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Interview: A chat with curator Chris Wiersema ahead of the Tuesday kickoff of Feed Me Weird Things

Posted by Daniel Boscaljon | May 18, 2017 | Arts & Entertainment

FMWT Presents: Spires That in the Sunset Rise & Michael Zerang w/ Haunter

Trumpet Blossom Cafe — Tuesday, May 23 at 9 p.m.

Spires That in the Sunset Rise perform at Festival of Endless Gratitude. — video still

Feed Me Weird Things is the newest curation effort of Chris Wiersema, the soft-spoken but large-bearded part of Witching Hour and Mission Creek responsible for keeping Iowa City immersed in unusual sounds from around the world. Wiersema organized this series in terms of volumes and episodes, and each installment promises to be a unique event, with an emphasis on range rather than continuity (see full lineup below). In other words, while each night will introduce listeners to new forms of musical expression, not every night will feature the same instruments, interests or aesthetics. In addition to Wiersema’s guiding touch, a second point of continuity is the choice of venue: the Trumpet Blossom Café.

Wiersema’s intentions in making a community event filled with distinctive aural treats can be seen in his innovative approach to ticketing (facilitated by Little Village). Listeners interested in becoming part of the community can buy a pass for Volume I at a discount price, and those interested in supporting the project can become patrons: placed on the guest list, mentioned during introductions, but most importantly allowing this kind of space to become viable. For Wiersema, as for the artists, it is primarily a labor of love, not lucre.

The series begins on May 23 at 9 p.m., featuring Spires That in the Sunset Rise & Michael Zerang with special guest Haunter. Spires is a female duo of multi-instrumentalists who have played together for over 15 years. They are joined by Zerang, an improvisational performer and producer with decades of experience exploring sonic textures with a diverse range of instruments. Haunter, Iowa City’s Kyle Arthur Miller, will open in what may be his last local performance. The night that will almost certainly be interesting and outside of the boundaries of the everyday world.

Support the series by becoming a patron ($50), buying a Volume I pass ($25) or simply by attending a night of music ($5-7) that few outside Iowa City have the ability to witness. Wiersema’s curation — here, and in all else — has too often been an unfortunately well-kept secret.

Little Village: What got you started into music production?

Chris Wiersema: A long time ago, at least here in Iowa City, it was toward the end of my undergraduate career and I was looking at the notion of needing to move, and trying to figure out how to find a place that had things I wanted to see happening. But I lamented having to leave because living here was affordable (you could be 23 and work a part time job and get by); life was easy. I started emailing bands, seeing them if they’d come here, and thankfully some of them did. I started in the Hall Mall and I set up there at night with an extension cord with everything else closed, and it worked.

How would you describe your tastes/sensibilities?

I want to do avant-garde, new music, composition in this series. It is music that is strange and beautiful but doesn’t receive the same amount of club environment. A club is there to sell beer, the way movies show movies to sell popcorn. Clubs have 45-60 minute shows … and because of that, so much of this music goes unheard.

But what is your guiding aesthetic?

It comes down to: I don’t want what the last guy got. There’s nothing worse than seeing a band play the set list that they played last night. When the goal is to hear something that is as good as the album — it’s boring. I don’t want a poor replicant of the product. I want something of the moment that keeps me in that moment. I’m not interested in constant reproductions of something that was formulaically put together. I want it to be for me, and the audience.

How do you find acts that perform?

I’m a really active consumer of music — I read constantly about what’s going on in music. I still buy records without hearing them, which I think is rare anymore. I stay in touch with a lot of active performers in these kinds of music communities, either through my own performances, or through Mission Creek/Witching Hour, or booked through the years. I also have a network of agents and management companies that feed me things. I’m just spoiled.

What makes this series different from Witching Hour/Mission Creek in terms of what you think it accomplishes?

It doesn’t run perpendicular. I got offered a few shows I couldn’t turn down (including the Spires, Glenn Jones), just a few things that I wanted to put together. I wanted to have a conversation more than just twice a year. We’re a diverse and intelligent community, and sometimes our options don’t reflect [that].

What do you like about the Trumpet Blossom?

I love [owner] Katy [Meyer]. I’ve known her for decades. She’s so true and focused in her mission about having a community place, and I like that it still has a DIY aesthetic — it isn’t a club. It’s for those of us who grew up going to house shows but grew out of sitting next to the kitty litter. There are some creature comforts. She also wants to take care of the audience — and the band. She feeds good, clean food. There’s a high level of devotion and community care. And if someone’s making money from drinks, I want it to be her.

Do you ever see this series expanding beyond music to other curations of the weird?

It can. This is my test run season. I want to incorporate writers. I’m open to the idea of films and visuals, and cross-production with FilmScene and the Englert. It depends on response — so far, musicians have responded well.

How much does this match up with the literary genre of the Weird?

It’s more an aesthetic (Dylan McConnell — Tiny Little Hammers in charge of posters, playbills, logo design). It comes out of the Lovecraftian, decrepit textbook aesthetic. In terms of music, I wanted a range, which doesn’t fit into one thing exactly. The Crazy Dobermans show is probably the best thing to fit this — early industrial three-horn jazz. That’s their wheelhouse, just up and down. Only partially.

How would you describe that aesthetic purpose?

It makes the strange a familiar strange, so that people feel comfortable taking risks. It makes it safer to access.

What are the highlights? What do you anticipate being the best draw?

Kristine Barrett (her vocals are amazing, even if it is intimidating on paper) and Glenn Jones (with his guitar — you owe yourself to see it). It’s nicely balanced — and two hours of time, and at least you can say that you tried something.

Feed Me Weird Things — Volume I

First Edition: Tuesday, May 23

Spires That in the Sunset Rise & Michael Zerang, w/ Haunter — Trumpet Blossom Cafe, 9 p.m., $5-7

Second Edition: Sunday, June 4

Crazy Doberman: Members of Wolf Eyes, TV Ghost, w/ Chocolate Hog Boys, Charmaine’s Pepper — BBQ & Block Party, Gilbert St, 6 p.m., $5

Third Edition: Tuesday, July 11

Glenn Jones, w/ Brooks Strause — Trumpet Blossom Cafe, 9 p.m., $10-12

Fourth Edition: Saturday, July 22

Talsounds and Matchess, w/ Brendan Spengler (performing Wagner’s Vorspiel) — Trumpet Blossom Cafe, 9 p.m., $5-7

Fifth Edition: Saturday, August 12

Kristine Barrett, w/ Liv Carrow — Trumpet Blossom Cafe, 9 p.m., $8-10

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