Photos by Kent Williams
Having a Mission Creek pass is like having a two pound box of chocolates. You can get sated early, but you keep eating because it’s just so good! My number one tip for Mission Creeksters is to pace yourself, and don’t try to see everything. Take your time and soak it in.
On Tuesday, I went to see Laurie Anderson and totally missed Annalibera as a result, which Mission Creek’s Chris Wiersma told me was great. I was on hand, however, for Alex Body’s brilliant set of orgiastic techno songs. The Alex Body sound involves thick, bumping, intense beats with lush chords and Alex’s voice floating over it. Body is shaping up as one of Iowa City’s most promising musicians; I can’t wait to see his Giant Question Mark set at the Yacht Club tonight.
After Alex finished, I went over to the Mill and caught the tail end of Mark McGuire’s set. McGuire is a guitarist/songwriter/electronic musician, and while his songs and sound design are great, what makes him special is his brilliantly melodic guitar playing. He doesn’t play like a virtuoso; he’s better than that. He spins out intricate ostinato rhythmic parts and soaring lead lines with an intensity that makes his mostly pre-programmed backing tracks come alive.
Back at Gabe’s, I saw the middle of Warpaint’s performance, which sounded amazing. It’s pigeonholing, but I think they sound like an American Women’s Radiohead. How women write and perform music differently is a complex and hard to define thing; it’s turning into a whole genre of Academic research. Warpaint, meanwhile, makes intricate, driving art rock that’s warm and beautiful. They also have an interesting fan base in Iowa City; I saw 30 or 40 middle aged men mixed in with the undergrad/hipster majority; I suspect that Warpaint must be a huge hit with older guys listening to music at work.
On Wednesday, I missed out on Circuit des Yeux, who I wanted to catch. The following group, New Bums, were really interesting stylistically. There’s not a lot of shoe-gaze folk duos out there, but I will say that an earnest singer-songwriter strumming a guitar can only be improved by having a guy with a giant pedalboard making a cloud of sweet guitar drones behind him.
Earth, like Pallbearer last year, provided the stoner metal gravitas for the festival. Dylan Carlson might play the same riff for 10 minutes, but it is an amazing sensual experience to ride his guitar tone, not to mention the subtle way he sculpts the sound of the guitar by waving it around in an on-stage maelstrom of amplified sound. It was trance music at it’s most meditative and overwhelming.
I topped the night off at the Yacht Club, catching Curt Oren, Taser Island and Wolf Eyes. Oren’s solo saxophone playing is gradually shifting out of the shadow of his primary influence Colin Stetson, finding his own voice in the virtuoso repetition of jagged arpeggios. But Curt is more than just a horn player. His sax performances were interleaved with edgy, slightly hostile little monologues. He took the piss out Laurie Anderson in a way that was either totally mean or totally hilarious. Or both.
When Taser Island started playing, they were showing some of the same videos that they used last year at the festival, but the music was almost completely different. Jeff Ray and the person he was playing with — I didn’t catch her name — have added more experimental electronics to Jeff’s guitar and voice. I enjoyed the 2013 set, but this was denser and more texturally varied.
By the time Wolf Eyes started, I was in the ‘eaten one two many chocolates’ mode. They were great, by which I mean they were kind of terrible. Loud, snotty, distorted, lurching, spastic, overwhelming and crude. They were terrible in the old sense of the world, the way an Earthquake is terrible. And maybe my state of sore feet, ringing ears, and mental exhaustion were exactly how Wolf Eyes should be appreciated. Or maybe not. It was like having a panic attack while being too tired to get excited, and the perfect setup for the encore, which was being in bed in a dark, quiet room.