Local and touring acts visit Iowa City’s downtown following Mission Creek


Gabe’s and the Yacht Club bring in two rock and bluegrass groups: Iowa’s own Middle Western and The Way Down Wanderers.

By Troy Aldrich


Iowa City’s music fans and venues are in recovery mode following the Mission Creek week. Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St., and the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., hope to provide a cure as they bring in local and touring acts to their stages.

Middle Western is an Iowa music collective featuring William Elliott Whitmore and David Zollo. The band also features Stephen “The Kid” Howard, Stevie Doyle, and Brian Cooper. Whitmore and Zollo are no strangers to collaboration. Both have strong ties to Iowa City, leading them down the inevitable path of cooperative recording sessions and split gigs in the area.

“Dave played on Whitmore’s records, so they are old buddies for sure,” said Luke Tweedy, the owner of Flat Black studios, where Middle Western recorded its new album. “When Will told me of this idea about starting a rock and roll band with Dave, Steve Howard, and Coop, I was curious for sure.”

The band’s new album, *When Your Demons Are Under Ground and You’ve Got to Dig Them Up*, serves as the first piece of work produced by the new group.

Representing such the large body of work that exists between the two frontmen is an impossible task; the direction Middle Western is headed is something nonexistent in either individual’s discography.

“If I were to try to describe Middle Western, or how it fits into Whitmore or Zollo’s career, I would say it is a direct reflection of each their personal record collections,” Tweedy said. “Specifically, the early and mid-70s portion.”

The show at Gabe’s will serve as the album-release concert for the band. Middle Western will then begin a tour through Iowa and the Midwest.

Down the street from Gabe’s, The Way Down Wanderers are returning to town. The bluegrass and Americana band is no stranger to Iowa City, but coming fresh off of recording sessions in Los Angeles, its Iowa City fans can expect something new from the group.

“We have about 20 songs we wrote and recorded for the new album,” said Collin Krause, the lead singer and mandolin player for The Way Down Wanderers. “We do hope to save a couple of the new songs until the album comes out, though.”

Iowa City, as a whole, has largely supported bluegrass bands in the past. Similar groups, such as Yonder Mountain String Band, have packed local venues in the recent past. However, The Way Down Wanderers have found a home at the Yacht Club.

“We have played Gabe’s before, but our last couple stops have been at the Yacht Club,” Krause said. “We’ve had great response to our shows, especially when classes are in session.”

Local bluegrass counterpart Cedar County Cobras will open for The Way Down Wanderers.

While some venues in Iowa City are rebounding following the music-filled week of Mission Creek, the Englert has elected to switch gears.

It will host Exhibition on Screen on Saturday. This is a documentary series directed by Phil Grabsky and features some of the world’s most loved art.

The theater will also put on the Reclamation Workshop this weekend. Two writers connected to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop will host the event. Derek Nnuro has completed his time with the Workshop, while Tameka Cage Conley is in her final semester. The literature workshop will take place both Saturday and April 15.

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