Proving Des Moines is NOT boring

7 Music Things I Love About Des Moines

I made my name on this blog (as much of a name as I could make, I suppose) but I’m willing to bet that my most read piece wasn’t here. It was at my now mothballed blog, My 2012 review of 80/35 brought in a huge number and still pulls in readers three years later, for some reason. I ended that review with a bit about my daughter and niece, who are now five and six, saying that “when they’re teenagers, they won’t know of Des Moines as anything other than what we all think it can be.” Funny thing is it won’t even be when they’re teenagers. We are almost at that point, right now. Sure, we still have a lot of growing left to do, but I watch as more and more bands show up and try different things, and it isn’t just the same five or ten people. I watch as more and more people pop up with actual opinions and thoughts and formulate those opinions in different ways and I see 18-year olds play in bands and expect to be put on 80/35 and Nitefall and on big bills because this is what they know. This is what they think Des Moines is because since they were pre-teens, Des Moines was a place where art and artists had a voice. Part of me wants to slap some sense in them, but I mostly just smile and know how far we’ve come in the past seven years, ten years, fifteen years even and realize where we are.

It’s weird to say, because we weren’t exactly a blog that took chances in the typical, artistic sense, but we were a blog that encouraged taking chances. I mean, we had our controversial moments, but as far as our modus operandi, we were simple truth merchants. We were people who believed in our city and what it has to offer. But what we demanded of our audience was for them to take chances. Or at least, that was my goal. I wanted people to go out of their comfort zone, to go out of their normal I Heart Radio lifestyle and discover what was happening next door. I’m comfortable in what I have done and what we have done overall, but we, as a city, aren’t done yet.

gas-lampWhat I didn’t do was criticize. People label me a critic, but I purposefully was never critical. I didn’t want someone to take my opinion and not listen to something. I wanted to let the artists create and for the audiences to make up their minds and I wanted to tell a chunk of people what I liked and to let what I didn’t like simply go by the wayside. But we are past that point now. We need criticism. We need people with credibility to step up and speak their mind and we need to trust the audience and, most importantly, the artists to listen. There are people in this town that can do that. They just need to speak up. They need to trust their ability and their talents to better our scene.

So, that’s what’s next. We need people to continue to do the art and know there will be supporters, but we need critics. We need people to say this worked for me and this didn’t or even none of this worked for me and you need to start over. We are beyond the point of everyone gets participation ribbons and orange slices. We are now in the big time. So, who is going to step up their game artistically and who is going to be there to call them out when they fail and still applaud them when they succeed?

That ain’t me. This cheerleader is retired. But we need more voices and we need to support the voices we do have. So check out for a solid array of writers writing about, well, Des Moines shows. Make sure you are also listening to the Pants OFF Podcast because they’re funny and insightful. Also, read Juice and Cityview. You can say what you want about both publications, but their music coverage is top notch. Also, go to shows, buy merch and tell people what you liked and what you didn’t.

As part of this blogs celebration, I was asked to make a list of seven things that weren’t here when we started, but I also wanted to do something slightly different, so first things first, here are seven acts (in no particular order) that I should’ve written about but never did for whatever reason:

Madam Jules (I have a solid Madam Jules story in me, too. Maybe one day.)


Men in Lead Masks




Surf Zombies

And here are seven things (again, no particular order, and in fact were like the first seven things I thought of) that I love about Des Moines that were established sometime over the last seven years that I don’t think I could live without or that has impacted me immeasurably.


Gas Lamp

Skye Carrasco’s Dark Pines



Elizabeth Arynn’s Drifter


Thanks to Pete for giving me a chance, thanks to everyone who clicked a link with my name attached but mostly thanks to the bands for putting their hearts and souls out there and for letting me being a dopey guy who got to be part of their worlds. I hope I did everyone I have ever written about justice and brought in new fans of people willing to try something local.