Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Vacation as Parallax, Pt. 4

the River Monks
The third day of my vacation was spent largely in the car, mostly driving through Iowa.

Say what you will of Iowa. I love it. I have nothing but happy memories associated with Iowa.

I used to have many friends in Decorah and I would go visit them twice a year. We always had a lot of music and a lot of outdoors. It was a magical time.
One of my favorite bands is namelessnumberheadman. 1 All three members have deep roots in Shawnee. Their previous iteration, the Fauves, recorded in Decorah. Their album reminds me still of my early college days. I wish I’d had that CD for my drive through Iowa.

Another musical association I have with Iowa is the brilliant Des Moines band the River Monks. In April they stopped through Shawnee to play at sips Downtown Kafe’
. It was beautiful music played by sweet, gracious people. I convinced them to stick around after the shop closed and we hung out for a couple of hours. I quickly learned that I didn’t just enjoy their music, I genuinely liked the people playing it. The next night I had my first post-break-up solo show in Norman. They came to hear me since they were playing down the street later that night. It might have meant little to them, but I found their presence at my set really touching. I believe I’ll always think of them when I pass through Des Moines.

What else about Iowa?
Should I write about the Day the Music Died? There is a pretty touching memorial at the crash site, I hear. The family who owns the land there is gracious enough to allow American-music pilgrims free access to it.

That’s what I think is classical Iowan-ness.

Let me play the role of Counting Crows for a moment as I generalize a large population based on where they live:
Iowans are good, nice people. They are, by and large, friendly and intelligent and earnest.
Okay, the ones I’ve met are.
But it must be broadly so. How else could their politics be so moderately populist and sensible?

Take Richard Waack as an example. He was born just a couple of miles from the earlier mentioned crash site. He was my art teacher. I learned more from him than any teacher I’ve ever had.
He talked about music in almost every lesson. (He introduced me to Bob Dylan 2.) He taught me that the real key to getting good at making art is to produce. “Make lots of art and your art gets better.”

And Corey Gingerich, another Iowan I like a lot.
He owns Anty Shanty on Main Street in Norman, OK#. He hosts concerts at his shop often, mostly during Norman’s 2nd Friday Art Walk. He’s invited me to play at his shop a few times, and I’ve loved playing there each time. Corey loves music and has spent many years in music promotion. His encouragement and embracing of my music and my performances has increased my confidence significantly.

Where do all these people learn to be so kind? Does farm and dairy work instill some sort of native bonhomme? It’s not been my experience.

No, seriously. How do they get this way? I’m asking you. I have no theories.
1 Full disclosure: They’re very long-time friends of mine, so I may be biased- but I truly love their music.
2 Not literally.


  1. Well. I'm at the end. Kinda disappointed. Not in the blog, but in the fact that there are no more posts for me to read. I genuinely enjoyed these. Not in the "You're my friend so I'm going to tell you your blog is great when it was truly mediocre at best" kind of enjoyed, but the "These were witty & I am looking forward to more" kind.

    Also, please play somewhere soon & invite me. I promise I won't throw up this time.

  2. More will come soon and also I will play again soon. Focused on writing the next thing. Please stop vomiting when I play.