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John Prine's record label goes on tour

Vinyl Brew Oh Boy Road Show
Oh Boy Records
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Vinyl Brew's Oh Boy Road Show will be touring the country this year, starting in Iowa City at Big Grove Brewery.

If you’re one of those people who's mystified by the surge of interest in vinyl lately, I dare say you’re not paying attention. It makes perfect sense to me.

I’m in my early 30s, finally have some disposable income, and I’m thirsty for all things tangible and real. So much of our lives are stored on cold, emotionless servers and hard drives. The warmth of vinyl and the connections you make when you physically go to a record store to buy music instead of clicking a download button IS a thing. It’s about time we started acting like it.

It's with that thought that I want to flag something really cool that’s happening this April 9 in Iowa City at Big Grove Brewery from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oh Boy Records, the label founded by John Prine, is taking a record show on tour in collaboration with Des Moines' Luke Dickens.

“The first official event for this series will be launching as a part of Mission Creek on April 9 in Iowa City,” says Dickens, who is producing the tour and owns Vinyl Cup locations across Iowa and Nebraska. “The event is aiming to connect people over music and beer.”

Well, amen. A drink and some human connection over a topic that has nothing to do with the pandemic or politics is exactly the break I need right now. Jody Whelan, who works with Oh Boy Records, is excited about the potential for the tour. He’s been working behind the scenes with Dickens to organize the event since the idea’s inception in 2019.

Vinyl Brew Confluence
Courtesy of Luke Dickens
Iowans dig through crates of vinyl at a Vinyl Brew event at Confluence Brewing Company in Des Moines. The Vinyl Brew Oh Boy Records Roadshow will be hosted at breweries across the country in 2022.

“What everyone has missed in the last two years is the community aspect of music,” he said. “Maybe not everyone is totally comfortable yet going into a record store, and with this we’re hoping to reach some new folks where people are used to congregating.”

In addition to crate digging through old and new, exclusive released vinyl for the tour, you’ll also be able to take a selfie with Prine’s old pickup truck, which he purchased as the Oh Boy work truck, if you're into that sort of thing.

“John had a love for old trucks, old Cadillacs, and when we were coming up with the art for this, we were explaining what our plan was. The artist put John’s truck in it, and we all loved it. Fingers crossed, it’s going to run.” Whelan laughed. “I just put a new battery in last week. We take the music seriously, but we don’t take anything about the business too seriously and thought this would be a fun addition.”

Given that Prine died early in the pandemic when a lot of people were still hunkering down at home, both Dickens and Whelan say this will be a nice way to get out and connect with fans and people who loved his music, and love the new music the label is putting out.

"So much of the grieving about Prine happened online. We’ve gone through something that a million other families have too, but we haven’t done it together. We’ve done it apart from each other. It’s something I think about a lot too,” Whelan said. “I don’t think he would have wanted something too solemn. The idea of people coming together to have a beer or a hot dog is something he would have liked because that’s what he liked to do.”

The record show is free to attend, and there will be special exclusives and giveaways at the event. Oh Boy Records singer/songwriter Tré Burt, who is performing at this year’s Mission Creek Festival on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. at Riverside Theatre, will also be at the event to sign albums.

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer