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KRUI at 30

KRUI’s 30th Anniversary Kickoff Concert

ZETA JUNE w/ Crystal City, Mitch Meyer, Jack Baker: 4/24/2014 @ Blue Moose Tap House (Iowa City, IA)

KRUI (89.7 FM) is the University of Iowa’s college radio station (click here to get an idea of the music they air).  I usually enjoy the station, so maybe my expectations going to a show associated with it were set unfairly high.  Before I get to the performances, I want to mention the sound at Blue Moose Tap House was excellent throughout the night.

First up was Jack Baker with an acoustic guitar, playing mostly in blues and funk styles.  His best performance was a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”.  A few songs relied heavily on the tonic-subdominant-dominant (different variations) blues chord structures.  Another song (about “Jolene”, I think…not the Dolly Parton tune) was based on finding a few chords that all sounded good with a shared “D” note (sorta like the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Name” or Dave Matthews’ “Crash”).  The Strokes cover with the different rhythm didn’t work for me, either.  I’m kinda curious about what the lyrics of his first song were…they sounded interesting.

Up next was Mitch Meyer with an electric guitar and, in my opinion, he was the highlight of the show.  Even so, I thought his overall set was hit-and-miss.  The second song he played was a pretty love ballad that was the best song I heard all night.  He followed this with a song he had just written the day before.  As you can imagine, it wasn’t quite polished, but it was also good (and the sound guy helped by adding some reverb to his voice…good call).

Both Mitch and Jack occasionally added accent beats to their respective sets by tapping the bodies of their guitars with their hands.  The effect worked well on Jack’s acoustic songs, but the style might not be as well suited for electric guitars, as the electrical pickups really made this loud on Mitch’s first song.

Another thing I’ve noticed at a few shows now are when solo performers play songs from other or past bands they’ve been in, and they get to a section of the song where they normally play a solo, presumably while the band’s other guitarist would cover the rhythm part.  This happened on Mitch’s last song, and I always think these things stick out as a strange thing when they happen.  If you’re going to solo, consider playing one or two of the important note(s) of each chord on the downbeat (or wherever the changes lie).  Or just skip the solo.

Okay, enough of my unsolicited advice: Mitch, I enjoyed your music!

The third group to perform was Crystal City, a band consisting of three men (guitar / lead vocals, bass, drums) and a woman (trumpet / tambourine / backing vocals).  The first song was a catchy pop tune, but I became less enthusiastic about their set the longer they played once I noticed the majority of their songs centered around the tonic to the subdominant (or vice versa).  Another song was basically the main riff and beat to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” except the last two chords were played on a lower interval (II to V instead of iii to vi).

Despite the repetition found in the majority of their set, I found their second to last song (a ballad) enjoyable as it had a lot more variety to it.  I didn’t catch the name of it, but I believe they said it had been recorded as a solo acoustic performance.  Next month, Crystal City will be playing at Gabe’s as part of a local band showcase, and they’ll later be releasing a new album.

The last band to play was Zeta June, and I believe they would fall under both the “jam band” and “white funk” labels.  I’m not really into this type of music, but I did stay for about four songs.  The first, third and fourth songs didn’t do much for me (the fourth sounded like a slowed-down version of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” with a straightened out beat).  I have to admit they had a good groove going on their second song of the night, though.  And they took things to a higher level with some funk synthesizer work by one of the guitarists.  If these guys were willing to do it, I could see them moving in a more synth-based direction and successfully creating good electro-funk/pop music that all lots of hipsters are into to these days.  I just don’t think the band members’ hearts would be into it, though.

The event was a little lower turnout than I had expected: I think there were maybe 30-35 people in attendance at its peak.  A lot of factors could’ve contributed to this (rainy weather, it was a mid-week show, 7 PM is an early starting time, it was all-ages, etc.).  I also wonder if KRUI had a lot of input into what entertainment was booked tonight.  At any rate, I’m sure they’ll continue producing high quality radio broadcasts.  Keep on rockin’, KRUI.

No show review (yet), so here’s a preview

Last night I intended to check out a show at Gabe’s featuring Iowa City’s “Dana T.“, along with Des Moines acts Gloom Balloon and Christopher the Conquered.  Unfortunately, the show time listed online was incorrect, and I decided not to attend because I would’ve needed to stay out pretty late to catch it all.

The show was meant to be an “after party” for another show taking place earlier at the First United Methodist Church featuring John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats (with Iowa City – Fort Collins, CO, duet The Lonelyhearts opening).  Back in the ’90s, it was controversial in my home town’s only (Methodist) church when the pastor occasionally played something outside of the hymnal on an acoustic six-string for services.  Glad to see they’re more tolerant twenty years later!

So, looking ahead on the calendar: The University of Iowa’s college radio station, KRUI, is celebrating their 30th year of broadcasting over the airwaves.  The event takes place at the Blue Moose Tap House and features Zeta June, Crystal City, Mitch Meyer and Jack Baker.  Show starts at 7 PM, admission is $5.  If all goes well, I should eventually have a review to share.

KRUI is one of those rare college stations where the students still seem to be free to air what they want to air (within FCC regulations) during their time slots.  When the DJs are away, you get “The Lab”, which (from what I heard last summer when I’d occasionally drop in via TuneIn) gives you a very unique mix of music and pop culture: Do you like ’60s French pop, audio snippets from episodes of the original Star Trek TV series and the “very, very intense” music of Mark Gormley?  If so, you won’t be disappointed.