I was, however, immediately glued to the television because the Duke basketball team was about to lose. And while music rules the world, it can be ignored, however briefly, if it means Duke is about to lose.
Right about the time the Lehigh Mountain Hawks were celebrating their victory, the opening chords were struck by The Holy White Hounds. The Holy White Hounds look, act and sound like a garage rock band. They are a tornado of dirty notes, grimy riffs and surprisingly soft spoken vocals. The lead singer and guitarist, Brenton Dean, is a whirlwind of charisma. He commands the stage in a way that few front men can. A staple on the Des Moines scene, Dean is also the front man for La Strange and also The Dig Angees, who are now The Holy White Hounds (insert Paul Harvey). Dean moves and plays like a veteran musician, slightly unhinged yet still engaging. He makes fleeting eye contact, his eyes slightly hidden under neath a knit hat, but moves across the elevated stage with purpose.
They sounded amazing, and the high ceilings and fairly narrow space allows for optimal acoustics. The stacks of speakers carry the sound in a way that any spot can be advantageous, although the end of the bar closest to the stage isn’t great for viewing. I moved around the venue to try and get a different vantage point, and honestly with as high as the stage sat, it was pretty optimal wherever. Sound was great too, although 31 years worth of loud music (ask my Grandma, she’ll tell you about my listening habits as an infant and toddler) has kind of corrupted my ears. Wooly’s proved, one band in, that this was the type of place that could really make Des Moines whole. A medium capacity venue that is capable of holding a solid crowd and still sound great. And maybe allow us citizens to finally get to see some bigger acts without having to wait until July.
Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of people there to witness it. I mean, it was an O.K. crowd, but for a joint that size, it seemed a little lonely and empty. I moved freely and unimpeded. There were stacks of tickets to an upcoming show that were left unclaimed. And therein lies the potential problem with Wooly’s. Des Moines is sometimes a little, shall we say, finicky.
While Wooly’s itself is awesome, it appears that there has to be a solid, well known act to get a crowd in this city. While the hope of this blog is that the local acts will fill that void, I guess the parade of national acts Wooly’s is bringing in will hopefully keep the doors open long enough to be established. But I implore you, Des Moines, to get to the venue. We need this.
By the time Bright Giant came on, some friends had arrived, so I was slightly distracted for their set. But they, too, sounded great. While Wooly’s booked two of Des Moines’s best, it could also be that the venue itself has sound figured out very early. So yes, Des Moines, the hopes of many have been answered. Don’t squander it. Support your town.
As the night progressed, the people who were there seemed to be having a good time. So good booze and good music in a cool joint. What more could we want?