I want to have a commemorative plate destruction party. I was thinking about some Christmastime introduction to this column, and all I could think about was some single woman carefully setting up commemorative plates around her living room, in their little stands, and getting the lighting just right, and it was making me insane with rage. First of all, I don’t even know if Christmas is peak commemorative plate season. But you know, this is the time of year for getting drunk and picking fights with innocent people, like your younger cousins. So just put coal in your stocking now, hike up your tree skirt, and listen to live music this holiday season.
The Mill’s new free concert series, the Tuesday Night Social Club, has already established itself as a gift that keeps on giving, and December is no exception. A kind of live-music counterpart to the Thursday night Dance Party at the Picador, the Mill does a nice job presenting local and national talent at no cost to you. This month’s offerings lean toward the local side, with a major emphasis on guitars. Densely layered, mathy and precise, destroyed and sloppy, left-handed: however you like your guitar, you can find it here this month. Garage-rockers The Black Slacks and local rock almost-legends Petit Mal start things off on the December 2. On the 9th it’s Dimas Lemus, whose shoegazing fuzz-rock and female vocals remind me of the band Drugstore with more oomph. They’re playing with Golden Megaload, which is two of the three former Puritanicals, known for tight guitar-rock and occasional shirtlessness. On December 16, local hard-rockers with a sensitive side Birth Rites will play with one of Ed Borstein’s bands, The Brown Note. Amazingly, Olivia Rose Muzzy, the KRUI disc jockey who is also on this bill, will play some not-electric string instruments (double bass!) through a loop pedal. Exciting not only for being not a guitarist, but for filling the massive chamber pop void left by the departure of Skursula.
The last Tuesday Night Social Club of 2008 marks the return of The Blacks, a San Fransisco/New York rock and roll three-piece who nearly stole the show from Cursive when they opened for them here in April. You dig minimal sounds? One of their three members plays tambourine, leaving only guitar and drums to lay the foundation for a surprisingly massive and dirty sound. Lead vocalist and guitarist Louisa Black channels Karen O via Lydia Lunch, and can belt out covers by everyone from Romeo Void to Amy Winehouse. JDK Blacker, said tambourinist, will spit on you, steal your beer, and then pour it on you, so be warned. Following this Tuesday night show, they will also be playing New Year’s Eve at the Picador. One of these two sets—if you can’t make both—is an absolute must-see this month.
One of the best, and nicest, bands in the Iowa City rock scene is Mannix!, who are rocking a CD release show on December 12 at the Mill. They are playing with Caw Caw!, who are on the local label Slanty Shanty, and The Slats. The Slats are from Minneapolis and are just plain awesome: big riffs, zany lyrics, super-tight arrangements with just the right amount of slop.
If all of this rock isn’t your cup of tea, two quieter shows will feature some incredible songwriting talents. On December 5, Denison Witmer will play the cozy basements of Public Space ONE along with local singer and artist Caleb Engstrom. Also on this bill are Jeremy Messersmith from Minneapolis, and Jeff Hanson, who is on the Kill Rock Stars record label, which is known for having great songwriters. You might remember a dude named Elliott Smith.
And, finally, speaking of big names, you don’t need me to tell you one thing about the wonderful and talented Pieta Brown. She was supposed to play at the Mill some time back, but was called away for duty as the opening act for Ani Difranco’s tour. Pieta will be celebrating the release of her latest CD, and with Haley Bonar also on the bill I can imagine these tickets going fast.
See you in the New Year!