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The last dance for Anthony Worden and the Illiterati was electric

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Alyssa Leicht
/
The B-side
Fans crowd into the upstairs of Gabe's in Iowa City for Illiterati Fest, July 16, 2022.

IPR's Tony Dehner shares his experience at the final performance by one of eastern Iowa's favorite bands.

It was definitely a bittersweet moment for me at 80/35 when Anthony Worden and his band rolled up to play at the IPR stage. They were our final band of the weekend, and the band only had two shows left in Iowa before Worden’s upcoming move to Kansas. The band’s final show was coming up in a week: Illiterati Fest, to be held at Gabe Oasis in Iowa City. The fest would feature an all-star lineup of Iowa musicians, including Joel Sires, The Host Country and Penny Peach.

As fate would have it, I was going to be in Iowa City the same night as Illiterati Fest. My family had purchased tickets to see Spoon (one of the greatest bands of all time) at the Englert Theatre. I told Anthony this, and he immediately reminded me that Gabe’s Oasis was just about a block down the street from the Englert and that his set wouldn’t begin until 11 p.m.

There was nothing left to do but shrug and say, “Well, I guess I'll see you there!”

I made it to Gabe’s a little before 11 p.m., not long after the Spoon concert had ended. I hadn’t been there in several years, and all I really remembered was the stairs. Right as I entered, the first person I encountered was Anthony’s mother, whom I’d met a couple of times previously. She was wearing a Penny Peach shirt, and she asked “How was Spoon?” I replied that they were amazing, and she said: “Probably not as good as Penny Peach.”

The music had been going since 7, and I arrived as the band Dryad were wrapping up their set on the lower floor. Gabe’s sometimes hosts music on both their lower and upper floors, so while Dryad was playing downstairs, Anthony and his band were getting ready upstairs, and were able to begin within minutes of the end of Dryad’s set.
The crowd was electric, and Worden and the band sounded as good as I’ve ever heard them.

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Alyssa Leicht
/
The B-side
Anthony Worden and The Illiterati's Illiterati Fest set list.

This version of the Illiterati featured Lucas Adolphson of Halfloves on bass, in addition to Worden’s regular bandmates Aaron Knight (drums) and Avery Moss (keyboardist/synthmaster). I have to confess I didn’t recognize Knight, but Worden later assured me that “he is always doing new haircuts,” so it’s hard to recognize him. The band was joined for their final two songs by Elly Hofmaier, AKA Penny Peach, whom Worden adorably referred to as his “little sister.”

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Alyssa Leicht
/
The B-side
Avery Moss (keys), Aaron Knight (drums), Anthony Worden and Lucas Adolphson (bass) wave goodbye after their set at Illiterati Fest.

I don’t have any pictures from the show, because I was having too much fun listening. I really felt like I was witnessing an important moment in Iowa music history, and I wanted to take it all in.

After the show, I briefly ran into Moss, who gave me a hug and said, “Tony, you beautiful bastard, you made it!” Moss was pretty clearly overcome with emotion and the highs of performing, so I let them be and went to track down Anthony. He was, as you might expect, surrounded by friends and well-wishers, and he took the time to speak with all of them.

alyssaleicht-illiteratifest-2022-07-16-03054.jpg
Alyssa Leicht
/
The B-side
Anthony Worden on stage at Gabe's upstairs in Iowa City.

If you’ve ever spoken with someone who’s moving away, and you’re not sure you’re going to see them again, you know it’s weird. I consider Anthony a friend, but we have what I’d call a “working relationship,” so this wasn’t a tearful goodbye or anything. I’m grateful to know him, for the music and the memories. You’re still going to hear his music on IPR and I’m looking forward to hearing what his bandmates do next.

Plus, you never know. He might come back some time! Iowans have a tendency to boomerang back on occasion.

Tony Dehner is a Studio One Host