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Monday, May 23, 2011

Iowa or Bust: From ATL to Daytrotter’s Barnstomer IV

You drove all the way from Atlanta? Yes, we did. And that’s nothing compared to the drive some of the bands, who hail from places like New York, Los Angeles and Austin, took to get to the rural Midwest.

Daytrotter Barnstormers are something that should be experienced firsthand, but I’ll do my best. My friend Mandy and I pulled into Maquoketa, Iowa, around 10 a.m. on April 30 exhausted, but ready for the night ahead.

Maquoketa is a small town surrounded by gorgeous farmland. It was chilly — definitely not the weather I was getting used to in Atlanta. After some dinner and a nap, we made our journey from the hotel to Codfish Hollow, the barn hosting the final night of the Barnstormers.

Hand-painted wooden signs pointed the way from town to Codfish Hollow. Dirt roads and cows greeted us as we made our way to the campground/parking lot, aka a cow pasture. After parking the car and dodging the manure, we met Marvin, who has worked for the farm for almost 30 years. He was to chauffeur us further down the dirt road to the barn by a tractor-drawn trailer.

We got there a little early so we could explore the barn and really take it all in. Besides the barn, there was a run-down house that had been converted into an art gallery. The barn was decorated with Christmas lights that were strung inside and out from the stage and weaved through the rafters. The whole atmosphere was very welcoming; it felt like home more than 400 miles away from Atlanta.

Los Angeles-based band Hands started the night off right. As soon as they started playing their bright, dance tunes the crowd gathered in the front ready to go. Arms, a New York-based act, took the stage. The momentum picked up as more people arrived, and we continued into the night.

Austin-based band, Mike and the Moonpies were up next. They serenaded the barn with country-rock tunes. They reminded me a lot of the music my dad listened to when I was younger, so naturally I was an instant fan. This was the first time Mike and the Moonpies had toured outside of their home state.

Keegan DeWitt took the stage next. At this point the barn was hopping. Everyone was dancing to his sweet pop tracks. This was really my first time listening to him, but he really knows how to get a party started or at least keep it going. Throughout his set members of the other bands, including Barnstormer headliner Sondre Lerche, joined him on stage. At this point the vibe was rich with togetherness, you could really tell that these bands had gotten to know and love each other over the past couple of days, which made the experience even sweeter.

New York-based Guards took the stage next. Aside form my larger goal of experiencing a Barnstormer and meeting my Daytrotter Facebook friends, Guards were the reason I trekked all the way to Iowa. I’ve been listening to this band on and off since November and after seeing them live for the first time I knew I needed to see them again if I could. Their performance could only be described as epic, seriously. It was so epic that when it was over, people thought the show was over and they started to go home — there were three bands left! Their set ended in an entire barn sing-a-long and amp blow-out which caused the power on the stage to go out. It was incredible.

The Romany Rye from Nashville took the stage next. Their hoppy, country tunes definitely proved to be a barn favorite, especially if you liked dancing, and I think everyone in that barn liked to dance.

Norwegian singer and songwriter Sondre Lerche closed the night off with upbeat rock tunes. Everyone was dancing and having a great time. And I don’t know about anyone else, but even though I was completely exhausted from the long drive — and the thought of the long drive we had in the morning — I would have been OK if this went on forever. It was an incredible experience. Going into it, I had only really listened to one of the bands, but I left being a fan of all of them.

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