Musician David Byrne was a mainstay on MTV in the early 1980s as the lead singer for Talking Heads. The group disbanded in the 90s, but Byrne’s still an influential artist and he used that influence this weekend during the grand opening of Des Moines Social Club. This nonprofit organization started seven years ago as a center for the arts. For most of those years it existed in small rented spaces, but now it has its own building, a downtown fire station built in 1937, that’s been under renovation for about a year.
Last summer when David Byrne made a tour stop in Des Moines, he was pleasantly surprised with the city, so he jumped at the invitation to return this weekend to deliver the keynote speech for the Des Moines Social Club. Byrne says venues like this can provide a stage for emerging regional artists who rarely have a chance to play for an audience. “My experience has been that, kind of like the movie if you built it they’ll come. If there’s a place for people to play, they’ll come out of the woodwork and all of a sudden there’s more musicians or theater artists or whatever than you ever imagined.”
Byrne says it’s hard to say where a creative explosion will happen next but he says it’s getting harder for emerging young artists to flourish in New York City. “What makes it happen? It’s hard to say, there’s no guarantees but it is possible and it’s certainly not going to happen unless there are places like this. And sad for me to say, it’s not going to happen in Manhattan anymore which means it’s up to you guys.”
For Des Moines Social Club to succeed, Byrne says similar types of venues need to crop up in neighboring communities to make it easier for independent artists to connect. He says it was that kind of networking that allowed his band Talking Heads to move forward during their early years.