As I sat at the Pressed And concert at the Mill on Feb. 7, I watched a couple of young men rock the stage. “Rock” might be inaccurate as they were sitting cross-legged for the show. Anyway, the spacey, hip-hop styled instrumental music that the two were making live fit well with the videos of water and a tourist bus playing on the back wall of the stage. As it progressed, I realized that the show was exactly what I wanted: a welcome respite from an otherwise hectic period in my own life. It was easy to give my mind over to the band and just let them do what they wanted with it. By the end of the night, though, I was disappointed.
This, certainly, was not the band’s fault as the music was excellent. The reason was that the turnout was low. Usually this doesn’t bother me. I’ve come to expect it at shows, especially when I go to see bands named To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie or The Minute Intentions of a Boa Constrictor (for the record, both were fantastic). This Pressed And show hit me differently because it was the kind of concert that I think a lot of people would have been really into if they were willing to step outside of their normal realm and check it out. This got me thinking about one of my favorite groups: ABBA.
In their song “Take A Chance On Me,” Agnetha and Anni-Frid tell a tale that is really representative of how I approach music. It’s also how I want you, fair reader, to approach music this month. In the song, the ladies sing, “You don’t wanna hurt me, baby don’t worry, I ain’t gonna let you/ Let me tell you now/ My love is strong enough to last when things are rough.” Just like the love of those Swedish ladies, music will always be there for you. All you need to do is take a chance on it. This can be hard because a band can burn you. I have many experiences with that in my past from poor quality psych bands and aging rockers to boring singer-songwriters and whack emcees. While there is always a risk of a show being bad, there are few things more magical than when a show hits you deeply. Music never wants to hurt you. It only wants to treat you well. When you find that special moment with music, it’s like falling in love.
March brings a lot of diverse, interesting music to the area. If you are reading this article in the magazine, there is a good chance that you found the insert for this year’s Mission Creek Festival. From the afrobeat of Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 to the progressive indie pop of Little Scream, there are many shows to try. Read the insert and take a chance on one. You could find your new favorite band. The festival is not until the end of the month. There are shows to entertain in the meantime.
Keeping with the idea of this month’s column, take a chance and visit our neighbors to the North: Cedar Rapids. At CSPS on March 21, NYC-based, Ghana-born emcee Blitz the Ambassador will take the stage. Possessing a flow that is precise, smooth and impassioned, Blitz’s music merges the Ghanaian pop form of highlife with the African-American genres soul and funk as well as an understanding of hip hop as a political force. Spitting conscious rhymes without being preachy, Blitz is an emcee worth listening to. Touring with a full band, fans of The Roots and The Uniphonics will get into this show.
On March 23, the California Guitar Trio will be playing at CSPS. Hailing from Belgium, Japan and the US, the music of CGT reflects their various upbringings around the globe as classically trained guitarists. In their live shows, CGT does not know the meaning of the word “genre” as their sets can merge classical music with popular songs and jazz standards. All are played with supreme precision and technical virtuosity on acoustic guitars. Anybody that wants a nice, mellow start to their weekend should start here.
There is plenty to try in Iowa City as well. March 9 brings A Place to Bury Strangers to Gabe’s. Hailing from Brooklyn, APTBS is one of the last real practitioners of old school shoegaze in the vein of My Bloody Valentine and Ride. While their sound is loud, it’s not aggressive. APTBS keeps a strong psychedelic bent to their songs as the guitars and bass swirl to create a space to escape into, something that seems really strange for a band that is as loud as them. Did I mention that they are loud?
The quieter post-punk front brings two different options. On one side, there is Cursive playing at The Mill on March 22 with Cymbals Eat Guitars and Conduits. Along with putting on an excellent live show, Cursive have grown up from being emo. While they are still emotional, lead singer Tim Kasher doesn’t whine anymore. The new maturity merges his more sophisticated lyrics with the angular guitar rock for which the band is well known.
The sonic profile of Cursive also holds for We Were Promised Jetpacks, who will be playing March 25 at the Blue Moose. Similar to British rockers Bloc Party and Futureheads, the Scottish WWPJ is twitchy, dynamic and young. When they get older, WWPJ might slow down their sound. For now, their high-intensity approach to rock and roll is one that is always exciting in a live context. They will be supported by Bad Veins.
While I never thought ABBA would influence me or become the basis of a column, I’m glad that they did. The only reason they became important to me was because I took a chance on them.