This Monday, Iowa City music fans will have a fairly substantial problem. There isn’t going to be a Braveheart re-enactment or something along those lines. Instead, there will be three excellent shows.
Since they are the largest of the three bands, I should give Built to Spill the first consideration. The Boise-based band has played through three decades, two centuries, and more trips across the roads of the United States than any of us could ever imagine. Lead by Doug Martsch, the band is known for its intricate, heroic guitar work and their improvisatory nature at live shows. There is not too much I can say about this show that has not already been said about Built to Spill. They are indie rock legends, and it’s a treat that they are back in town. Although they have been to Iowa City before, they have not been here for a while. Although this is the most expensive of the shows at $20 on the day of, Built to Spill does put on quite a quality live show, which should not be missed by any fan of the band.
While Built to Spill will destroy Blue Moose until closing time, the club will be busy before hand, hosting an all-ages show for all of the dreamers. NYC-based group School of Seven Bells will be playing in the Blue Room (upstairs) at 7 PM ($10 adv./$12 day of show). Quickly rising, they are a part of the shoegaze revival that has slowly been taking place in the US for the past 5 years or so. While the American version has multiple renditions of My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain (Airiel, Alcian Blue, Skywave, A Place To Bury Strangers to name a few), there were few bands to pick up the more melodic, electronica-driven sound of Curve and Medicine (who is American). School of Seven Bells slide easily into the second half, writing moving, plaintive songs sung by twin sisters that are scored with guitars and rhythms that are clearly influenced by dance floors across the globe.
While they have a strong shoegaze base, they pull from goth bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees as well. So, they’ve earned their darkness credentials in full. But, I don’t think this is illustrative to anyone but me. To think about it in another way, SVIIB (Abbreviation. Put your roman numeral skills to use) is like the darker version of Au Revoir Simone. If ARS is in white, School of Seven Bells is in black, swaying in the corner to Loveless. Their sound is subtly dark and haunting, but it’s very welcoming and comforting. With openers Active Child, this should be a fantastic show, a special gift for all of the private dancers at home.
The last show that I’ll talk about will probably be the furthest out. I mean that in more ways than I could ever imagine. Down at the White Lightning Wherehouse, Night People (If you don’t know who they are (or you do know about it), you should read that awesome article about Shawn and Night People in the magazine) are putting on a show, which will show the strength of both the Iowa City and US music underground. This variation on that ever-common affair is quite a special one. Featuring new material from Wet Hair and some coldwave by Golden Dust, Grass Widow will be headlining.
If you are not familiar with them, Grass Widow is a three-piece, all-woman band from San Francisco. Signed to Kill Rock Stars, their sound is reminiscent of post-punk women like Kleenex/Liliput while still having some clear surf and psychedelic influences. They play with the urgency of a Sleater-Kinney while having the technical intricacy of a Mission of Burma. It’s hard to find bands that are solid post-punk practitioners nowadays. I would put them in that category without hesitation. Unlike a lot of other bands coming out now, they don’t sound like someone else. They sound like themselves, which is something that I can say for the three headliners that are playing in Iowa City on this Monday.Don’t believe me? Watch this video.
Supporting their new album Past Time, Grass Widow has the ability to do something large. Their sound is infectious, and they are quite polished. You can say that you saw them in an intimate space. As well, this would be a good time to affiliate yourself with the Wherehouse where a lot of cool shows happen all of the time. This one will start at 10 PM, so get there (700 S Dubuque) a little early.
Much like The Bangles, concertgoers will have a very busy Monday on their hands. There are three really good options. If you go to one or two (can’t go to both Grass Widow and Built to Spill b/c they’re at the same time), you’ve made the right choice. The only wrong choice is staying home.