I often suffer from option paralysis when attending music festivals. But the wonderful thing about Mission Creek is the way it has been carefully curated by the programmers, ensuring that you can have eye- and ear-opening experiences just blindly walking from venue to venue.
Still, it helps to have some kind of exploratory roadmap.
With that in mind, below are my must-see acts for the 2019 Mission Creek Festival, each day of the week, Tuesday through Sunday. This is dedicated to all those who reserve the right to rock or, alternately, drench themselves in darkness.
Noura Mint Seymali
Tuesday, April 2 at 8:30 p.m. — The Mill
w/ Black Stork
I love headlining act Jenny Lewis, a captivating singer who will perform Tuesday night at the Englert, but do yourself a favor and also check out Noura Mint Seymali’s show at The Mill (if you time it right, you can catch both). Born into a prominent line of West African praise singers, Noura began performing at the age of 13 with her stepmother, Dimi Mint Abba, a legendary griot vocalist in the northwest African nation of Mauritania. Noura was also trained in instrumental and vocal technique by her grandmother, Mounina, and her father, Seymali Ould Ahmed Vall, also key figures in the Mauritanian music scene.
Noura is taking these traditional musical roots in more contemporary directions with a little help from her husband and bandmate, Jeich Ould Chighaly, whose spidery guitar lines add a hint of Afro-psychedelia to the funky rhythms produced by her crack band. This is a rare opportunity to experience these global music festival veterans in a relatively small room.
Wednesday, April 3 at 7:30 p.m. — The Mill
Opening for Ratboys w/ Halfloves
Hailing from Grinnell, Katie In and Erik Jarvis are the multi-instrumentalist core of Pink Neighbor—another act nicely suited for The Mill’s intimate stage. Ping-ponging between baroque chamber pop, catchy 1960s AM radio, louche lounge easy-listening music and movie soundtrack-inspired instrumental arrangements, this duo is as light as an Iowa spring breeze.
Pink Neighbor have quickly developed into a regional treasure since forming in 2016, releasing two EPs and several singles. Their lush melodies and layers of harmonies will burrow in your brain long after they leave the stage.
Younger and Guerilla Toss
Thursday, April 4 at 9 p.m. — Gabe’s
For a shot of adrenaline, this show is a can’t-miss. One of Iowa City’s best homegrown rock bands, Younger will be playing in support of their fantastic sophomore album, Night Milk. Specializing in complex arrangements, all while never forgetting to rock the fuck out, their songs feature fuzzed-out guitars, layers of vocal harmonies, pedal-to-the-metal tempos and gum-smacking bad girl lyrics.
Come for Younger and stay for Guerilla Toss (see upcoming band profile and interview in the April 17 issue of Little Village). The group’s hypnotic grooves, gurgling synths and guitar squalls provide a sturdy bedrock for the speak-sing vocals of frontwoman Kassie Carlson. Guerilla Toss’ sensory overload experience is not to be missed.
Peanut Ricky and the Fiends
Friday, April 5 at 9:30 p.m. — Yacht Club
Opening for HIDE w/ Dryad
The dungeon-like basement of the Yacht Club is a perfect place to host Peanut Ricky and the Fiends, who will be previewing songs from their upcoming debut album Mercy Mercy, out later this year. A self-described “cowboy killer with a kitchen knife,” Peanut Ricky (née Jo Adams) channels a spooky, reverb-soaked, Roy Orbison aesthetic through dark sheets of rain and hiss.
Like a phantasmagoric siren song that takes a corporeal form — with a serrated edge to your throat and a peck on the cheek — Peanut Ricky and their four-piece band sculpt sound from fragments of old doo-wop melodies, country music basslines and subtle waves of post-rock noise. Occupying a liminal space between the sublime and grotesque, unsettling beauty lurks behind Peanut Ricky’s long black veil.
Saturday, April 6 at 8:30 p.m. — Yacht Club
w/ Mock Identity
Blurring the boundaries between poetry, performance art, music and the science of sound, Camae Ayewa will perform Saturday night as Moor Mother. This musician, poet and visual artist’s debut album, Fetish Bones, made a big critical splash after it was released in 2016, earning praise from hipster arbiters of taste such as The Wire magazine and Pitchfork.
Working from a bass-heavy foundation that explores the possibilities of low-end quantum theory, Moor Mother’s Afrofuturist soundscapes envelop the text of Ayewa’s poetry within thick, synapse-frying textures. Dark, twisted, gorgeous and transcendent.
Sunday, April 7 at 6 p.m. — The Mill
w/ Ryan Joseph Anderson
There is no rest for the wicked at Mission Creek Festival, but after a week of genre-bending sonic experimentation, John Moreland’s performance at The Mill is a perfect way to wind down. This Tulsa-based artist, with roots in Texas and northern Kentucky, fits squarely into a music genre I call “pretty sad music” (pretty, as in beautiful, but also pretty effin’ sad).
The gritty grain of Moreland’s voice is nicely suited for the melancholy melodies that saturate his growing body of work, encompassing seven albums over the past decade. The gorgeous acoustic finger-picking and aching vocals that run through his classic song “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars” are worth the price of admission alone.
As Willie Nelson once sang, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over / They say that all good things must end.”
Kembrew McLeod is planning to unveil an extra large Baphomet statue on the Ped Mall this April to help beautify the downtown area. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 260.