Pay your dues, get your hand stamped, and move beyond the beat-up front door. The narrow set-up starts you out at the back end of the bar, with the stage up straight ahead. Make sure to stop and admire the painted portrait of the music booker on the same wall as the door. Need a sit-down? There are tables opposite the bar, or choose an out-of-the-way hangout on the upper level in front of the soundboard. Secure a spot (standing or sitting), pick up a drink (PBR or Red Stripe is your best bet), and you’re set for the night.
The Mews (at 212 4th St. in downtown Des Moines) houses shows all week long for both all ages and the 21+ crowd. Metal, rock, hip-hop, folk, acoustic, bluegrass—you name it, the Mews plays it. The musicians usually mill around pre- and post-show, so feel free to stalk.
Different nights bring a different crowd. On the weekends, you’re likely to find a younger scene that’s ready to get rowdy to some not-so-local acts. Make a quick trip to the Mews’ alley bar (a makeshift, summertime-only bar in the alley between the Mews and the Royal Mile) for a quick PBR or two. You can usually find someone spinning records right next to the wooden bar that’s decorated with light-up Virgin Mary lamps. You can’t miss it, and you definitely won’t want to. The regulars generally stick around the back of the venue by the bar. During the week, you’ll find a more local sound if you stop in. The younger 20-somethings are still around, but add in the after-work crowd looking for an early drink to go with their music.
Anything goes at the Mews. You’ll find sun dresses bellied up to the bar next to cowboy boots and leather jackets. The attire changes each night as the crowd changes. There’s definitely not a dress code (what do you think this is—Liars Club?!) Witty T-shirts are greatly appreciated. And if you don’t fit the scene, snag a new shirt from one of the acts at the merch table located under the staircase.
Things to Know
The bartenders are awesome. Stay and chat for a while and you’ll feel like a regular the next time you stop by. Also know that most shows have a cover—so bring cash. Cover runs from $5-$10. One downside: The bathrooms are located behind the stage—don’t be afraid to ask where, the bartenders get it all the time. The walkway to the women’s room is often riddled with instruments and equipment, so watch your step, ladies.
A Typical Night
The early shows generally start around 5 p.m. Anyone is welcome, but after they’re over, the under-aged have got to step out. Late shows start around 9:30 and you can catch three to four bands on a good night.