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Mission Creek Preview: Thursday & Friday

Iowa City’s largest yearly celebration of the arts returns this weekend. The Mission Creek Festival, put on by The Englert, features artists in both literature and music, with readings and concert performances. Thursday’s events occur solely at Hancher Auditorium, while performances on Friday take place in multiple different venues around Iowa City. Here are some events happening on Thursday and Friday of the festival.


Image via American Libraries Magazine

Hanif Abdurraqib (6:00 PM Hancher Auditorium)

Acclaimed writer Hanif Abdurraqib will read from his new memoir There’s Always This YearOn Basketball and Ascension at Hancher Auditorium to kick off Mission Creek Festival. Hanif hails from Columbus, Ohio and is armed with the slogan “Ohio Against the World”. This mantra matches the biography’s tone that traces basketball stars like LeBron James, and many other stellar players that are mostly lost to time. Hanif resurrects these careers in this narrative. 

On Thursday, April 4th in the Hancher Auditorium, Hanif will be in conversation with Tisa Bryant, author of Unexplained Presence, an essay collection that blends fiction, criticism, and theory. Bryant serves as an Assistant Professor in the University of Iowa’s Non-Fiction Writing Program. 

Both authors break conventions within form, as Abdurraqib’s writing toes the line between prose and poetry. In every effort, he brings a poetic lens to his work. Previously, he wrote the essay collection A Little Devil in America, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. Recently with ESPN, Hanif wrote a profile about his longtime favorite team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and their winning season that has shocked basketball fans across the country. 

-Nick Layeux, Training Director

Image via Reviler

L’Rain (7:30 PM Hancher Auditorium)

Multi-instrumentalist and sound curator L’Rain, the stage name for Taja Cheek, will perform at the Mission Creek Festival on Thursday at Hancher Auditorium. A Brooklyn native and surrealist musician creating her own genre, L’Rain’s latest works are influenced by jazz, gospel, R&B, rock, and pop, but maintain their own deeply personal identity.  

Cheek labels her most recent album I Killed Your Dog as an “anti-break-up” record. She reflects on the conflicts of the internal soul and external identity to shape music into a conversation between love and heartbreak. “I’m envisioning a world of contradictions, as always,” as Cheek describes the record, “sensual, maybe even sexy, but terrifying, and strange.”  

Expect a bold and prismatic performance of instrumental motifs and loops layered into a visceral noise that bounces around the soul in constant motion. Like hearing a dream come to life, L’Rain’s music is an experience that pieces together a collection of found sounds to momentarily bridge the gap which divides the world from the surreal. 

-Pauly, Editorial Staff

Image via Lauren Husting

Neko Case (8:45 PM Hancher Auditorium)

This year’s Mission Creek Festival is being headlined by one of the preeminent American voices of a generation: Neko Case. Case is a member of the Vancouver based indie-rock supergroup the New Pornographers, as well as having a prominent solo career, winning the “Female Artist of the Year” award at the PLUG Independent Music Awards in 2006. 

In April of 2022, Case released sir latest album, titled Wild Creatures. Described by Anti- Records as a, “career retrospective.” The album contains 22 re-releases of Case’s strongest solo tracks, including all-time bangers like “Man”, “Furnace Room Lullaby”, and “I Wish I Was The Moon”.  

But one album was not enough for Neko Case. Almost a year later, in March of 2023, the New Pornographers released their ninth studio album, titled Continue as a Guest. Case performs as lead vocalist for all but two of the album’s ten tracks. Case gives the tracks, with lyrics by songwriter and producer A.C. Newman, a “sweet, surreptitious poetry,” as described by Jon Dolan for Rolling Stone.  

We here at KRUI hope you take our advice and find the time to go out and see Neko Case at this year’s headlining event. Sir performance can be seen on Thursday, April 4th at Hancher Auditorium.  

-Case Fenner, News Director


Image via Strangers of Necessity

Strangers of Necessity (7:30 PM Gabe’s)

For those seeking poised, silky rap at Mission Creek this year, the kind that understands the power of a savvy hook and explosive kick drum, look no further than Strangers of Necessity. Comprising Iowa City based producer CoryAyo and Chicago rapper Fooch the MC, Strangers of Necessity is an authentic Midwest hip-hop duo. The duo’s name speaks to the nature of their formation. After connecting online via Twitter, they rapidly struck up a friendship and intense creative partnership.  

Following up from their debut EP Tangerine Avenue and subsequent project The Layover, the duo’s 2020 release Vibe Theory encapsulates their effortless synthesis of tight rhymes and polished instrumentals. From the hard-hitting beat and infectious chorus of album opener “Incredible Flow”, to the laid-back atmosphere of “Fundamental” – “Mixing the old with the new, cooking up gumbo stew,” – it’s packed full of imaginative, well-rounded tracks. There’s even a charismatic appearance from Iowa City favorite Jim Swim on the stand-out “I Can See It”. Unsurprisingly, it’s Strangers of Necessity themselves who are best suited to articulate their sound. “They might call this hip-hop but I just call it vibe music. The shit you can ride to, the shit you can vibe to,” they playfully declare on “Mild Sauce”. 

-Glenn Houlihan, Editorial Staff

George Clanton – I Been Young music video

George Clanton (8:00 PM The Englert)

As a part of the Mission Creek Festival lineup, multidisciplinary artist George Clanton will perform at The Englert Theatre on April 5th. George Clanton is an electronic musician and singer-songwriter based out of Los Angeles. Most often associated with his contributions to the internet based genre vaporwave, Clanton’s musical output has largely remained DIY and inspired by underground music. First coming onto the scene under the monikers ESPRIT 空想 and Mirror Kisses, Clanton established himself through lo-fi instrumentals and sampled music, before dropping both band names completely in favor of his birth name.  

In 2015, Clanton released his album 100% Electronica under his record label of the same name, established with his now wife, and fellow musician Neggy Gemmy (FKA Negative Gemini). His most recently released album, 2023’s Ooh Rap I Yah, finds Clanton maturing in his development of electronic pop, evocative of past nostalgia and memory as previously explored in his breakout 2018 project Slide.

Plucking pop culture references and mashing them into a psychedelic phantasmagoria, Clanton’s auditory and visual style have become uniquely idiosyncratic in our modern music landscape, establishing him as one of the most interesting artists currently working today. Clanton will be stopping in Iowa City as a part of his current national tour with supporting acts Frost Children and Full Body 2. 

-Ben Romero, Editorial Staff

Image via Ravelin Magazine

Hatis Noit (8:30 PM Riverside Theater)

From Shiretoko of Hokkaido and now residing in London, Hatis Noit takes us on a journey through Nepal to Buddha’s birthplace, where she was inspired to sing through the otherworldly sound of a female monk’s Buddhist chants. She realized the power of the human voice and its ability to synthesize the essence of humanity in tonal form. Drawing from Gagaku and operatic music, such as Gregorian and Bulgarian chants, her music reminds us of the spiritual force which has inspired music for millennia.  

The name “Hatis Noit” itself means the stem of the lotus flower, originating in Japanese folklore. The lotus itself represents the living world while the root represents the spiritual world. Hatis Noit connects the two as one, seeing music as an embodiment of this underground that is our past, subconscious, and memory. Her critically acclaimed album Aura, released in June of 2022, draws on painful personal and shared memories, such as the 2011 tsunami and the 2020 pandemic, in a collection of chilling and visceral vocal power.  

Every sound on the album, excluding recordings of the ocean near a nuclear plant on “Inori”, is her own voice, with an intensity comparable to that of Björk. She notably featured collaborators of the Icelandic singer in Matmos on her EP Illogical Dance on Erased Tapes. She also features Armand Hammer, who will also be at Mission Creek, on her latest single “Jomon – Preservation Rework“. 

-Lauren McGovern, Editorial Staff

Image via Summer of the Arts

Anthony Worden (9:00 PM Gabe’s)

Having grown up in Cedar Rapids and graduating from the University of Iowa, Anthony Worden is intimately familiar with the highs and lows of muddling through life in Eastern Iowa. Indeed, Worden’s impressive musical output, often supported by the exceptional band The Illiterati, is matched by a genuine drive to strengthen the social fabric of Iowa City. The Illiterati Fest, an annual celebration of local art, music, and community, has twice raised money for local causes: Inside Out Reentry Community in its first year and the South District Market in its second.  

Worden further supported Inside Out Reentry Community, a nonprofit based in Iowa City that serves people returning to Johnson County after incarceration, by playing at their Be An Instrument for Change Spring Concert last May. I can vouch for this being a killer show. I was lounging in the glorious sun at the Riverside Festival Stage in City Park throughout it, and I expect nothing less on Friday night at Gabe’s.  

While Worden’s heterodox rock is sandwiched between two hip-hop artists, his cult hero status and familiarity with the iconic venue will no doubt ensure a cathartic performance. With a fifth album, Plain Angels, due for release this spring, fans will be treated to new songs, alongside his promised new band. Anthony, if you read this before Friday, please play “Lost in the Fog of War”. It’s like Arcade Fire suddenly materialized in an Iowa City recording studio and started writing about student debt. 

-Glenn Houlihan, Editorial Staff

Image via Atwood Magazine

Indigo De Souza (9:45 PM The Englert)

Indigo de Souza, is an American-Brazilian musician residing in North Carolina, but originally from Connecticut. She’s known for being one of the leading figures within the pond of indie, and alternative rock. Under the label Saddle Creek, de Souza’s earlier success comes from some of her iconic EP tracks “Boys” and “Sleep Talking” which were released back in 2016. Then, in 2018, she came out with her most notable work, the album I Love My Mom, which contains songs that defined her artistry and career such as “How I Get Myself Killed”, “Take Off Your Pants”, and “What Are We Gonna Do Now”, which all demonstrate her aptitude for using nature references and imagery as a vehicle for deeper symbolism.  

De Souza’s lyrics are relatable, candid, and grounded in reality. They are teeming with allusions that lead to themes like heartbreak, disappointment, and the rattling chaos of being alive. In line with this, what de Souza captures in her instrumentals is a pristine rawness of electric guitar, paired with jangly, lo-fi, chamber pop tonalities. It all comes together to form a poignant symphony of vulnerability, and burning desire to live up to one’s wants in life. 

-Anika Maculangan, Editorial Staff

Sunny War (10:00 PM Riverside Theater)

A veteran Mission Creek performer, this year sees Nashville’s own Sunny War at a very exciting time in her career. Having moved away from their traditional folk punk sound, their most recent record Anarchist Gospel instead has a blend of different styles. With varying inclusions from blues rhythms to country twang, the stylistic shift suits them well, as evidenced by the flurry of positive reviews the project garnered. Yet, Sunny War manages to retain some of the artistic factors that remain essential to their works: pointed conscious songwriting, and a wholehearted soulful delivery. 

-Evan Raefield, Music Staff

Image via Portland Mercury

Armand Hammer (10:45 Gabe’s)

On Friday, New York City rap duo Armand Hammer will be making a stop in Iowa City to perform songs off their latest album, We Buy Diabetic Test Strips. If you are out of the loop and unfamiliar with them, Armand Hammer is a prolific rap group that truly represents hip-hop at its core with their socioeconomically centered lyrics and dark, grimy production. The duo consists of New York rapper Elucid, and Washington D.C. rapper Billy Woods. Despite being the best duo in the game right now, Billy Woods and Elucid are both strong rappers individually, having stellar solo discographies.  

On their latest LP, the duo creatively pushes themselves further than ever. Featuring production from greats like JPEGMAFIA and EL-P, Armand Hammer explores the various plights of the human condition over beats that are both abrasive and ambient. The lyricism on this project is razor sharp and thought provoking, with themes and motifs that will leave you pondering for weeks.  

The rap duo’s live performances certainly live up to their reputation as artists. Their performances are loud, fiery, and energetic. When they perform there is a spiritual feeling in the audience as every line, word, and syllable travels through both your mind, body, and spirit. Their performance will be one of the best at the festival, with the show likely being discussed by the audience for weeks after.  If you want to see two hip-hop greats in their respective primes, Mission Creek is the place to be. 

-Maurice Crawford, Editorial Staff