As I was reminded when listening to Little Village Live this week, Iowa City is in the midst of orientation week. I look around and see tons of parents roaming around with either their jaded upperclassmen or doe-eyed freshmen. In addition, all of the greek houses are roping in new recruits for the year. This results in strange scenes of seeing a large swath of people standing around on street blocks. No matter where I am, it will always be unsettling to see large numbers of people hanging out on the street together in one place. Personal hang-ups aside, these wandering parents and masses of sorority girls and frat boys mean that we all are moving swiftly back into the academic grind. Whatever your relationship to that whole black-and-gold enterprise down by the river, this weekend will be a prime opportunity to let out some of that swiftly building tension before it starts harming your well-being. Let’s begin.
Claude Hay w/ The Mayflies // The Mill // 8:00 PM // $6, 19+
Claude Hay is a blues man that straddles the lines between the traditional world of blues instruments and the modern realm of advanced digital technologies. All of Hay’s songs hold on to the traditional blues song, full of stomps and slide guitar licks. If you were to listen to them, you would think that Hay was just a front man, working with a solid band. This is where you would be mistaken. Rather than having the grisled vets of the juke joints backing him on stage, the Australian takes a distinctly Australian approach to playing the blues: he does it all himself. Using a loop sampling pedal, a drum pad, a two pedal drum kit, and a dual-neck bass-guitar, Hay creates the full blues experience by himself. While this could be considered shocking, it shouldn’t be given that Hay also has video of himself tricking out a van. Even though the setup sounds like a gimmick, the music’s for real and he’s very good. Although he’s from Australia, he sounds like he just crawled out of the swamp. The blues fans should go check out how they sing them down under on Thursday. If you can’t make this show, Hay will also be playing a free show at the downtown Java House. The show starts at 2:00 PM on Friday.
Kris Lager Band w/ Item 9 & The Mad Hatters // Iowa City Yacht Club // 9:00 PM // $5, 19+
I know that this column has shown a fair amount of discrimination towards the sections of our audience that like to just dance and jam. I’ll try to make up from some of that past shame by pointing attention to the Kris Lager Band. Hailing from Nebraska, Lager and his band of musicians work in the blues/rock and roll style jam. What this means is a lot of slide guitar and general ripping as well as an emphasis on building super solid grooves. The band have a liveliness about themselves on stage, which is something that is not always seen in jam bands. While they do get loose with their sound, they like to stay in control. There won’t be any really crazy, all over the place tracks. With locals Item 9 & The Mad Hatters in support, this show should be a good treat for the more jam-minded of Weekender readers.
Shame Train w/ Matt The Electrician & Grand Tetons // The Mill // 9:00 PM // $7, 21+
We talk about Sam Knutson’s band here routinely, so I will not talk at length. I’ll say my part quickly for those who’ve never heard of Shame Train. If you are in town and never heard this band, shame on you. You should go see them before you depart this town, whether that’s on Sunday night or when they put you six feet deep in Oakland Cemetary. Shame Train’s an Iowa City musical institution.
David Olney & Sergio Webb w/ Dave Moore // Englert Theatre // 8:00 PM // $15, All Ages
David Olney & Sergio Webb come as an event in the continuing, successful Intimate at the Englert series. The 100 people that can get tickets to this show will be treated to a performance from an excellent singer-songwriter, one that can write his own striking material as well as take others and make it his own. In both cases, the part that stands out is Olney’s husky, emotional voice, recalling a less raspy Tom Waits/ Bill Callahan. Drenched in the sounds of the American landscape, Olney is a true talent, a troubadour that has traveled this country entertaining audiences and telling stories from the road. With Dave Moore in support, this show will be a solid bet for any Americana/singer-songwriter’s Saturday night.
Next week, it’s getting crazy. There’s a film festival and some other rad things going on next week. If you want to check out something cool between Weekenders, go to the Sleepy Sun show on Wednesday (10:00 PM // The Mill // $7, 21+). They are a pre-eminent band in the burgeoning psych revival in the indie music world. Regardless of if you are starting school again or Monday means that you’re going back to the same grind you’ve had all year, I wish you all good luck next week. Have a good weekend!
Rob Merritt, well known throughout the region’s arts, journalism and nonprofit sectors, established himself as a playwright in 2011 when The Summerland Project premiered as part of Theatre Cedar Rapids’...