Monthly Archives: February 2013

High Energy Brother/Sister Rock Duo Brings The Weird to Iowa City

If you’re a fan of The Sonics, The Monks or The Dead Weather, then you will most likely dig what the group White Mystery has to offer. Based out of Chicago, White Mystery is a brother-sister duo that started up in the April of 2008. Their music is a mix of distorted power chords, high pitched guitar riffs and the voice of a woman, Miss Alex White, that belts through the song. Frances White, the brother, also sings and plays the drums to accompany his sister shredding on her guitar. According to Guitar World, she is ranked in the “Top Ten Female Guitarists to Look Out For.” Miss Alex White started playing guitar in her early teens and Francis picked up the drums around that time as well. Alex had played in her fair share of band before collaborating with her brother. They have released two full length albums that have earned recognition from well-known publications such as, LA Weekly and The Chicago TribuneIt truly is a family business because their parents or another member of their family is in charge of White Mystery’s recording, production, art, design and assembly.

Some listeners would consider their music weird and others would call it experimental but either way, there is no denying that this red-headed sibling rock duo has some unique talent. They will be playing at The Mill tonight at 11 PM. Good Habits, a group of guys with catchy music that appeals to a variety of genres, will open for White Mystery. Be there early to get more bang for your buck by checking out both artists!

(Video credit: whitemysteryband)

Head for the Hills: Modern Acoustic Music With Traditional Melodies

Head for the Hills, a group created within a circle of friends at Colorado State University in 2004, was originally bluegrass inspired music but with a more refreshed take on it. Over the years their music has been classified as “modern music” that embodies traditional bluegrass with modern styles and sounds. The quartet of guys consists of Adam Kinghorn (guitar), Michael Chappell (mandolin), Joe Lessard (fiddle) and Matt Loewen (bass). Their mixture of new and old appeals to a wide array of listeners. Their self-titled cd release in 2012, Head for the Hills, charted a position on the CMH Tope 200 national radio listings. Their self titled release also landed them the #29 spot on Colorado Radio’s “Top 50 Albums of 2010.”  Head for the Hill’s early success paved the opportunity to perform at several well-known music festivals in 2012 which included: Wakarusa Music Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival and SxSW, just to name a few. Their success has only just begun and a talented group of individuals such as these guys, the boundaries are limitless.

Head for the Hills will be visiting Iowa City as part of their 2013 Winter Tour.  They will be playing at the Iowa City Yacht Club tomorrow, Wednesday, February 27th. Come out and support these breakthrough artists that have put a twist to traditional bluegrass to take a more refreshing take on acoustics. The show is open to all ages and will cost you a mere $7 at the door. The show starts at 8 P.M. and there are no opening acts so be sure to get there beforehand!

(Video credit: OblioProductions)

The Power of Music On Stressed and Depressed College Students

Music therapy is a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs. This is an effective practice for all ages, whether you have a disability or not. It is especially effective for normal college students that are seeking out a way to alleviate all of the stresses that college embodies and improve communication skills. Kirsten Nelsen, a board-certified music therapist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, was once an active musician herself before she went to school for pre-med. Halfway through her college career, she dropped pre-med because she missed the outlet that music provided for her. In this interview, she explains what music therapy can do, how a busy college student can access, as well as benefit from it and what is best thing one can get out of music therapy. 

LAUREN DRENNAN: So I guess I would just like to start out by getting the brief summary of what music therapy is and  what the goal is for the outcome of a session.

KIRSTEN NELSON: Yes. So we are musicians first, live musicians as you can see. Then we apply psychology, sociology, learning about special populations, educations and how we can use music in those areas to address goals that might not be musical in nature. So we look at the needs of each patient or each client and see how we can apply music to help them have these outcomes.

LAUREN DRENNAN: I’m sure it applies to every age group but is there a type of music to help different age ranges?

KIRSTEN NELSON: The best music is the music that you prefer. So that would be whatever  your favorite music is to listen to. We have to be very well versed in a lot of different types of music. I need to be familiar with whatever popular music is out there right now because you can imagine if you were in the hospital and feeling down, and I brought in a type of music that you absolutely hate, it is not going to be effective for you. So the first thing that I am going to do is find out what kind of music you like and what you respond to. From there, we are going to use that to help address whatever needs are that you have. Some of the things I would think about typical folks your age might be dealing with the stress of school, motivation to exercise or any motivation to get anything done. I know fatigue is a big issue when you are a college student because you are really busy and are doing a lot of things. You might look at some songs that really pump you up, something that really gets me going and is the right tempo to work out to or to walk to. That is a way for using it for yourself. Now, let’s say the that you had a physical disability involved with that too, we know that the rhythm can really help people walk more normally and move more normally because we move in rhythm. It is also used to help you calm down when you need to take a break and rest, there may be certain music to help you do that and we do teach assisted music relaxation. So I work with people that have pain and anxiety to help them learn deep breathing techniques and imaging them in a positive place, blowing the pain out of their body. We use their mind and the power that it has over their body to help them relax.

LAUREN DRENNAN: Do you ever suggest going somewhere to give you some peace of mind and to hear that kind of music?

KIRSTEN NELSON: You mean going out to concerts?

LAUREN DRENNAN: Concerts or if you wanted to go into a coffee shop.

KIRSTEN NELSON: Yeah, I haven’t really done that too much. I encourage people to get involved in music making too so if they belong to an organization, I know a lot of the performing groups here have levels of choirs and bands that are open to all ages and all abilities of people who have played. So, I encourage people to get into groups where they can be playing, singing and making music. What we really are about is, listening to music is great but we really want people making music if at all possible because we know it has a lot of benefits.

LAUREN DRENNAN: How does it help with communication skills?

KIRSTEN NELSON: It can be as simple as helping someone say something they need to say. So we might look at some lyrics, say to the John Mayer song “Say,” and maybe if we have some people here dealing with depression, not being able to say things to their family that they need to say then we can talk about those lyrics and have an exercise where they are writing things out. You can think of times where you are like, “oh my gosh, that is exactly where I am at,” but it just didn’t have the words for it. The way I see students accessing this is by finding ways to use the concepts and applying them in their lives.

LAUREN DRENNAN: What is the greatest thing someone can get out of accessing music therapy?

KIRSTEN NELSON: I think some of the most wonderful experiences that I have seen is when the music is bringing someone out of their shell so that they can then begin to have that journey of becoming well. That is when I see it touching me and the people around them.

I would like to extend my appreciation to Kirsten Nelson for participating in this interview. To hear more from Kirsten Nelson about music therapy, listen to the full interview here.

Reggae Found Amongst the Cornfields

Waterloo native, Tony Brown, has been a professional musician for decades. Tony has shared his talent across the country and across the world. In the 1960s, Brown, along with his group, were groundbreakers because a lot of African-American bands were not playing at the same venues. He was also involved with the Black Panther Party and NAACP, mainly to help out his community and bring out the inner-strength within his community. He has recorded 20 albums with tunes full of soul, reggae, R&B  and blues that all share a message of hope. Brown’s main goal is to be a moving force in social change within his music. He makes his music to motivate people of all ages to expand their outlook on life to better themselves and their community. Brown has been inducted into the Iowa Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Brown has spent most of his life but spent some time in Belize, the West Indies and Central America. He is now back in Iowa, where it all began for him. He continues to play his music and spread his message of social change today. This Thursday, February 21st, Tony Brown will be at Shakespeare’s (819 First Ave, Iowa City) for the The Big BackYard Jam Session 2013 from 7 to 11 P.M. The best thing of all: NO COVER!

Random fact about Tony Brown: He used to be a football player back in his day and made tryouts with the Chicago Bears, as well as the Kansas City Chiefs.

(Picture credit: Iowa City Press Citizen/Video credit: Johnny Miller)

Country Mice: Rock Music That Fuses With Twang

Do not be fooled by the name of the band, Country Mice. They are no redneck, honkey-tonk kind of group, rather, they are a rock group that produces twang-infused melodies to create a sound that is often compared to a variety of indie rockers. The members of the group all grew up in the Midwest but are now based out of Brooklyn because that is where founder, Jason Rueger, fled to after he knew he would not be able to make it in the music scene in a small town of 300 in Kansas. The other members of the band that Rueger met during his journey to New York are Ben Bullington (guitarist) and Kurt Kuehn (drummer). Their name came from a friend who referred to them as “country mice,” being that they were all from the Midwest. The addition of bassist Mike Feldman, who was not a native of the Midwest, joined their group later to form a quartet.

In 2011, the came out with their debut album Twister. This album comprised of Americana tunes mixed with a little bit of rock has caught the attention of many crowds across the country. The catchy guitar chords, chilling voice of Jason and the strong lyrics are all a recipe for music that is exceptional without question. The Country Mice will being their talent to The Mill tomorrow, February 19th. Admission is $8 and the show starts at 9:00 PM. The show opens with The Mutts, an indie group with an experimental sound, and Julia Klee, a woman that has some serious pipes on her (watch out Adele), so be sure to get there early to check them out!

(Video credit: Gordon Holmes)

Progressive/Jam Fusion Band to Play at IC Yacht Club

It was in the early years of college at the University of Colorado-Boulder that paved the way of success for the quartet, Jet Edison. At the end of their freshman year is when they came to the realization of what they wanted to do and that realization was to pursue music to play in front of hundreds, if not thousands, which they have done just that. The quartet consists of Phil Johnson (keys, vocals), Max Kabat (guitar, vocals), Adam Mason (bass, vocals), and Alex Johnson (drums, vocals). They all met though mutual friends and began their music making in the basement in a dorm while attending Boulder. Today, they are not only praised in the Rocky Mountain region, but their recognition has spread throughout the nation with the release of their first album, Adopt a Highway, in 2010. Using a variety of time signatures, tempos, dynamic, etc., Jet Edison’s original groovy jams and classic rock anthem covers are sure to keep you on the dance floor all night long.

They bring individual influences from a broad sort of genres ranging from rock to jazz. Their genre defying tunes are accompanied by originally written lyrics and provide raw energy for their fans to dance the night away. You all can do that tonight for $6 at the Iowa City Yacht Club. Doors open up at 9:00 PM and the show starts at 10:00 PM. Get there early to check out the opening band, The Shams, a group that defines themselves as “rock ‘n roll with You a banjo.” It is a Friday night and classes are out for the weekend so what else do you have to do?

(Video credit: Phil Johnson)

Milwaukee Folk Band to Take The Stage at Gabe’s

(Photo credit: Peter Vidani)

(Photo credit: Peter Vidani)

Wisconsin based, Field Report, is led by frontman Chris Porterfield, a former bandmate of Bon Iver’s, Justin Vernon in DeYarmond Edison. After their break up in 2006, Porterfield embarked on his own journey and project, Conrad Plymouth. This shift allowed him to write his own songs which he was not able to do when we was a member of Vernon’s group. Porterfield then quickly changed his focus to Field Report.

He came up with the name by using the anagram, a rearrangement of letters, of his surname. He spent six years perfecting the songs he wrote. Field Report has gained much respect and recognition. They have opened for artists such as Counting Crows, Emmylou Harris and Aimee Mann. They have also received attention from Rolling Stone, naming them as a group that was “poised to break out in 2012.” Porterfield is also accompanied by six other guys which most all of them also take the position of back up vocals as well:

– Nick Berg on keyboard
– Travis Whitty on bass
– Jeff Mitchell on baritone and guitar
– Damian Strigens on drums
– Ben Lester on pedal steel
– Shane Leonard on drums, fiddle and banjo

The Field Report is much like something you would enjoy while sipping on a cup of coffee in Starbucks. In the tradition of folk music, Porterfield’s tracks are full of soothing guitar chords and harmonic voices. Come out to Gabe’s tomorrow, February 13th, at Gabe’s (330 E. Washington Street, Iowa City, Iowa). The event is 19 and over with a $10 cover fee. Show starts at 8:00 PM but get there when the doors open at 7:00 PM to get a good spot!

Iowa City Man Revives Local Music Venue

The Mill offers seating outside in addition to their space for seating inside and the stage area. (Photo Credit: Author)

The Mill offers seating outside in addition to their space for seating inside and the stage area. (Photo Credit: Author)

The year was 2003 and the fate of The Mill in Iowa City, Iowa, was in the hands of one man. That man was musician and Iowa City native, Marty Christensen.

“With the old owner of The Mill, he brought in artists that really only performed for themselves,” he said. “I thought it would be nice to make the shift of involving and attracting to the younger population.”

Marty Christensen is an Iowa City native that went to school at the University of Iowa. During his eleven years of schooling at the university, he received a bachelors in general studies and computer science, then later went on to obtain his masters in computer science. He was enthralled with learning and never really wanted to grow up. Christensen continues to carry out that mindset today with his customers as the current owner of The Mill.

“The old owner, Keith Dempster, attracted the same customers from night to night and did not work hard enough to draw in people from different crowds,” Christensen said. “To have a business, you need to have it connect to the community as a whole and have it enrich the lives of people.”

Christensen is a musician himself and has played at The Mill many times in his day, especially when he attended Iowa. He played in a group called “Shame Train” with a couple others, one going by the name of Zorro. Zorro was the man responsible for Christensen’s decision to keep The Mill alive. Zorro asked him if he heard that The Mill was going to close and Christensen’s immediate reaction was that there was no way that could happen.

Lin Brookshire, 27, has been working at The Mill for the past seven years and says that Christensen is one serious businessman that can please the same crowd that has been coming back to The Mill for the past 50 years as well as the younger crowd by hosting a mix of shows.

“Customer service is number one for Marty,” she said. “He brings in a lot of up and coming artists that appeals to the younger crowd. These shows can range from comedy to hip hop.”

Erin McMeen, 22, agrees with Lin that Christensen is an effective businessman, however, she did state that he has recently stepped back from being the sole person to run the show.

“Marty recently stepped back to hire a general manager and he holds him at very high regards,” she said. “Even though he stepped back from running The Mill by himself, it is apparent how much he really cares about this place within the daily happenings.”

Resourcefulness is what Christensen said kept The Mill alive in its early years after it was almost shut down for good in 2003. The food in the now full-service restaurant has recently been revamped by making its menu to be as earth-friendly as possible and to bring in an eclectic variety of artists to maintain relevancy to its customers. If it were not for the sacrifices that he has made, The Mill would be done.

“I may not make a lot of money but it is a million dollar education with what I learn everyday from owning The Mill,” Christensen said. “It has been a great experiment.”

Aaron Kamm & The One Drops: Reggae and Blues from the Mississippi

Originally from Edwardsville, IL, Aarron Kamm formed the band in late 2007. The group members consist of vocalist/guitarist Aaron Kamm, bassist Andy Dorris and drummer Sean Raila. The trio played their first show at a small St. Louis club in November of 2007. After that, their popularity grew in the St. Louis area. In September of 2008, they released their first album, “Gnu-Gnu.” Inspired by artists such as The Police and Sublime, their music combines a medley of reggae, blues, dub and rock in their tunes. Aarron Kamm’s soulful voice and smooth guitar playing makes it apparent that he pours his heart into what he does. Their music closely relates to the younger generation of war protestors with their peace promoting lyrics but a lot of their music can also reach out to older generations as well with their Jimi Hendrix style, multiple minute guitar riffs that keeps the song rolling.

The evening will kick off with two groups before the main event of Aaron Kamm: OSG, a soulful group of locals that combines funk and hip-hop , and Two Peace, a group from Davenport that is all about spreading positive vibes with their reggae sounds. The event is 19 and over at the Iowa City Yacht Club, located at 13 S. Linn Street. Be ready to fish out $7 out of your pocket when the doors open at 7:30 PM. The show starts at 8:00 PM with the opening bands. The rules of tonight: take away Aaron Kamm’s constant message of looking past the differences of one another to have a good time with each other but more importantly, groove out and enjoy!

(Video from HeliumDolphin)

Aw man, not another night at “The Scummit.”

Welcome to Easy on the Pockets Entertainment, a place for Iowa City locals to come take a peek at what cheap local shows to check out each week. One thing comes to mind when one thinks of the University of Iowa, a top ranked party school, and that one thing is: girls that might as well be wearing nothing at all with their two inch long skirts and the fact that it has a huge bar/club scene. Contrary to popular belief, the bar and club scene is not the only thing the University of Iowa has to offer for nightlife. Iowa City brings in a ton of big name music artists, as well as local artists to a variety of venues. Many local venues, such as The Mill, the Iowa City Yacht Club and Gabe’s (among others), showcase not well known talent or they have weekly shows of the same thing. For example, the Burlington Bluegrass Band that plays at The Mill every Wednesday.

I have never been a huge fan of the bar scene here at Iowa and I know that it gets old real fast to many. My goal is to seek out talent that is not so well known and bring light to their abilities. Iowa City, as well as the artists it brings in, are special and deserve publication so I hope to do so by putting a spotlight on them. Each week I will do two previews of two different artists or give a preview of an artists before I attend a show and give a recap after it is done. Everyone could use a change up in their going out routine so pay a visit to my page weekly to see what local show to check out next!