The bands to which we jammed at Maximum Ames 2022
B-side contributing writer and photographer Dallas Tuttle was out and about for Maximum Ames' 10 year anniversary fest this weekend. Here's his review.
Ames is known primarily as the location of our state’s preeminent engineering and agriculture college. It’s a town more regarded for its STEM academics than anything to do with art or music. Beneath the steadfast dedication to science and research however, lies a small but intrepid scene of artists, performers, and musicians who believe in what they’re doing and believe in doing it on their own terms. Of this quiet DIY ethos, Maximum Ames Music Festival was born.
After a two year pandemic hiatus Maximum Ames Fest returned for its 10 year celebration, and it was a wonderful return to form. Max Ames is not a corporate music festival. There isn’t a Mt. Dew Mainstage™. There isn’t a parking lot full of vendors. There isn’t a food truck in sight. What there is is folk music in breweries, rock shows in community theatres and raves in dimly lit dive bars. Max Ames is a four-day long community effort to showcase Iowa musicians, dance your ass off, and make a hefty contribution to the 401k of every bartender in town. I spent all four days hopping from venue to venue taking hundreds of photos and watching as many bands as I could. Here are my highlights:
Annalibera are a Des Moines-based band who play intensely danceable and incredibly fun pop music with an experimental edge. They are slated to open for Pavement this week, and their Max Ames set at Ames City Auditorium showcased an incredibly tight and talented live band who will undoubtedly impress. Frontwoman Anna Gebhardt sings, shouts, twirls, and emotes through every song; her presence thoroughly capable of filling a much larger stage. I was thoroughly impressed with their set and only wished I could have caught more of it as I skated from stage to stage trying to capture as many bands as possible.
SETH CLOE AND THE SILVER LINERS
Seth Cloe and the Silver Liners put on one of the best no frills pop rock sets of the festival. The Silver Liners are a straight ahead rock n’ roll three piece with bouncing rhythm guitar, rock solid bass and drums, and tasteful power pop harmonies. They played a great mix of originals and covers at Alluvial Brewing that put a smile on everyone’s faces and set us all up for a long night of killer tunes. I encourage you to check out their record “Storm Weathered,” which came out last year.
Hot Kunch are a Des Moines area band who pride themselves on playfully antagonizing their audience with everything from their name to their onstage antics. Antics include: verbally harassing audience members, doing calisthenics, jumping offstage, male twerking, guitar solos on pool tables, guitar solos on each other’s shoulders and guitar solos while walking to the bar to get another beer. Hot Kunch shows are chaotic. They are silly. They are fun. Go see them play a three-hour brunch set. They will probably take shots of maple syrup and try to eat your pancakes.
Mr. Softheart are a three-piece industrial rock band from Des Moines. The band itself rose from the ashes of Hex Girls, a phenomenal Iowa rock n’ roll band in their own right. Mr. Softheart, however, are not the Hex Girls. What they are is the band who put on hands down the best set of the festival in my book. Their amplifiers pushed to the sides and back of the stage to open up as much space for movement as possible, they begin their drum machine propelled noise assault. This group puts on an intense, brooding, and at times convincingly unhinged performance of intense Nick Cave influence nearly spoken word vocals and wonderfully abstract guitar and synthesizer performance. Front man Nick Fisher manically and menacingly patrols the stage as the band members take turns jaggedly attacking their guitars, twisting knobs, and stabbing at synthesizers with their backs to the audience. This is a band who shine immensely on a small stage but deserve to playing a stages much larger.