I write about country music. Mostly.

Music discovery Monday

This past Monday I attended my first Moeller Nights concert presented by Sean Moeller at the Village Theatre in the Village of East Davenport here in Iowa.

It was fun. And unflashy. And to the point. And really good.

Yes, I was disappointed when I learned over the weekend that the Nashville-based headliner Luke Bell canceled out. But I was anxious to see Brian Johannesen and his buddy Ryan Joseph Anderson perform after I wrote about Brian last week. So I stuck by my plan to attend the show. Being introduced to the genre Chillwave through Young Mister was another draw. I had no idea what to expect.

Sean Moeller is the local guy that started Daytrotter, a big-deal music website and venue based in the Quad Cities to help subscribers and concert guests discover new, interesting music. Among other accolades and media mentions, Billboard named it Music Blog of the Year in 2007. You can learn more about Daytrotter here.

I’m in awe of the music culture that’s developed here in the Quad Cities. Beyond Daytrotter and Moeller Nights, we’ve got good stuff going on routinely at the Adler Theatre in Davenport. There’s the Redstone Room and River Music Experience, too, where our daughter takes in a weekly music class. There are almost-monthly arena shows, usually country, at the iWireless Center in Moline. Our county fair brings in big name performers for five nights each August. Even our little towns draw cool acts. I saw The Hunts recently at the DeWitt Performing Arts Center, a college-like auditorium in a nearby town of only 5000. I saw Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis there a couple years ago.

And we have Maquoketa’s magical Codfish Hollow with its Barnstormer shows. That barn alone is reason to move here, young people.

Sean left Daytrotter a few months back but it’s clear he’s still busy helping people discover new music with Moeller Nights and he helps book acts for Codfish. Plus I think there’s probably more to come from him.

But back to Monday’s show. The three acts were very worthwhile despite the loss of Luke Bell.

Ryan Joseph Anderson is a serious singer-songwriter who was based in Nashville but is now back in his hometown of Chicago. He plays guitar well and has a nice folk voice. I especially liked Weep Caroline and another song that may be called Ease My Mind. Ryan also later joined Brian to play guitar for a few songs.

Brian Johannesen is a very good vocalist with a warm, friendly and unpretentious stage presence. I like his porch-singer feel and his engaging lyrics. He told me he studied English in college and loves writing lyrics to precisely fit song structure. He’s clever with it. Here’s a sample from Movin’ On:

“I’ve got no place to go. I move on home, back to Chicago. Sure the winter’s harsh, but hold on honey, we can make it to March. Mama asking what comes next. I can’t even figure out why I left. Maybe I was getting drunk or maybe I just knew when enough was enough.

I relate easily to Brian’s Two Hot Dogs and A Coke song – I had a mom that knew how to make me feel better, I grew up in a Chicago overcoat and I love a good snappy dog. Among other originals, Brian covered John Prine’s Paradise (Muhlenburg County) which I haven’t heard for awhile. Good sing-along.

Sandwiched between the sets from Ryan and Bryan was Young Mister (pictured above). He is songwriter Steven Fiore from Waynesville, NC. Playing solo with an electric guitar helped Steven stand apart from the other two acoustic acts. I really liked his music and have since downloaded the Young Mister EP on iTunes. I also ordered a few more copies for friends who I know will love it.

Even though Steven was a little hoarse on Monday, his voice is wonderful – unfettered by tricky stuff, just straight-on pretty singing. Tone wise, I thought of Jackson Brown. One reviewer compared Young Mister to Peter Gabriel. Yep, I get that, too. And Peter Gabriel’s 1986 song Don’t Give Up  (with Kate Bush) seems to answer Young Mister’s Anybody Out There. Play ’em together sometime. Interesting side note, the story is Dolly Parton turned down Bush’s part. Too bad it didn’t happen. I’d have loved that at this year’s CMA show.

About Chillwave. Pandora defines it as “abstract and downtempo” with “washed-out sounds and dreamy atmosphere.” I also read these terms: faded or dreamy retro pop, lo-fi recording, effects processing, synthesizers recalling 80s pop. I guess I am a fan and I didn’t know it.

In between songs, Steven, a.k.a. Young Mister, thanked Sean Moeller for having him and told him, “This is a cool thing that you do.”  Yes, I agree. It is cool that Sean helps ordinary folks like me discover and rediscover great music.

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Brian Johannesen, Steven Fiore (Young Mister) and Ryan Joseph Anderson after their Moeller Nights performance November 28 in Davenport, IA.

Learn more about music fan Karen Bernick here.  Please feel free to share this article!  But please use photos with permission only – just email me with any requests. If you like this post, please consider following me here, liking my Facebook page Karen Loves Country or following me at Twitter. Thanks for reading! #MoellerNights #Chillwave #Countrymusic

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