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.


Subscribe for daily news updates from Little Village


“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.”

Thoughts? Tips? A cute picture of a dog? Share them with LV »




Summer Programs 2020

Get 150+ local restaurants delivered to your door in the Iowa City & Cedar Rapids areas!

The Future is Unwritten

You look to Little Village for today’s stories. Your sustaining support will help us write tomorrow’s.


$10/mo or $120/year
The cost of doing this work really adds up! Your contribution at this level will cover telephone and internet expenses for one month at the LV editorial offices.


$20/mo or $240/year
$240 is enough to cover one month’s costs for sending out our weekly entertainment newsletter, The Weekender. Make a contribution at this level to put a little more oomph on your support and your weekend.


$30/mo or $360/year
(AUTO-RENEW) connects eastern Iowa culture with the world. Your contribution at this level will cover the site’s hosting costs for three months. A bold move for our boldest supporters!

All monthly and annual contributors receive:

  • Recognition on our Supporters page (aliases welcome)
  • Exclusive early access when we release new half-price gift cards
  • Access to a secret Facebook group where you can connect with other supporters and discuss the latest news and upcoming events (and maybe swap pet pics?) with the LV staff
  • Invitations to periodic publisher chats (held virtually for now) to meet with Matt and give him a piece of your mind, ask your burning questions and hear more about the future plans for Little Village, Bread & Butter Magazine, Witching Hour Festival and our other endeavors.