Iowa City Weekender: May 5-7

In case you haven’t noticed, spring’s actually here now. While I’ve willed it in the past weeks to come to make my bike rides more pleasant, it is actually here. It’s in the 60s, the sun is out, and people are getting back to the business of their day to day outdoor lives. The farmer’s market starts again this weekend, and the bike racks around town are starting to get more full. This weekend is action packed. I tried to shake a stick at it and totally failed. The weekend laughed at me for shaking a stick at it then broke the stick. I’ve only chosen the choicest cuts out of all of it for you. Let me stop hyping it up and just get into it instead.


JT Nero // Red Poppy Tea Room // 8:00 PM // $10 for Unlimited Hookah (It is a hookah bar, after all)

JT Nero might be better known as the leader of the Chicago-based rock & soul group JT & The Clouds. Nero stands out in this group for his voice, which has been compared to that of funk legend Sly Stone amongst others. As you can see from the header, this isn’t JT Nero with the Clouds, this is JT Nero playing solo. While the voice is just as strong and affecting, it’s put over quieter folk instrumentation, creating a sound reminiscent of the north Wisconsin wilderness that he recorded his new album Mountains/Forests in. The quiet, relaxed vibe of the new album will fit well with the Red Poppy, creating a chill retreat for those stressed by the day-to-day strains.

Pikacyu-Makoto w/ Mugu Guymen, Panther, Swan, and Panorphean // White Lightning Wherehouse // 9:30 PM // $5, All Ages

Back at Mission Creek 2K10, Acid Mothers Temple played at Gabe’s. It was a 2 hour hurricane of swirling guitars and psychedelic sounds, most of which was played at a blinding speed. The showpiece was the manic guitar shredding of Kawabata Makoto. He swung his guitar around wildly and played with the precision of the guitarists in Slayer. If you were upset that you missed that show last year, this show offers you an opportunity to see Makoto’s genius in the flesh. After working to get into the country with his new partner Pikacyu from Afrirampo, another shredding Japanese band, Makoto will play down at the Wherehouse. With a variety of psychedelic openers, this will be a rocker to the fullest.


Iowa New Play Festival // Theatre B, Iowa Theater Building // 5:30 PM // Free for UI Students, $5 General Admission; Parental Discretion Advised

While the festival started on the 1st, the Iowa New Play Festival will be presenting new work from the writers in the Iowa Playwright’s Workshop. The play for this day is entitled “Proficient,” written by Jessica Foster. It asks a very simple question: Is what we are doing really serving our children? I don’t know the answer. You’ll have to see the play to find out. If 5:30 is a bit too early for you, there will be another performance of the play at 9:00 PM. Visit the University of Iowa Theatre Department website to find out what will be on stage for the remainder of the weekend. The festival ends on the 8th.


Rock 4 The Roof // Englert Theatre // 7:00 PM // $15, All Ages

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I don’t know about y’all, but the Englert is one of my favorite venues in this city. There’s nothing better than sitting either on the first floor or in the balcony and watch masters ply their craft on the historic stage. But with all that history comes historic problems. The roof on the Englert isn’t in excellent shape right now. You should be asking yourself what can I do to help? The answer to that is simple: attend Rock 4 The Roof. The benefit concert will feature quality music from local bands The Recliners, Dick Prall, OSG and Daddy’s Brother Band. While all of their styles are different, there is one thing that can be assured: they will have fun and are there to do their part, along with you, to make sure that the Englert keeps being a venue for the arts here in Iowa City for years and years to come.

319 Festival

The 2nd annual 319 Festival runs from 11AM to 6PM at Wetherby Park. Featuring acts varying from Folk to Funk to Hip-Hop to Gospel, it is an all ages, family event organized by the Broadway Neighborhood Center and AMERICorps. The SE side of Iowa City is a neighborhood that has developed a reputation over the past few years, but like Chuck D says, don’t believe the hype. Personally, I conduct a lot of business on the SE side of the city and enjoy its vibe. The 319 festival celebrates the community that has formed there.

Wet Hair w/ Broken Water, Soft Healer, and Hatchet Wound // White Lightning Wherehouse // 9:30 PM // $6, All Ages

I’m going heavy on the psych this week, but it’s with a purpose. For those of you who aren’t tapped into the Iowa City music underground, you are missing out on one of the best bands working in this country right now that’s based in your backyard: Wet Hair. What started as a duo has now become a trio, and with that evolution, the local band’s sound has matured and become one of the best out right now. While they still possess their original wanderer’s spirit, the songs are more focused, matching heavily echoed vocals and spaced-out keyboards with lock groove rhythms and more pop-based structures. It’s still psychedelic, but it’s a good dancing groove as well unlike before. With three openers who will also rip it up, this is a night to find out what the kids are doing.

There is something that didn’t fit into the Weekender this week that I think you should know about. The Pines are playing at the Mill this Friday after their set on Little Village Live this past Wednesday. Mike Roeder’s written an excellent preview of the show already. I link you to his work rather than rehash it here.

Whether you seeing a play at the New Play Festival, watching a band at the community run space that is the Wherehouse, or helping to repair the Englert roof, support your local arts. Iowa City has a very active arts community, and that’s a very special thing. We all should cherish it and help it remain strong. Until next weekend.


Have an event you want to see here? Email with details and dates!