Local music deserves your attention

It’s been said that good music transcends time and place. Great music, to me, is the stuff that sounds like home. “Home” is an increasingly difficult concept to capture these days: it feels incredibly close, even from a distance; it’s familiar, but not boring; it’s exciting, but not unnerving. There’s something about “home” that makes us feel comfortable, even when it’s hundreds of miles away. The concept of place has been undermined by the web of social media and the universality of the Internet. In a few years from now, place will be largely irrelevant professionally and technologically; a lot of people in the class of 2012 probably won’t have to even go to a physical workplace to lead productive lives, nor will anything remain unknown or mysterious due to distance. No matter how close the Internet has brought different workplaces and groups of professionals, something will always feel different when you are home. Local sights and sounds will always be more comforting than wandering through a foreign place. This is why some of my favorite musicians are based in Central Iowa. Music is like local, coop-grown food (a simile you organic food hippies can relate to): it’s better harvested just a few miles away, not a few thousand. In the past year, the Central Iowa music scene was shoved onto me after I (initially jokingly) assumed the position of managing Ames High band Jaw Harp Potential. I got in touch with Ames music guru and frontman of Mumford’s Nate Logsdon, who also books shows for the Space for Ames in Campustown and the Ames Pantorium on Douglas. While scheduling JHP shows with Nate, I found myself texting and calling him for a different project: Aquapalooza. Booking acts for this rather ambitious benefit concert made me realize how fortunate we Amesites are; not every community has a thriving and supportive group of artists at its disposal. How many communities can boast a vinyl record-producing music coop that releases spectacular Iowan-created LPs and EPs in gorgeous and professional packaging (I am, of course, referring to Ames’s very own Maximum Ames Records)? How many towns have nearly a dozen music venues that all work together to promote local artists and one another? How many states are home to several different music festivals that advertise one another on their Twitter and Facebook accounts (Des Moines’ 80/35 festival has actively promoted GDP, Iowa City’s Mission Creek festival, Maximum Ames Music Festival, and even Aquapalooza through its various social networking accounts)? Check out the 80/35 lineup. Sure, you notice some big names, like Death Cab For Cutie and the Avett Brothers. But you also see some names at the bottom of the bill, like Mumford’s and Leslie and the Ly’s. Don’t discount the brilliance and importance of these Iowa musicians just because they aren’t on your iPod or haven’t been featured on the Grammys (Leslie Hall, for the record, is an Ames High grad who has toured with Yo Gabba Gabba! and has over 23,000 “likes” on Facebook). If you buy a two-day pass to 80/35, and I definitely think you should, be sure to make time in your busy day of concert-going to check out the local bands on the side stages. You might be pleasantly surprised by what Iowa has to offer. Aside from attending live shows, many of which are in the $5-$10 range, another way you can support local musicians is to buy their albums. Many, like Pennyhawk, have digital downloads available on their Bandcamp accounts, while others, like Christopher the Conquered (one of my favorite bands, anywhere) have released CDs and full-length vinyl LPs on Iowa labels. And you know what else is cool? Knowing these people in real life. You don’t have to pretend to know them like how you pretend to know Lady Gaga because she retweeted your extremely enthusiastic comment last week. Nate Logsdon, Chris Ford, Patrick Tape Fleming–all these talented artists are willing to get to know you after shows or release parties. They are only interested in creating beautiful and memorable music; the last thing they want is fame and fortune and international attention, which is probably what makes their albums so darn listenable. So give Rihanna and Coldplay a rest and buy some River Monks or Poison Control Center or some other Central Iowa band’s album. Instead of saving up for a huge trip to Chicago to see the Black Keys in a stadium, go see Nuclear Rodeo perform live just a few feet in front of you. I promise that no matter how you feel about “indie” artists now, local music will make you feel right at home.