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Fruition, for now: Brendan Spengler and Gilt Gambrel headline works-in-progress variety show


Nite Tales of Madness with Brendan Spengler
Nine Tales incorporates both real and imagined characters, Spengler says. — photo by Matthew Steele
Nite Tales of Madness: Fiction by Brendan L Spengler w/ Musical Acts & Carousing

Trumpet Blossom Cafe — Thursday, July 24 at 8:30 p.m.

Brendan Spengler hangs his head and sighs: “If I don’t put a strict deadline on myself, I’ll work on something forever, and never call it finished.”

It’s a near-universal sentiment among artists, but that doesn’t make it any less real. We stood in Spengler’s home studio surveying bins full of notebooks and piles of musical equipment, all in various states of repair and modification. “Seriously. Some of these stories are more than ten years old.”

The stories he refers to are his Nine Tales of Madness. Described as an historical fiction anthology, Nine Tales collects characters from Spengler’s past writing — some real and some imagined — and uses historical events to build a tragedy around them. Perhaps not unlike Spengler and his piles of notebooks, the writer/musician (and former Little Village editor) says his characters “always have something they need to overcome.” He cites John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy as influences and says he loves the idea of a “flawed” hero. “The thing they have to overcome,” he says, “is an issue that they created.”

Maybe Iowa City is a little bit like that — or maybe it’s all cities. Maybe it’s all families. And maybe it’s all professions, not just creative. Maybe in a sea of literary, academic, artistic and civic pursuit we all consider excuses every day. Somewhere in the backs of our minds we figure — we know — that maybe we could just disappear. Maybe we can just let someone else do it.

Thursday night’s show at the Trumpet Blossom isn’t about that. It’s about doing the opposite of that. On the invitation of owner Katy Meyer, Spengler will gather a mighty variety of Iowa City artists to share their current work. In addition to reading from his unfinished historical fiction anthology, Spengler will show a slideshow and perform in a two-person play alongside Iowa City musician Phil Maul. Max Grey will perform spoken word, and Gilt Gambrel (Chris Wiersema and Colin Samek) will perform a rare live set.

Wiersema is best known musically for his work in ambient compositional duo Lwa, and in Iowa City as a Mission Creek Festival co-producer. He describes the idea of a showcase as “in-line with the Mission Creek vision,” and says he hopes they become more common.

“(Mission Creek) never quite had the alchemy to get music and lit performances into the same space at the same time with the same impact, but this should be Iowa City’s specialty — you go see a band and a poet is opening up. We could take that crown from any city in the country.”

Wiersema’s “summer project” is with Colin Samek (Supersonic Piss, Big Box), who is on break from a two year guitar-repair program in Red Wing, Minnesota. Tending (sprinting) toward hardcore, Samek’s past bands couldn’t appear to be much further from the subtle field-recordings of Lwa, but for Wiersema, the collaboration was a long time coming.

“There was a period of a couple of years there where it seemed like there was a Tanks, SSP, and Lwa bill just about every month,” Wiersema said, adding that “Colin’s growth in establishing a guitar language is really the centerpiece of Gilt Gambrel.”

Wiersema and Samek hope to play and write as much as possible and release a couple of tapes this summer (the first of which should be available at this Thursday’s show), and put together a vinyl release in time for Mission Creek 2015.

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“This show is particularly exciting because every sense is engaged — Storytelling, spoken word, visuals from Brendan,” Wiersema said. “I’m just glad Brendan has the know-how to pull it off.”


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