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Built to Spill, Mission Creek Festival headliner, is as chill as ever

Everything about singer-guitarist Doug Martsch and his longtime band is unassuming and undramatic — from the two decades of major-label albums they’ve steadily released as the music industry collapsed around them to the lilting melodies and long, winding solos that weep gently from Martsch’s guitar. […]

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Remembering Dennis Jones, Iowa City’s sound guy

Those who contribute the most to local music scenes often make the least amount of noise. This was certainly true of the late Dennis Jones, an unassuming sound engineer who could regularly be seen operating the sound board for Iowa City’s Friday Night Concert Series, as well as at hundreds of club shows, benefits and other local events over the past three decades, until his death at the age of 68 on Feb. 9. […]

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Revisiting the Louds, America’s first reality TV family

Forty-five years ago — on Jan. 11, 1973 — the first reality series premiered on PBS, and television would never be the same. An American Family became an immediate pop culture sensation that was discussed by newspaper columnists, debated by television pundits and even taken seriously by respected scholars like Margaret Mead.
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DJ Spooky’s ‘Explorer I Remix’, featuring sounds made by Van Allen radiation belts, will premiere at Witching Hour

DJ Spooky’s new Explorer I Remix emerged from a collaboration between this visiting artist and a group of University of Iowa scientists, musicians, librarians and archivists. It will celebrate the 60th anniversary of a satellite launched in 1958 used to discover Earth’s radiation belts (known as the Van Allen belts in honor of UI scientist James Van Allen). […]

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Talibam! will present the soundtrack to the apocalypse at Witching Hour

Musicians Kevin Shea and Matthew Mottel dubbed themselves Talibam! because it was the most unhip name they could think of, especially compared to the then-current new crop of Brooklyn groups like Dirty Projectors and Grizzly Bear — whose names read like impressionistic hipster word association games. It was an attempt, keyboardist Mottel said, to suggest “an alternative political vision, which was matched by our cultural determination to provide an alternative to the landscape of music and performance we were surrounded by.” […]

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Prairie Pop: Grey Area festival will suit local music fans, campers and circus freaks

Grey Area, a joint venture by Flat Black Studios and White Rabbit clothing store, is an unusual new festival taking place just outside of Iowa City on Aug. 18 and 19. Featuring live music and a diverse range of multimedia programming, it’s a celebration of our local musical community. The festival will span Friday afternoon to late Saturday night, and is set outdoors (on-site camping is encouraged; bring plenty of water, bug spray and other necessities, as well as blankets or chairs to sit on). […]

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UI professor went from small town Texas to building a musical chessboard, inventing the modern laser light show

“Lubbock or leave it,” the old saying goes, so Lowell Cross decided to leave the straight life behind for avant-garde adventures abroad. Born in 1938 and largely raised in that Texas town, this former University of Iowa music professor is a man of many unique firsts. Not only did he invent the modern laser light show (developed in part on the UI campus), but when Cross was a graduate student at the University of Toronto he collaborated with the paradigm-shifting composer and theorist John Cage. […]

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Prairie Pop: Former Angels of Light reminisce about the influence of their brother and son Hibiscus

Before George Harris III became Hibiscus and founded the genderfluid theater troupe the Cockettes, he put on shows with his family in Florida during the early 1960s. The oldest of six siblings — three girls and three boys, sort of an avant-garde Brady Bunch — George formed the El Dorado Players, named after the street they lived on in Clearwater, Florida.

“Hibiscus had real leadership qualities,” his youngest sister Mary Lou said. “He came out of the womb as the grand marshal. He was just like the leader of the parade — tons of ideas. ‘Let’s get it rolling. Let’s not even think!’” […]

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The Cool Kids bring their inventive approach to production to Flat Black

In 2008, the Cool Kids were “bringing ’88 back,” channeling a stripped-down eighties boom-bap rap aesthetic for a new generation. “When we started,” Sir Mike told me in advance of their appearance at this year’s Mission Creek Festival, “I was about seventeen and Chuck was twenty-two.” This led to a series of acclaimed singles and albums, a burst of activity that began with their debut “Black Mags” and abruptly ended after their 2011 LP, When Fish Ride Bicycles. […]

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Prairie Pop: Iowa City rockstars Younger bring new material to Mission Creek

For a band that was originally conceived as a goof, Younger has rapidly transformed into one of Iowa City’s best rock bands — exploding with energy, intricate arrangements, barbed lyrics and catchy hooks.

“We had talked about playing together for a long time,” drummer Sarah Mannix recalled. “I don’t think that we honestly believed it was going to be an actual band. I think we just got together more as a joke.” […]

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