The University of Iowa University of Iowa

A Night of Lobsters and Alt-Country at Public Space One

The windows radiated a soft violet glow in the Public Space One Close House. The Italianate style house sits almost alone on Gilbert Street, looking down from a hill. The space acts as a hub for the PS1 art collective by housing artists and providing them a space to create whatever they can put their minds to, giving them the means and freedom to do so. On Jan. 24 the house hosted local musicians Joe Kenkel and Dan Wriggins. The two were accompanied by Nashville based artist Brennan Wedl and their full band.  

Walking across the broad lawn and up the to the looming old doors, I pulled the handle to ring the bell and was let in. Immediately to the right upon entry was an old tandem dining and living area that has been repurposed as a part time performance space. Both areas lined with folding chairs, theater seats, and couches that looked towards the performers. A chandelier hung above. A window lay behind the room, glazed over in light, looking out onto the street. The wall to right hosted a ten-foot lobster leftover from the Dada Prom, which PS1 hosted in December. 

Image via Public Space One

Joe Kenkel was the first to perform. A transplant from Nashville, this was his first show playing in Iowa City after moving here about a year and a half ago. He sang, and played soothingly mellow, chilled out songs from a clean, reverberating guitar. The sound was backed by a drum machine he laid on the ground, his feet plucking at it with careful precision. 

Joe Kenkel Performing

The second set brought Brennan Wedl and their full band. With their alternative country sound, the songs they played were a very stark change. They were much more energetic, with a hard rock sound characterized by an effortless twang. The galloping, driving sound was occasionally elevated by a searing, hissing guitar sound that tore through the room. Other noise rock elements enriched the wonderfully raucous atmosphere. The lyrics in each song told a delicate personal story, laced with turmoil.  

Brennan Wedl and their band performing

Finally, Dan Wriggins, sporting a hoodie with a lobster crest, closed out the night. Swapping out his typical guitar, he played his songs on a piano modulated through a smaller synthesizer. The melodic, somber chords seeped through the room, backing up his gravely echoing voice. The words wavered with emotion as he recited lyrics that contained poetic snapshots of experiences.  

Wriggins played the title track “Mr. Chill” from his most recent EP. His only song of his that doesn’t rhyme, but still it works. He also performed songs from his band Friendship, including “I Don’t Have to Imagine Your Love” and “Clairvoyant” from the album “Dreamin.” He ended the set with the song “Hex on the Barn,” discussing whether some images have symbolism, comparing the recent ink on his arm to the Dutch hex symbols found throughout rural Pennsylvania. All while the lobster loomed over, listening.  

Brennan Wedl and their band are still touring through spots in the Midwest. Joe Kenkel and Dan Wriggins will to continue to play around the area.  Below are links to all of the artist’s Bandcamp pages.

Joe Kenkel

Brennan Wedl

Dan Wriggins