Follow-up: David Byrne on his trip to the Des Moines Social Club

DSM Social Club
The Des Moines Social Club, which held its grand opening celebration on May 10, offers a wide range of spaces for both performance and community engagement. — photo by Rosalind Sixbey

Artist and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne returned to Iowa last Saturday to deliver a keynote speech at The Des Moines Social Club’s grand opening celebration.

As is his style, the former Talking Heads frontman wrote about this experience in detail on his personal blog, which includes a full transcript of the keynote itself, as well as a bit of reflection on why he decided to get involved with the non-profit.

“This place is part of a process, or it can be.” said Byrne, praising the Social Club for its efforts to broaden the cultural output of Des Moines, particularly through its use of a re-purposed structure.

“We New Yorkers need to get over ourselves a little bit and be aware of what’s going on elsewhere,” he added. “And to entertain the idea that life doesn’t have to be all about aggressive striving…to realize we don’t have a monopoly on how one can make a life in a city.”

Spaces like The Des Moines Social Club are crucial to facilitating creativity, according to Byrne — a point he emphasized with a sort of “If you build it, they will come” outlook:

I noticed years ago that if, for example, someone opened a music venue — like Hilly Kristal did with CBGBs — then the musicians come out of the woodwork to fill it. They start forming bands, writing new songs and hanging out and influencing one another—and sometimes their work expands out to the wider world. None of which would have happened if the place to perform wasn’t there. Who knew they were even there?

Located in a newly renovated firehouse at 9th and Mulberry Street, the Des Moines Social Club offers a number of spaces for performance art, classes, live music and community engagement. The venue also houses a couple of locally owned businesses: Cape’s Kafe — a comic book shop and coffee house hybrid — and Malo, which serves Latin cuisine.

Producer and playwright Zachary Mannheimer, a Brooklyn transplant who organized the Byrne keynote, serves as the organization’s executive director. For a complete rundown of the venue’s various programming and events, check out

Photo by Rosalind Sixbey
Photo by Rosalind Sixbey