On the Beat: Live music picks for mid-November

This month, Iowa City gets visits from an indie rock institution, a soulful British man and a band of misfits from Memphis led by a charismatic man who may or may not be allergic to pants. If the suggestion of a pants allergy can’t get you to read on, I need you to check your pulse to make sure everything is cool. Everyone up and running? Great.

NOBUNNY w/ Good Habits

The Mill – Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. ($6)

While he is not allergic to pants, Justin Champlin does not wear them when he is NOBUNNY, his on-stage alter ego. While generally seen in briefs, NOBUNNY has also been caught in heels and pantyhose. Pantyhose or no pantyhouse, NOBUNNY is rarely caught without his trusty rabbit mask. The Oakland-based Champlin started the NOBUNNY project in 2001. Over the years since its genesis, NOBUNNY has been entertaining audiences across the globe with live shows that are full of energy, vitality, thrills and an over-the-top stage persona.

NOBUNNY also thrills audiences with his music. Citing Hasil Adkins, The Ramones and The Cramps as influences on his sound, NOBUNNY is part psychobilly, part punk rock and part bubblegum pop. The disparate influences come together to create an upbeat sound that is fun and chaotic; it’s like Tullycraft if they went punk. From listening to both recording and live tracks, it is safe to say that NOBUNNY is best experienced live. Bands like these thrive off the energy they get when performing. When the crowd comes out at full intensity, the band will do the same. When they play at The Mill, encourage the band to go for it super hard, because those are the best types of shows to see.

James Blake

Englert Theatre – Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. ($25 Students, $27 Public)

If you aren’t someone who spends a considerable amount of time listening to music from the underground, it’s possible that you’ve missed the R&B movement happening right now. It’s been going on for about five years but just starting to hit its major stride. An important artist in this scene is James Blake—and, no, I’m not referring to the tennis player.

This James Blake hails from London and got his start making dubstep music. While it was good, the best parts of the tracks were Blake’s vocals, which sound like the whisperings of a bedroom artist. Blake went on to focus on this aspect more, combining his high-pitched, crooning style with haunting pianos and sparse electronics. While it creates a strange physical sensation, the initial impression is the music’s beauty and the musicianship of Blake: His music becomes both extremely personal—a result of the lyrics and singing style—and cold and distant—an effect created by the electronics.

Since his debut in 2009, Blake has sold out shows across the globe and appeared on various remixes and collaborations. The music-listening public, in addition to critics, caught onto the quality of his music, and he became a major artist in both his home country and the United States. Currently, he’s at the top of his game and the relaxed nature of his music, as well as his sit-down playing style, will be well-suited to the comfortable confines of the Englert.

Built to Spill w/ Slam Dunk, Genders

Blue Moose Tap House – Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. ($20)

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For most familiar with indie rock, the name Built to Spill is probably familiar. The Boise-based band is led by the talented Doug Martsch and has been playing its brand of guitar-led, anthemic indie rock since 1993. The band has been firmly ensconced in the indie rock underground with a continually growing, devoted fan base, and its music has grown with its fans over the years. Once a rough-hewn outfit, the five-piece band now clicks on all cylinders, turning out songs that have an arena sound while simultaneously challenging and expanding that genre’s boundaries.

This mentality most likely developed from the relentless touring of the band. The band’s use of melody, its sonic inventiveness and Martsch’s guitar heroics have made fans out of those who have seen them play a concert. Built to Spill plays with a passion that is greater than anything that can be heard on their records. The content of their sets can also change radically from night to night, making their shows fun and unpredictable. Although they may not be the band that started out two decades ago, they still bring a lot of intensity to the stage, and the reputation of their live shows only continues to grow.

A.C. Hawley runs the Chrysanthemum Sound System on KRUI 89.7 FM. It airs from 10 p.m. to midnight Thursday. More information can be found at

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