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Show preview: Barnstormer 5 at Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa, IA on 9/3/2011

Photos by Aric Kiel. Used with permission.

Barnstormers are returning to Iowa! Not in biplanes, and not on astro-turf, but as breathtaking musical events in rustic haylofts. Barnstormer is the name for a tour of fanstastic concerts held in historic barns across the midwest. Daytrotter will bring eight nationally touring artists to Codfish Hollow barn in Maquoketa on 9/3/11 at 6:30 pm for its Barnstormer 5 tour. I’ve attended at least one show on each of the four Barnstormer tours so far, and every show left me speechless, gasping in wonderment at the awesome experience.

Daytrotter is a website and recording studio in Rock Island, IL. Sean Moeller started Daytrotter in 2006, inspired by the many bands that blew past the Quad Cities every day on I-80 en route to bigger venues. Sean assembled a crack team of lovable crackpots, an old studio (the Horseshack), and its fantastic analog recording equipment into Team Daytrotter. Artists from around the world are cajoled into playing a short set at the Horseshack, and are given the freedom to record whatever they wish–in the limited, 2-hour time frame. After mastering and digital conversion, MP3’s of the sessions may be downloaded–for free!–at Daytrotter.com, where they are paired with Moeller’s magical prose and original illustrations by Johnny Cluney.

As of the writing of this post, Daytrotter has served up almost 23 million free tracks of some of the most remarkable artists in music. Team Daytrotter periodically visits major music festivals for on-location recording, and its repeated stays at SXSW festival have morphed into a satellite operation at Big Orange studio in Austin, TX.

Because all of this isn’t enough for the seemingly indefatigable team, Daytrotter also periodically organizes live concerts, culminating in their signature live events, the Barnstormer tours. Conceived as a way to meld music with moos, hip with hay, and the now with nostalgia, the Barnstormer shows take up-and-coming bands on a tour of unique barns across the country. Daytrotter has taken bands from NY, CA, TX, and many other places–even Norway–on epic road trips through farm fields, gravel roads, sunny days, and massive thunderstorms. Barnstormer shows have introduced hip musicians to midwesterners, who have influenced those bands with lots of characteristic midwestern hospitality. The musicians repeatedly state that the Barnstormer tours were the best times of their lives, due to the amazing combination of spaces, audience, music, and atmosphere.

There have been four Barnstormer tours since 2009, and one special holiday “Barn On the Fourth of July” show in 2010. Originally hosted in barns near Daytrotter’s Rock Island home, the upcoming Barnstormer 5 tour will start on the east coast and ends with the now-traditional homecoming at Codfish Hollow barn in Maquoketa, IA on 9/3/11.

Codfish Hollow is the name of the Stamp family farmstead that dates back to the late 1800s, built by the current owners’ great-grandparents. Through the sweeping changes in farming over the last century, the old farm buildings in the hollow have been replaced by more modern ones at the top of the hill. However, the old house and farm are still there, and have been repurposed into spaces for celebrating history, art, friends, and good times. The ancient farmhouse is half-demolished in a state of glorious, frozen violence. Its few structurally sound rooms host gallery exhibits, pairing new creations with the bleached bones of the old. The barn itself has a large hayloft, with a long, arched roof that summons images of boat ribs or a cathedral nave. During a Barnstormer show, this hayloft becomes a concert hall studded with starry lights, and echoes with lyrics, laughter, and love.

Daytrotter has earned a reputation for locating unheralded talent and giving it a venue to shine. Daytrotter’s secret is its authenticity; there is little pretension, little industry meddling, just art standing on its own. Previous Barnstormer artists include Local Natives, Dawes, Justin Townes Earle, Delta Spirit, Sondre Lerche, and Ra Ra Riot. Daytrotter does not focus exclusively on any one genre of music, preferring eclectic talent, as the artists for this tour demonstrate. White Rabbits (Daytrotter sessions 1, 2) are a Brooklyn rock band originally from Columbia, MO, with some of the manic energy of Spoon or the Watchmen. Wildlife  hails from Ontario, with a powerful sound that has earned comparisons to fellow canucks, Arcade Fire. Princeton (Daytrotter sessions 1, 2) is a band from LA that plays intelligent pop, and has been touring in support of Ra Ra Riot, Phoenix, and Vampire Weekend. Hacienda (Daytrotter session) describe themselves as “South Texas Soul”, as they mix 60s harmonies with Tex-Mex sounds. Madi Diaz (Daytrotter session) is a young songwriter from Nashville with a beautiful voice. Nona Marie Invie is the vocalist of the lush chamber folk band, Dark Dark Dark (Daytrotter sessions 1, 2, 3), and she appears on this tour with her side project, Nona Marie & the Choir. The music of Austin’s Hundred Visions (Daytrotter session) is poppy yet complex, and benefits from Radiohead and classic Brit-rock influences. Keegan DeWitt (Daytrotter sessions 1, 2, 3) is an Oregon-born film composer, actor, and musician who now resides in NY and Nashvillle. He returns to the barn after playing on the Barnstormer 4 tour this spring.

Join the Codfish Hollow family, and become a Barnstormer on Sep 3!

My previous LV article on Codfish Hollow.

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