music

ASK Studio

An area of north Des Moines that holds a nostalgic place in the hearts of many central Iowans is being remade into a site where future generations can build memories.

Riverview Park sat on an island near the Des Moines River and operated from 1915 until 1978.

Plans are now in place to convert it into an outdoor concert venue large enough for 10,000 people.

Des Moines Parks and Recreation Director Ben Page says in designing the project, it was important to celebrate the future while honoring the past.

Music lovers of Iowa unite! Iowa has a growing summer music festival scene. To get a handle on the happenings, we've compiled this handy guide. If you see something missing, tweet us @IPRStudioOne. TO learn more about these festivals, and to hear interviews with many of the organizers, check out The B-Side, IPR's music blog. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

On starry summer nights in rural Maquoketa in Northeastern Iowa, you can hear the sounds of bands like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Norah Jones and Conor Oberst wafting from inside an old implement barn built in the 1950s. The barn sits next to an original farmstead house turned art gallery that has been in Tiffany Biehl’s family for more than 150 years.

When Luke Benson started approaching other music lovers in the state about his idea for the Iowa Music Project, he did not anticipate that the end result would be a showcase where he and a committee would be trying to pick fewer than 30 songs from more than 250 submissions. 

"We were hoping for maybe 100, and we got that many in the last week alone. It was a tremendous response," says Benson. 

Iowa photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier and Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt of the Pines are working together on a new project that merge art, music and a concern for a blighted rural landscape. Wilcox Frazier says the collaboration began when the three connected on their Iowa roots.

“If you grow up as an artist or a musician, you see this rich cultural heritage in Iowa and you begin to wonder as your travel around how things became the way they are. For us, this is a longing for home,” he says.

Facebook

Hip-hop artist Dahlak Brathwaite was arrested after being caught with magic mushrooms as a youth.  During a show he calls Spiritrials, he raps about his arrest and how he was treated by the criminal justice system. 

"The way the criminal justice system is set up, if you are caught with drugs, you are labeled as a drug addict who needs help," he says.

courtesy of the The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra

Wacky costumes, ukuleles and confetti are not usually a part of orchestral performances. The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra is trying to change that, and they’re touring Iowa this week. Age Pryor, the band's co-founder, says that when the group got started, they were really just a ukulele jam band meeting at the local cafe. 

Christina Lynn Johnson, / Wikimedia Commons

His instrument was small, but his persona was not. Herbert Khaury, known as “Tiny Tim,” was born in New York in the late 30s, became a star in the 60s and later moved to Iowa for a time before he died in 1996.

Justin Martell, author of a new biography about Tiny Tim, says that he first became aware of the musician at a Halloween theme park.

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation / Wikimedia Commons

Every once in a while we hear about a child musical prodigy who can play an instrument better than most of us could ever dream of playing.  Few of these prodigies become adult stars, but Chris Thile is an exception. 

Thile started playing mandolin with the band Nickel Creek when he was only 8 years old, and he won his first Grammy at age 16.  Today, he fronts the band Punch Brothers and has been named a MacArthur Genius. Starting in early 2016, he’s going to be taking over as host of A Prairie Home Companion for Garrison Keillor.

Courtesy of Joseph Firecrow

Joseph Firecrow remembers growing up on the reservation and listening to the elders play the flute. He started learning the instrument when he was 18 and says a true Cheyenne flute player hasn’t mastered the craft until he can both play and make a flute.

Chlot's Run / Flickr

Instead of a compact disc, people who preordered The Awful Purdies' album, "All Recipes Are Home," got a different, but no less meaningful physical manifestation of the album--a packet of seeds.

"The people who preordered the album planted the seeds in the spring and at the record release on June 27th, you could see the photos of the food they’d already grown. People were actually eating the food they'd grown from the album," Katie Roche, a member of The Awful Purdies, says.

Clay Masters / IPR

Around the start of the new millennium, the eyes of the nation turned to Omaha, Neb., and bands like Bright Eyes and its label Saddle Creek Records. As it often does, the spotlight has flickered elsewhere in the search of what's next. But Omaha's music scene is still going strong: there are a number of new albums coming out this year with ties to the Midwestern city.

Courtesy of Nick Dawe

A cappella singing has come a long way since its roots in cathedrals or a barber shop quartet, as exemplified by the new film Pitch Perfect 2. Lee Nelson directs choral activities at Wartburg College and says it’s a constantly evolving genre.

IPR's Pat Blank

The month of April means tax time and for the past 50 years, in one Northeast Iowa town there’s a tradition that’s almost as reliable. It’s the Shell Rock Spring Swing Show.