The Mews holds a spot in the heart of every single 4th Street regular and newbie alike. Today marks their 10th birthday, and I think it’s the perfect time to show the venue some love. Ladd Askland, booker for the venue, has been a part of the family since April 17, 2003. The community and ambiance is what drew (and continues to draw) him in. “I love the atmosphere,” he says. “I love the room. We have a wonderful staff, owner. There’s nothing I dislike–It really is a second home.”
I’ve only been around the area for three years, and only half of that time I’ve spent knowing about the Mews. Putting together this post has only solidified what everyone has already known about the venue–it’s much more than a place just to hear music. It’s become a monument to local music in Des Moines and a place that some call a second home (a literal home for those in the inner circle who need a couch to pass out on after a hearty night of drinking down the street).
My favorite memory? There are tons. Chatting with bartenders, fighting past masked drunk-dancers at the Misfits Halloween karaoke party, being one of those drunk dancers at a hip-hop show (or two), jumping and dodging band equipment on the way to the ladies room, my first date with my fellow 4th Street enthusiast boyfriend–they’re all things that have (and will continue) to make up my 20’s. But my all-time favorite moments at The Mews were DJ nights at the Alley Bar where the PBR never stopped flowing. You’ve never partied until you’ve watched a couple of homeless men attempt a dance-off to Prince.
We can all agree that The Mews is a Des Moines favorite. And a lot of us wouldn’t have a place to discover new music (national and local) if it weren’t for owner Amadeo Rossi. Make sure and hit up the late show tonight and help celebrate the big day. Love Songs for Lonely Monsters, Land of Blood and Sunshine, and Eternal Summers will be setting the tone for the party. It’s 21+ and $7 at the door. Show starts at 8pm. And make sure to be one of the lucky 50 people to snag this limited edition Mews shirt for $15.
I’d love to hear your favorite memories at The Mews. Feel free to share them in the comments! I asked a few local musicians and Mews regulars to share some of their favorite moments. Here’s what they had to say.
“The smell of rotting goat heads at Watain show..lol” —Richie Daggers, DJ
“Okay, so my memorable moment isn’t one of the many times that I have played with or worked sound for an idol that I never in my entire life would have imaged I could have the pleasure of meeting (which HAS happened, more than once). It’s not the countless nights spent at the end of the bar closing tabs next to Clint, Ladd, and the bunch. It’s not the bands I’ve watched from the audience that have unexpectedly blown my mind, or the driving 2 1/2 hours each way from Cedar Rapids on a school night in high school to see that band. The memory that really sticks with me, the memory that defines The Vaudeville Mews to me, is that of my very first night there. I was in Des Moines for the weekend visiting friends I hardly knew. We met at the Vaude for a Slaughterhouse 6 show. I had no idea who they were or why they were dressed up in elf costumes (maybe not all of them, but that bassist [HD Harmsen] was definitely dressed up as an elf). There was this incredible dance party going on in front of the stage. Everyone was just letting loose, like I’d never seen before. No one gave a fuck. It was plain and simple: party time. I met so many incredible people that night. Some would become co-workers, some band-mates, not to mention life-long friends. There was such an intense feeling of comradery that night. That sense has not worn off, either. The Vaudeville Mews is so much more than what any one of us can describe. Its importance can only be measured by its impact on the whole community. It is a cornerstone, if not the keystone to the local music community here in Des Moines.” –Phil Young, Tires
“It was early 2008, and I remember that Juno had just come out. My fickle friends and I were obsessed with the film, mainly due to the soundtrack. I had read that a well-loved artist from the soundtrack was visiting downtown Des Moines. I remember being thrilled that the show was not age restricted but instead an all age show because I was probably 17 then. I quickly purchased or reserved tickets online so I would able to see Kimya Dawson, who I was smitten with, live at the Vaudeville Mews! I thought to myself how astonishing it was that Kimya Dawson had decided to play (in what I thought then), small town Des Moines, Iowa. Don’t get me wrong, I never doubt the Mew’s super powers seeing that they have put on bigger acts before. I thought she was very popular and in demand at the time, not to mention on the verge of greatness! I remember how packed it was and everyone was trying to squirm their way with their elbows up and their hips swinging side to side up to the front of the stage after the opening act, without hesitation of course I did the same. Kimya performed ‘Tire Swing‘ and ‘Anyone Else but You‘ beautifully live. The melodic cadence of the guitar and her quirky, awkward childlike voice singing adolescent lyrics was music to my ears. This was definitely my favorite memory of the Mews yet to date. (Although I’m sure there are many others that I just couldn’t retain due to being blissfully toxicated on house tequila and getting weird on the dance floor!)”–Naly Bounyalath, door lady at the Mews
“My favorite Vaudeville memory is the first show I ever played there. It was in December of 2009. I had just moved back to Des Moines and wanted to book a show with some local musicians. Gabe Cordova [of Canyons] opened up the show. I was blown away by the magic floating in the air. It was a packed house with a giant mural painted on the wall and the open heart of Clint Curtis behind the bar… I definitely consider it a pivotal moment in my music. The feeling, the darkness, and the attitude are what still keeps me performing and hanging out there.” –Dustin Smith, Dustin Smith & the Sunday Silos
“1. The Love Language on 2/14/2011. Amazing show, amazing vibes, amazing band. Probably the best band and best performance I’ve ever seen at the Mews.
2. The Films of John C. Reilly comeback show, especially when they played ‘Fake Marilyn’ and the place went nuts. Clint took his pants off too…enough said.
3. Pretty much any night you have more than four drinks with Mr. Ladd Askland is going to be memorable and epic.”–Gabe Cordova, Canyons
“There are too many memories, but I’ve very fond of Bonnie Prince Billy, The Good Life, and Asklandaganza. All smiles and excitement, good energy/vibes, happiness.” –Ladd Asland, Booker for the Mews
“Well, the Vaudeville Mews is the first place that I ever saw the Poison Control Center, which was also one of the first rock shows I’d ever been to. That changed my life. PCC was a total revelation to me, they inspired me to play rock and roll! I remember being so blown away by the show that I was kinda scared–I mean, I’d never been part of a mosh pit or seen people crowd surf before! It was like a near-death experience, it shook me to the core. Mumford’s has been playing at Vaudeville for years now, its one of our favorite venues. That’s where we met some of our best friends, like the young songwriter Lesbian Poetry, who has gone on to tour with Mumford’s a few times. I think the best show we’ve ever played at the Mews was on Halloween 2011, with Volcano Boys and The Wheelers. It was the release party for our 7″ split with The Wheelers, which actually came out on Patrick Tape Fleming’s record label Blood on the Vinyl. Patrick is the singer of the PCC and I never would have met him if not for the Mews!!! VM forever, best rock club in Iowa.” –Nate Logsdon, Mumford’s
“Last March, the Mews brought Omaha-natives The Mynabirds, Los Angeles act Big Harp, and local fave Dustin Smith & The Sunday Silos together for a Wednesday night show. It was amazing to see three bands from all over the country playing completely different genres of music at one venue. I went home that night and bought their albums. The Mews does the best job at bringing in such a variety of acts and exposing them to the community!” —Lindsay Fullington, 4th Street regular
“Seeing Jonathan Richman at the Vaudeville Mews was huge for me. I didn’t really know anything about him, but people I respected told me I had to see him, and they were right. His performance changed the way I think about creative expression and why it matters. Thanks to the Poison Control Center guys for making me go to that show!”–Chris Ford, Christopher the Conquered
“Justin caught a Ted Leo & The Pharmacists show back in June 2005 that he really enjoyed. He said, ‘There was one song in particular they played that was really badass (‘Little Dawn’?). It was on their ‘Shake the Sheets’ album.’
Nick: “Seeing PCC in 2009… I danced so hard I haven’t been able to walk right since…”
Chris: “I don’t know if if was my favorite, but certainly one of the most memorable nights at the Mews was the PCC show after 80/35 this year. I’d seen them multiple times at the Mews in the past, including times when I had the great fortune to open for them as a part of several different groups. The reason this year’s after-party stands out to me so much is that I knew that the finale of Magic Circle Symphony was coming, and that we’d all bum-rush the stage to sing along with the final chorus. Maybe it was the sun; maybe the exhaustion; maybe the Dan Deacon hangover, but the show seemed to go on and on and on. And in a good way; it was a phenomenal climax to the weekend. It was such a fun show, in fact, that when the first few chords of the final song come out of Patrick Tape Fleming’s guitar, I almost forgot that this was the moment I was waiting for. Soon enough, though, I was on stage with dozens of close friends, going absolutely bonkers singing ‘Love…Love is the answer…'”
Amy: What Chris said. I was up on the stage too, and that’s by far one of those nights I’ll never forget. I couldn’t imagine a better way to wrap up the 80/35 experience, and I just can’t picture that happening anywhere but the Mews.”–Love Songs for Lonely Monsters
“It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite memory from a place that holds so many for me. Any time I’m at a show at the Mews, there’s always some moment where I’m caught up in the show, and then stand back and watch the bands and fans having fun and feel so happy that I’m lucky enough to be a part of it. There’s a lot of memories of those moments, and a lot of memories of great times I’ve had working with the staff I’ve come to call family and our great owner that makes it all possible. My favorite? The stairs. I sit on the stairs for shows I really want to enjoy, about halfway up preferably on the side next to the railing. There I can see the stage, and everyone watching. I can sit where I’m uninterrupted and let the sound of the room wrap around me like a favorite blanket. I’ll close my eyes sometimes and let the sound and energy of the room flow through me. It can be emotional, energizing, and renewing, and when I open them again I’m at home in my favorite spot in my favorite place in the world.”–Bradie O’Neal, bartender at The Mews