musicians to grace the Lefty's stage to date. Think on that one for a second. If you love music and can get past the prog tag, you must see these guys. This was their second time in the room and they told stories about a few of the songs that added a completely new level to the music.
11/20 SWMRS/The Frights/Underdog Story
This was the second time we had the pleasure of hosting the SWMRS and the Frights and Des Moines was graced with one of the only off dates from their tour with Fidlar. In fact someone in the tours PR machine created an event having Fidlar playing this show. Just to set the record straight there was never any discussion with me or Lefty's about Fidlar playing this show. Just a mistaken post. Though the SWMRS and Frights have a fan base that I don't think any other band in town or on tour is drawing from. We had kids outside waiting in front of Lefty's at 9:30am. When I got to the venue around 2:30 I did my best to make sure they were all doing OK.
At the last minute, the SWMRS contacted me and asked if Kate Kane formely of Lipstick Homicide could open the show. Since there was time I said yes. Kate did an interesting accoustic set with action figures though do to a few other things involving running the show, I missed most of her set. She was well recieved and the kids dug it. It was great to meet her and her friend and we had a couple interesting conversations about the local scene here and in Iowa City and E-cigarettes. Since we have been in touch and are planning to bring her current band Starry Nights to Lefty's some time in March.
Second act of the night was one of my sort of local favorite bands. Underdog Story from Ames. They have played a few shows at Lefty's and they are really starting to hit their strive. In fact I feel they might be the best Pop Punk band in the area right now. They opened for Letdown a while back and even though I had confirmed them for this show, I guess I had forgotten to tell them. So, at load in they asked about the SWMRS show and I told them they were on it. It was refreshing to see how excited they were to be playing this show. That excitement came through in their preformance and it was great to see them get a good reaction from one of the largest crowds they have played to.
Next up was the Frights. I've always kind of struggled with describing this band and to be honest they need to be seen live to truly get. Though their records are good, live they are a completely different animal. Their sound is a orgy of Garage, Punk, and Surf with twisted harmonies that would make the Beach Boys jealous yet confused. Their song Kids should be on every teenages playlist and I have to say their set on that night was more blazing then the one in March. They are becoming a monster and only show signs of getting better.
As soon as the SWMRS got there they asked about the mexician place. I informed them that Fernando's closed at 4pm on Sunday. They rushed over to get their fill before the show. I fought back a chuckle as a couple of more of them asked about the place and I watched them rush out to make it over there before 4pm.
The SWMRS calls back to a lot of older influences then I'm sure they are aware. At time they remind me of the 60s garage bands, other times the Cramps but the thing is they are there own thing. Raw, Punk and more than anything else they seem to have escaped all the trappings of the Old School Punk shell and ventured off into something speical. I've more than booked them twice, I'm a fan and they delievered from start to finish. There is something going on here and a lot more established bands could learn here. Remember when rock and roll and punk rock were fun? SMWRS do.
11/21 New Music Mondays with Bernardus
Before I go into the show details, I wanted to talk a little bit about New Music Mondays. I think a lot of times I get so wrapped up in pushing the paying shows that I totally forget to mention that Lefty's hosts a number of free shows. New Music Mondays is a series that I started last spring. At first the idea was to give local bands a chance to play Lefty's and kind of a audition night of sorts. As time progressed, it became something more. Since a number of touring acts have a tough time finding a paying gig on a Monday, a lot of them have agreed to play New Music Mondays for free.
Some of these events have given many incredible and talented acts not only a few dollars from t-shirt sales but a chance to play on a night of week when normally they would have been camping in a rest area. All free to the general public. I've had some amazing Monday evenings filled with some great music and it has amazed me the amount of generosity shown by bands just for the chance to play. Often with other acts they may never had had a chance to play with. My vision from the start was to create a more laid back environment for not only touring bands but new local bands to gain experience on our stage. In the future I see it becoming a tradition for new and bands trying out new member or materials to debut. Kind of like a soft opening.
I was standing next the sound board which is one of my favorite places to watch a band and as the Bernardus played through their set, I could hope reflect on the last 5 days at Lefty's. I turned to Brad and said something to the degree about how much talent had played the stage in just the last 5 days. The Bernardus were not an exceptions and in someways the best way to end the 5 day run.
Though it was only two of the members that had been on tour for the 3 months leading up to this show, I can't imagine how good these guys would be with a full band behind them. Harmonies that melt the back of your head off mix with modern Blue Grass and straight American make these guys something to behold. They are from Lincoln, Nebraska and we hope to have the full band in the coming months.
11/23 So's Your Mother Reunion
So's Your Mother was a venue on the corner of Forest Ave and Harding(now MLK) that operated from the mid 70s to the early 80s. It was the home of live music in Des Moines and a corner stone to the entertainment area that once existed there. Thanks to Jeff Todd for putting the whole thing together. Though I missed the live music part, I greatly enjoy the live footage of a number of the bands that made of the fabric of the local scene. In a lot of ways it is the base on which the current scene was built. I even got to enjoy some live footage of one of Des Moines' first Punk bands, the Law. There is already talk of doing another one next year
Some of the shows you don't want miss
- Thursday Dec. 15 - BLACKLIST DISTRICT | MESSAGE FROM SYLVIA All Ages 5-9pm
- Friday Dec. 16 - STRANGE SOUNDS FROM ALL AROUND VOL.1. PRESENTED BY CORROSIVE COMPANY CD Release 2 shows all ages 5-9pm and 21 & over doors at 9pm
- Saturday Dec. 17 - MOUNTAIN SPROUT W/ JACOB COUNTY & THE DAMAGED GOODS/ CEDAR COUNTY COBRAS - 21 & Over - Doors at 9pm
- Friday Dec. 30 - MATTHEW KANE / BEARD AND CO. - 21 & over - Doors at 9pm
- Saturday Dec. 31 - THE RETURN OF THE FAMILY – NEW YEARS EVE BASH with Superchief, Nest of Snakes and Horror Business - 21 & Over - doors at 9pm
Get your tickets now to:
- 1/11 - Delta Bombers
- 2/10 - Wayne "The Train" Hancock, Matthew Jame & the Rust Belt Union, and Bob Tyler & the Restless Heart - get your tickets at Midwestix.com
- 3/17 - Agent Orange, Guttermouth, The Queers, and The Atom Age - Early bird $15 still on sale for a short time at Midwestix.com.