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Iowa Band’s Call To Musicians And Music Fans: Mask Up, So Live Music Can Return

Nick Fisher of Hex Girls.
photo courtesy of Nick Fisher
Nick Fisher of Hex Girls.

IPR’s Studio One hosts are participating in the Hex Girls’ Musicians Mask-Up Challenge. We hereby challenge you, too.

Hex Girls, like many other Iowa bands, had big plans for 2020. They were going to release an album in the summer, and then perform at Hinterland, followed by a three-week tour. Those plans, like most plans for 2020, were cancelled because of COVID-19.

With no tours on the immediate horizon, the Cedar Falls band Hex Girls launched the “Musicians Mask Up” challenge, encouraging the wearing of masks in Iowa. Nobody wants live music back more than musicians.

Nick Fisher, bassist and vocalist for Hex Girls, acknowledges they’ve been fortunate, as everyone in the band is either employed or going to school. Still, he says the shutdown has been tough.

Iowa musician Miss Christine taking part in the Musicians Mask Up challenge.
Shadow Fox Photography
Iowa musician Miss Christine taking part in the Musicians Mask Up challenge.

“We have been collaborating on demos from afar to work through new material,” said Fisher. “That has challenged our regular process, as we have always been a band that writes collaboratively in-person, in the same space. We’ve been missing that energy in the writing process, but sending tracks back and forth has definitely kept us busy and pushing forward.”

Hex Girls have also filmed a couple of outdoor music videos during shutdown, wearing masks and practicing social distancing in the process. They’ll be releasing them, along with their album, in the coming months.

Even though all that is creative work, Hex Girls are anxious to get back to playing shows and are concerned for the future of venues they’ve played at.

“As an independent band who relies exclusively on independent venues to route our tours, it's clear that this is a precarious time. EVERY single one of those venues Hex Girls normally would play at is at risk right now. And unfortunately it’s only going to get worse, especially in the Midwest, as winter approaches.”

Hex Girls began reaching out to other bands in late August about a social media campaign. They spoke to bands in the Cedar Valley, as well as in Des Moines, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids. Randy Timm, an artist in Des Moines, created a Facebook frame that is free to use.

Every band that Fisher reached out to was on board with the challenge.

“I think it’s because the music community—not just the artists, but fans as well—overwhelmingly get it,” said Fisher. “A mask is a small sacrifice to help bring back live music, and we all want that to happen safely.”

Octopus College Hill is one of the venues that Hex Girls have called home over the years. The bar recently reopened after being closed by order of the governor, along with all other bars in Blackhawk County and five other Iowa counties. Dave Deibler, owner of Octopus, says live music will not be returning to the bar any time soon.

“We've been holding back this long, what's a little longer?” said Deibler. “This is new territory for all of us. It’s tough to predict what's coming! The challenges to be considered in putting on a live show are all health related. The ability, desire and demand are there. Music crowds are one big happy, sweaty family singing along to the band. We'll probably need a vaccine before that can happen again.”

“Ultimately, this campaign is a small way to bring the Iowa (and regional) music community together around a rational, science-based cause,” said Fisher. “This is only the beginning of Musicians Mask Up, as COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I hope we can continue to grow participation and explore a charitable component down the road.”

Here at IPR Studio One, we're participating, and we hereby challenge YOU. To participate in the Iowa Musicians Mask-Up Challenge, post a video of yourself wearing a mask on your favorite social media site, and challenge three of your friends to do the same. Be sure to tell them Hex Girls and IPR sent you!

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host