Dante Powell — Live Album Recording
The Mill — Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and Thursday, Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
Despite chilly weather and slippery sidewalks, the Iowa City comedy scene will be bustling with activity Feb. 27-March 2, as the 2019 Floodwater comedy festival kicks off its annual events. Each spring, Floodwater works to bring local and national comedians together in Iowa City to celebrate comedy and community, with proceeds this year supporting the CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank and National Alliance on Mental Illness.
This year, Des Moines-based comedian Dante Powell will be recording his first comedy album at The Mill in Iowa City as part of the festivities (tickets are $5 for each night). Four years in to his comedy career, Powell has performed all over the country, and at a variety of festivals including Des Moines’ Beast Village.
He was recently approached by Dan Schlissel of Stand Up! Records, an indie comedy label that has released work from major names like Maria Bamford and Patton Oswalt, to record a one- hour special that will be released physically and on all streaming platforms later this summer. As an Iowa transplant originally from Louisiana, Powell’s set will grapple with his experiences over the last seven years, as well as his newfound identity as an Iowan.
“The album itself took form after Dan approached me, and it’s pretty much a love letter to Des Moines, explaining how different life is,” Powell said in a recent phone call. “Coming from Louisiana to Des Moines, how different it is. Not hugely better or worse. I’m just finding humor in the differences.”
Powell’s comedy career started a few years after his move to Iowa. His first open mic set, along with the encouragement of his best friend Johnny, opened up a career trajectory he didn’t see coming.
“I was so nervous and out of breath and crazed … and so glad when it was all over. I recently did a podcast where I had to go back and listen to my first set. When I finally went back and watched it, seeing how far I’ve made it in the four years … it was so great.”
Out of the wealth of opportunities to record his album, he chose Iowa City’s Floodwater Festival as the host of his recordings. “There’s something about Iowa City,” he said. “The crowd is always very receptive. It’s felt like that even if there were times I was performing in Iowa City and I wasn’t at my absolute best, they somehow pull the best out of me … every time I’ve gone back. [That feeling] hasn’t been something I’ve made up. It’s a real thing.”
Powell has used the centrality of his home in Iowa’s capital city, as well as the healthy Iowa comedy scene, as a springboard for a comedy career that has taken him to shows across the nation. He attributes some of this success to regular appearances at the Funny Bone in Des Moines and other comedy clubs across the state.
“It’s cool to have that to ground you and keep you where you are, but also to help me expand,: Powell said. “That’s what grew me, was being able to do the shows in Des Moines where someone from Iowa City would invite me to their shows … and it just grows from there. Before I knew it, I had this amazing network I could branch out of from Des Moines. [We’re] not secluded anymore either. I can reach out to someone from a bigger city and invite them to shows here when they’re on the road”
For comedy and art, Iowa can indeed be a place to grow.
Powell’s album doesn’t yet have a hard release date, but he expects it to be up later this summer. For more information on the album release, follow his Instagram, @mooserattler. (His instagram handle came from his career as a trucker — his main day job before his comedy career started to take shape. “My cousins told me I had to come up with a CB handle for CB radio,” Powell said. “They said I had to pick an animal, and an action — so I picked Moose Rattler, and it just stuck.”) Tickets for Floodwater 2019 events vary from $5 to $15; festival passes are $55.