In Langston Hughes’ 1921 poem “April Rain Song,” the thing that everyone hates about April–its big problem–is instead turned into a point of celebration, ending with the lines, “The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night / And I love the rain.” This point was totally lost on Billie Myers, who borrowed the phrase “Kiss the Rain” (taken from the poem’s first line) to create a dramatic speak-sung radio hit about a long-distance romance gone sour. Blech.
It turns out that both rain and April (each subsets of the larger, more glorious category “Spring”) frequently get this kind of musical treatment. But as an Iowa Citian, that just feels wrong. When the weather gets nice I get excited (it is 60 degrees as I’m writing this! Woo!). But mopey songwriters stay predictably mopey; Sometimes stereotypes are true, I suppose. Take Three Dog Night’s “Pieces of April” (written by Kenny Loggins’ brother Dave), where the chorus, “I’ve got pieces of April / but it’s morning in May,” has a vaguely ominous ring to it–something has changed in this relationship, but we aren’t sure what. Things are much clearer in the Paul Simon-penned “April Come She Will,” where the love of April is literally dead by August. Even Pat fucking Boone has a song about not letting your April love slip away. We get it already, jeez! No regrets this April, everybody. Make it count, and make it rain. Then towel off and go see some shows.
One of the themes of the shows this month is a wealth of talented female songwriters showcasing their stuff. The first is journeywoman Catie Curtis, the New England singer who has been touring and releasing albums for about 15 years now. I first heard her on WYEP Pittsburgh in 1999, when her fifth album, A Crash Course in Roses, came out. A standout track from that album is “What’s the Matter,” a witty but poignant song about how her hometown of Saco, Maine, reacted when she came out of the closet. Needless to say, it wasn’t awesome. Since then, Curtis has committed to GLBT issues as well as song craft. Her 9th album, Sweet Life, was out last year and features really traditional instrumentation–banjos, fiddles, mandolins, etc.–so The Mill should be the perfect setting for her show on April 14.
Another songwriter of note is Jen Gloecker, who plays the Blue Moose on April 6. Her website is filled with superlatives about how everyone and their mom wanted to work with her after hearing 30 seconds of her music…and I actually can buy that. There’s something familiar in her voice and delivery, but she wraps things up in this gauzy, spooky instrumentation. I’m not sure I love her new record, Mouth of Mars, but I am really intrigued by it. Also, her openers are Sarah Cram and Dave Zollo, which would make an awesome show in and of itself, so consider Gloeckner a bonus. I also think show is a bargain at $6.
Third on our songwriter tour is local royalty Pieta Brown. Just when I thought she couldn’t impress me any more, she did those two December shows at the Mill that were amazing. See the magic happen at the Mill again, on April 9.
The band Rooney is coming through town this month, which might be your only chance to stand very close to someone who has appeared on the show The O.C.. To me, this band is inseparable not only from that series, but also that specific mid-decade moment when Death Cab for Cutie became the biggest band in America. Rooney has this song called “Popstars” that in retrospect is pretty hilarious: “These are the words of the pop stars / these are the words for the unsophisticated money machines / for the killers of rock and roll.” Whoops, turns out you were talking about yourselves! Meta. Anyway, they play on April 14 at the Blue Moose and they actually do have some pretty catchy–dare I say it?–pop songs.
It’s been ages since I wrote about or went to a metal show, but that all changes this month as Athens, Ohio band and Ozzfest alumnus Skeletonwitch come into town to play the Blue Moose on the April 11. Led by brothers Chance and Nate Garnette, they released their last album, Breathing the Fire, in 2009. They’ll be playing with 3 Inches of Blood, The Horde, and the tamely-named-by-comparison Blizzard at Sea, who are (I think) a relatively new local band that just recorded some material.
Iowa City’s most soulful band by a country mile, The Diplomats of Solid Sound, are playing a show at the Blue Moose this month on the 15th. The aforementioned Sarah Cram does duty here as one of The Diplomettes. Expect hip-dropping and a killer horn section.
Also noteworthy this month is Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s, who frankly I don’t get but the kids love it. They’re at the Moose on April 8. The Cave Singers, along with local Americana rockstars Grand Tetons, is at the Moose on April 12 (great month of programming there!). Public Property and Dave Bess are at the Yacht Club on April 22. And dudes, I almost forgot, what would the month of 4 be without the day 20? For those inclined to spend the day dazed and/or confused, the Yacht Club is hosting Dead Larry and Insectoid.