BY JAMES MOORE
The Mission Creek Midwest Festival is a four-day event celebratingindependent music and the arts in Iowa City, March 29 to April 1. It willfeature some 40 bands at four clubs over four days, including a multimediafilm presentation and several literary readings.
“We essentially take over the city and give a lot of bands exposurethat might not get it otherwise,” explains Andre Perry, who, with fellowUniversity of Iowa student Tanner Illingworth, is producing the event. “Eachyear we book regional and national acts to play the festival whose music andethic we feel strongly about. Our goal is to strengthen communities of independentartists.”
The Mission Creek Festival started in San Francisco ten years ago. Foundedalmost inadvertently by musician Jeff Ray, the festival that started as a gatheringfor friends has become a contrapuntal oasis to the more established Noise PopFestival in San Francisco. Whereas Noise Pop tends to showcase higher profilenational indie acts, Mission Creek traffics in artier up-and-comers of allilks, with a focus on giving homegrown talent a chance to play venues theydon’t ordinarily get a chance to play. The annual festival has becomea great success.
“Ninety-nine percent booking and one percent sponsorship” is howa producer explained Mission Creek’s corporate sponsorship philosophylast year in a San Francisco Chronicle piece. “Basically, we’renot interested in companies without any responsibility or connection to thelocal community,” Perry is quoted as saying. The mission behind MissionCreek, wrote the article’s author, is summed up in that phrase—“connectionto the local community.”
I can’t help feeling the heartland has lucked out attracting this festivalto Iowa City. I get a great vibe just talking to the soft-spoken Perry. A musician,poet, and writer himself (he plays keys in the San Francisco duo Lonely Heartsand synthesizer in Iowa City’s Karen Carpenter Syndrome), his desireis to make this an annual event. Perry hopes to eventually open a third festivallocation in DC as well, where both he and festival founder Ray hail from.
Bands from all over Iowa and beyond have been lined up to play shows at Gabe’s,the Mill, the Yacht Club, the Q Bar, plus the Record Collector. Highlightsinclude the Slip from Boston, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone out of SanFrancisco, Murderbot from Kansas City, Tapes ’n’ Tapes from Minneapolis,Criteria from Nebraska along with Poison the Well (who are out together ona national tour), and the Golden Birds from Berkeley, whose lead singer oncedid a solo tour playing every state capitol in the country—includingAlaska and Hawaii.
Iowa City artists include the Diplomats of Solid Sound, Dave Zollo, the Tanks,Deathships, Poppa Neptune, Bill Howke and the Hoax, Jason Lewis, Lwa and Din.Don’t forget the Bad Fathers, the Envy Corps, and many, many more.
A special literary event will be offered Saturday afternoon, April 1, at theMill, curated by pop culture writer Beth Lisick and literary fiction writerPamela Holm of San Francisco, along with author Poe Ballantine of Nebraska.They will introduce a number of Workshop writers as well as poets and nonfictionand short story writers from the UI writing program.
In addition, Thursday, March 29th, at 7 p.m., nonfiction writer Nick Kowlczykwill curate an evening of Irish readings at the Dublin Underground. Some UIfilm students are creating multimedia presentations to accompany noise bandsthat will be playing late at Gabe’s.
Perry and Illingworth are hoping to at least break even for all their efforts.If they happen to make any money they are planning to plow it back into futurefestivals. Anyone interested in volunteering can email firstname.lastname@example.org call the festival line.
Perry and Illingworth also plan to produce one-off shows at venues in IowaCity. Their goal is to bring in national acts to create a regional fan basefor them right here in Iowa City All I can say is—bring ’em on.
For a list of festival events, visit www.mcmf.org and click on “schedule,” or call (319) 594-9138.