Article by Alexa Squire, Photo of Ames by Tim Kiser
Ames, Iowa is just north of Des Moines and home to Iowa State University. The city has been working tirelessly to energize its art community in recent years, and newer projects like the Maximum Ames Music Festival and Ames Progressive, as well as old mainstays like The Maintenance Shop, have built a growing and eclectic music scene.
Leslie & the LY’s, perhaps the most enigmatic band out of the bunch, features frontwoman Leslie Hall and backup girls Dr. Laura and Classy K. Leslie & the LY’s is theatric and poppy hip hop that skirts the line between obnoxious and fantastic. Her live shows are not to be missed. Otherwise known as “Mother Gem,” Leslie is always decked out in fantastic shiny leggings and ostentatious blinged-out Goodwill sweaters at her shows, and spends time on stage christening the new sweaters that fans give her. She is, after all, the self-proclaimed “founding father” of gem sweater history.
Pennyhawk was started by singer/songwriter/mulch-instrumentalist Kate Kennedy but has grown to include as many as seven other Ames musicians. Pennyhawk has a quirky, gypsy-folk feel that sounds homegrown and smart, and their latest EP, Another Layer, is a must-listen.
Jordan Mayland has been active in the Ames music scene for years as part of Keepers of the Carpet, Nuclear Rodeo, Electronidoll, Tires, Mantis Pincers, Volcano Boys, and The Thermal Detonators. Though some of those bands are taking a break, his solo debut, Jordan Mayland and the Thermal Detonators, released a low-key, melodic, and emotional EP in 2009 and played at Maximum Ames Music Festival. Nuclear Rodeo recently released a Christmas EP and the Volcano Boys have been playing shows in central Iowa this winter.
Mumford’s is a crazy folk/punk/dance/rock band that was formed in 2008 after the death of Don Mumford, a jazz musician that helped to revive the Ames music scene. The band is known for their songs that feature elaborate storytelling as well as their shows that feature equally as awesome dancing. Their most recent release, Triple Trinities, is religiously-themed and creates an intriguingly dark drama for the listener to follow. The band occasionally tours with Fairfield’s Utopia Park and always reps their home state—as their blog says, “Seriously, what is life? What isn’t life? Where are we? Oh yeah, I remember now: IOWA.”