Prairie Pop: Sell your soul; you’ll feel better

Before Bart Simpson did it, though long after Faust, I sold my soul. This prank permanently cemented my status as a vaguely remembered factoid: “The guy who sold his soul on eBay.” I orchestrated the prank at the height of the late-1990s dot-com era, when eBay was the hot new auction website of the moment. […]

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Prairie Pop: Experimental rock pioneer Rhys Chatham gets Iowa City into the loop

Rhys Chatham Gabe’s — Saturday, Nov. 5 at 10 p.m. Tickets available here Punk pioneers the Ramones stripped their music down to three chords, creating an austere wall of sound that brought rock and roll back to its basics. Composer Rhys Chatham, however, might be the only artist who was inspired to use more chords […]

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Prairie Pop: ‘King of Nasty’ John Waters returns to Iowa City for one-man roadshow

John Waters — “Filthier and Dirtier” The Englert Theatre — Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. Prepare yourself. Hide the children. John Waters — the Auteur of Ordure — is once again bringing his one-man roadshow to the Englert, on Oct. 1. “Filthier and Dirtier” is the latest iteration of his vaudevillian act, a freewheeling […]

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Director Brendan Toller talks ‘Danny Says’ ahead of its FilmScene screening

Danny Says, Art House Theater Day FilmScene — Saturday, Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. Danny Fields is a countercultural Zelig. The new documentary Danny Says provides a glimpse into an unparalleled life that connects the dots between Andy Warhol and the Ramones, teen magazines and Iggy Pop. As part of FilmScene’s celebration of Art House […]

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Prairie Pop: Honoring the kryptonite aura of the deceased, punk progenitor Alan Vega

For a man who fronted a group named Suicide, Alan Vega lived a very full life. When I spoke with him earlier this year, before his recent death at the age of 78, he was still bursting with creativity and impish irreverence. Vega — also known as Alan Suicide — was an original punk. As […]

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Prairie Pop: Flashback to ’70s SanFran drag with former Cockette Lendon Sadler

Lendon Sadler

Plenty of dicks have lived in Iowa City over the years, but only one Cockette. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lendon Sadler was part of a notorious San Francisco drag troupe named the Cockettes, which filmmaker John Waters affectionately referred to as a bunch of acid freak bearded Marxist drag queens. Since that […]

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Rabble-rousing inside the FCC: Media’s mischief maker started subverting paradigms as a kid right here in Iowa City

Rolling Stone cover

Nicholas Johnson — who is likely the only Iowa City native who ever appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, in 1971 — foreshadowed his career as a troublemaking FCC Commissioner when he was an adolescent boy in the mid-1940s. “My first experience with radio was Allied Radio in Chicago,” Johnson recently told me. “This […]

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Lisa Jane Persky brings her photos and stories of ’70s New York to Iowa City

Writer, actress and photographer Lisa Jane Persky is surely the only participant in the early CBGB punk scene who also appeared in When Harry Met Sally. After moving to Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, she met several colorful characters — from Divine and Debbie Harry to Lance Loud and Yoko Ono (the latter of […]

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Prairie Pop: Looking back on David Bowie’s love affair with experimental theater

David Bowie

The weekend after David Bowie’s death, the Starman’s spirit descended on Iowa City, sprinkling magical fairy dust during The Mill’s David Bowie Karaoke Party and Glam Costume Contest. A benefit for a local homeless shelter that raised $1,700, this lively event embodied what made Bowie such an enduring artist: spectacle. It’s no secret that David […]

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Interview: Richard Hell on his new collection of essays, ‘Massive Pissed Love’

Richard Hell -- Illustration by Jacob Yeates

“Fuck Rock and Roll (I’d Rather Read a Book),” Richard Hell sang in 1974, back when he played in the band Television. He also co-founded two other influential New York punk groups—The Heartbreakers and The Voidoids—something that tends to overshadow Hell’s half-century involvement in the publishing world. “I’ve always loved books,” he told me over […]

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The Pioneers of Disruption: Negativland members open up about deceased member Don Joyce, future projects


Negativland’s Don Joyce lived and breathed sound collage—’til his heart stopped beating on July 22, 2015 at the age of 71. “I’ve been more interested in what’s already out there than creating some new, so-called ‘original,’” Joyce told me in a 2003 interview at his home studio in a seedy part of Oakland, California. “I […]

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Interview: Questions for Laurie Anderson from a Two-Year-Old

When my son, Alasdair, was two, he embraced an unlikely children’s entertainer: Laurie Anderson. It began when he found her 1982 debut album, Big Science, in my vinyl collection and asked about it. After watching the “O Superman (For Massenet)” music video on YouTube, he moved on to her “Sharkey’s Day” video and then the […]

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