Attentive readers or twitter followers might already know that this Editor In Chief is currently stationed in Detroit, Michigan, watching the Chicago scene from a 4-Hours-Away perch somewhere in the dregs of suburbia. If there's one thing I love, however, it's a good road trip, and if there's two things that I love, it's anything to do with the internet's number one music discovery tool, Daytrotter. Combine the two? And well, you've got yourself something that I was more than willing to drive 7 hours to be in attendance for.
Daytrotter’s Barn on the 4th of July was an all out blowout in the fashion of their previous 3 Barnstormer tours and the special thing about the event is the fact that the people that it brought out were people who genuinely care about music and care about what founding father Sean Moeller is doing for indie music in the Midwest. Those douchebags talking loudly in the back throughout sets? You won't find them in attendance. Instead, you'll find some of the most dedicated music fans in the world. Plus, it's a rock and roll show in a barn featuring bands that you'll never see in such a unique venue. Delta Spirit? Ra Ra Riot? Local Natives? Dawes? They're all Barnstormer alums and it was a repeat barn performance by Dawes that was the catalyst for me to decide to take the trek out Iowa way. Plus, they were on a bill with such stellar and winning musicians as Jonny Corndawg, These United Sates, Justin Townes Earle, Young Man and a super secret headliner, which ended up being, of all bands, The Walkmen.
What you’re about to read is gonna get lengthy, so grab a cup of coffee and get comfy. This is the first of five entries about Daytrotter’s Barn on the 4th of July.
Despite being from Chicago, I’d never heard of Young Man before it was announced that the Illini would be hitting Codfish Hallow and I found my attention to be more geared towards the arrival of familiar faces than the music as Colin Caulfield and company took stage. As the sounds began to seep out from the barn into the surrounding areas, however, I couldn’t help but tilt my ears towards the indoors and the dreamy indie pop emanating from it.
Young Man specializes in earthy lo-fi, heavily influenced fittingly enough by early Walkmen albums with a small dash of Vampire Weekend. They play songs that are evocative of a lazy summer day and despite the fact that the vast majority of Young Man’s songs are about youth and growing up (fitting, given Colin Caulfield’s stage moniker), something about Young Man’s music made me want to sit on my porch with a group of great friends and cold beer. While I wasn’t on my porch, I did have the other two prerequisites for a Young Man listening party and at the end of the set, came out of the barn a slightly more at peace, slightly more buzzed woman. You can thank Young Man for the first part. The second part? Well, that was all due to Rock of the Arts founder Rick and his keg of Spotted Cow.
2nd act Jonny Corndawg is an amazing guy. There’s no way you can cross paths with Jonny Corndawg and not think he’s awesome. When I first encountered the man, he was getting his head shaved at a picnic table. Later, I saw him eating a couple of corndawgs. Then I bumped into him setting up his merch, which included his phenomenally kick ass guitar case. He gave me a business card. It said “Jonny Corndawg: Leatherwork, Country Music, Pet Portraits.” Does it even matter if this music is good? This dude is clearly awesome!
Of course, it just wouldn’t make sense for Corndawg to be so awesome and not play awesome music. Backed by the musical prodigies in Dawes, Corndawg, according to my tweets of the whole shebang, “tore it the fuck up”, just like I knew he would despite having never heard more than two Jonny Corndawg songs in my life.
Corndawg plays dirty country, the kind of stuff they don’t make anymore. There’s no pretentiousness in what he does, there’s only the honesty, hilarity, and all around rock n’ roll spirit that can be found in the songs of Hank Williams, of Jimmie Rodgers, of Wayne Hancock. More akin to the fathers of country than anything modern, Corndawg’s stage presence emanates with love for what he’s doing, and backed by Dawes, his talent shines through even more.
To say that Dawes is great is an understatement. To say that they’ve got the potential to become legends is more accurate. And for an artist to now only hold his own on the stage with them but also to outshine them at every turn is remarkable. I didn’t know Jonny Corndawg before the 4th but now, I’m doing everything in my power to get him back to the Midwest. You want to know where the hootenanny’s at? Wherever Corndawg is, that’s where you’ll find it.
Photography by Mark Fain. Except for the first Jonny Corndawg picture. That's by Spencer Wells.
Tomorrow? Part two, featuring These United States and Justin Townes Earle.