Mini-Road Trip to See the Growlers

This post is from March 23rd, 2012. It is also my only blog post to have gotten any decent amount of traffic on the web, but I think it’s because people love Brooks Nielsen, not me.


This week I got to go on a super-mini road trip (115 miles to Des Moines) to see the Growlers Play at the House of Bricks. It’s always nice to get out of town for a minute and see something new, even if it’s less than 2 hours away from home. It reinforces my love for Iowa City. So me, my fella and a fabulous friend piled into the car a couple hours before the show, thinking we could get there on time – and we almost did, but I slowed the train down by first forgetting my wallet at the apartment and then ripping my skirt seam, like, 4 inches as we tried to leave a second time. (Maybe I should start keeping a spare outfit in the car?)

Now the car ride is half the fun of going anywhere. Some people hate it, but I love the idea of being stuck in a giant capsule with 1 or more people I enjoy while listening to music, eating snacks, and laughing about shit, all while going 70mph. It was a chatty ride, making the time spent in the car feel like a half hour, and not the actual two hours from Iowa City to downtown Des Moines.

Halfway through the 1st band’s set, we arrived to a sparsely populated bar and a bored-looking bartender. The place was plain, seemed to be under renovation. I am guessing they had a Mario Bros. themed something-or-other recently due to the random cardboard star and gold coin hanging from the ceiling over the stage. Even though I really liked the crappy Nintendo themed decor remnants, I think this is the only shot I took of the star and I didn’t get one of the coin.

The turnout was ‘meh’. I sat at the bar for a bit and just surveyed the crowd. There was a girl I recognized who works at a food establishment in downtown Iowa City, some DSMhipsters, a couple of guys who looked like they were on a first date and really uncomfortable, and the usual group of semi-drunk girls who laugh and dance with abandon directly at center stage during every set. When I wasn’t sociologically observing the 50 or so people that actually came out, I was being entertained by a tv monitor that cycled through funny pictures and promos for upcoming shows. The ones that made my friend JoAnn and I laugh the most were “The Farmer Tan Funk Band” and Walter Trout(…you had to be there.) OH! There was also a hip-hop (?) band called Bunny Bear or something…and it was two dudes in jogging suits wearing plastic cartoon masks – one a bunny, the other a bear, as you may have guessed.  Overall the bar was unremarkable, but not bad. The stage lights were decent, the sound was good and nobody bumped into me or spilled beer on me or my companions.

The House of Bricks was on the corner of Grand and East 6th Streets, both of which were shiny and rainbow stained from the rainy weather that rolled in.  The drizzle forced smokers to cram into the tiny covered space at the corner entrance, causing uncomfortable, light chatter among strangers puffing away, shoulder to shoulder. During one smoke break in which JoAnn ran back to the car, a girl exclaimed at her as she returned… “Girl, you look good.” And then the stranger looked at Doug and I as JoAnn joined us under the cover and said “You all look too good to be from Des Moines.” (cue awkward laughter). Yet another reason it’s good to get out of town for a minute.

I didn’t photograph either of the two openers, even though the second band was pretty killer punk-infused garage rock. Their drummer was fun to watch. Skinny arms, long hair, ferocious chops and the ability to make beating on drums look like “arm dancing”. With their overall sound and the lead vocals, I got a strong sense of King Khan & the BBQ Show, but sludgier. At one point the band said it was their first time in Iowa and my IC pride made me wish they had come to Gabe’s instead.

The Growlers played for a nice, long time, but not so long that I got tired and turned into a cranky baby in the audience. I was totally into what they were doing, but also aware of the 2 hour drive home for which I remained stone sober. I confess I wasn’t familiar with the Growlers before JoAnn suggested this whole crazy night, and had only listened to limited amounts of their music before the show, so I was pleasantly surprised to find they are a mix of the best part of a bunch of genres. I was picking out bits of country, reggae, surf rock, 1950s pop and I swear in that venue the lead singer sounded like he was channeling the late Davey Jones. He wore that big heavy coat for all but the last few songs. The coat was large and bell shaped and made him look like a Mod version of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton’s lovechild.


Brooks Nielsen

Kidding aside, they were great. They were relatively motionless,except for the necessary actions of playing music, but they still were really interesting to watch. They played a bunch of new stuff, but the joke was on them because the songs are ALL new to me. I’ll call myself a fan now. But I’ll fully declare JoAnn as the real fan. Thanks to her for turning me on to this band and for instigating this little adventure . Also earning JoAnn superfan status – she got 2 t-shirts, 2 CDs, a button, a sticker and she chatted up the Growlers drummer who said he thinks they’ll be hitting Iowa City sometime in May (maybe). If the Growlers come to town, I am going to be there. And I think everyone else should be, too. Maybe nobody reads this shit, but if you’re reading this – Growlers. May. Go.

And then I drove home in rain that I will refer to as “spit” because that’s what it looked like on the windshield. I am a good, bad-weather driver, but I much prefer to be the passenger on these little jaunts.
So that’s a long story about a short night out of town. Find my photos on flickr.


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