Lefty's brings live music back to Drake area
Iggy Pop, Hank Williams Sr., Madonna, Johnny Cash, Lemmy, Lefty.
Those are just some of the music icons painted on the wall at Lefty's Live Music, which celebrates its grand opening this weekend. Other than Lefty, those names should be familiar to any music fan, but in the months to come Lefty will become a very familiar face to Des Moines fans.
Lefty isn't a musician, he's co-owner Anne Mathey's three-legged dog. You'll find his friendly visage painted on the wall right next to a slightly less-friendly looking Ozzy Osbourne. Show up for a show and there's a good chance you might see the real deal greeting customers or curled up in his bed.
Music fans should already be familiar with Mathey and co-owner Erik Brown. Mathey managed the bar at the East Village music venue House of Bricks for more than a decade and Brown was usually checking IDs and taking cover at the door or performing with his band The Maw. Last year the duo approached House of Bricks' owners about handling the entertainment side of the bar, only to find out plans were in the works to convert the venue into a restaurant, Streetcar 209.
"We had some late night conversations, asking if we wanted to try to open our own venue or go to another venue. It seemed to make sense to try it ourselves," Brown said. "We started reaching out to the community to see if this might be a feasible thing. Ten months later, here we sit. It's pretty surreal."
Mathey and Brown looked as several locations, including spots downtown and a location in Altoona. They were weighing their options when a listing popped up at 2307 University Ave.
That's an address that will dredge up many musical memories for fans of a certain age. It's been home to venues like Bagg's and Safari Club, where Slipknot played some of its formative shows (Shawn Crahan owned the bar at one point) and finally the second incarnation of Hairy Mary's. Fugazi, The White Stripes, Tenacious D; big names have played at 2307. But for nearly a decade it had been an Irish bar targeting Drake students. Since Hairy Mary's closing, music had become centralized in downtown.
Now it's returning to Dogtown.
"I initially thought it would be too small," Mathey said. "I saw quite a few shows at Mary's and I was picturing how it was set up then. We wanted something for 300 to 400 people and it seemed like the space held 200 tops. Then we came in, looked around and thought 'This could happen.' The first time we walked in both of us had the 'This is it' feeling.
For this weekend's shows, Lefty's is mining the different elements of Iowa's music scene. David Zollo and Joe and Vickie Price are notable figures in what is called "The Iowa Sound," while Marcato and Alice Unchained factor into Iowa's hard rock scene. Sunday's Mother Ship Blues Band features notable blues musicians Jeff Banks, James Biehn, Justin Appel, Jon Locker and Scott Dawson.
Brown wants Lefty's to bring in acts that have been influential to popular music that still play smaller clubs; bands like the Melvins, Fishbone and Mudhoney. One of Mathey's goals is to book the popular Omaha indie band Tilly & The Wall.
"This is historical, it's a landmark to the music scene here," Brown said. "I've heard it a billion times we since we purchased it. It makes people verklempt."
Lefty's Live Music grand opening shows
Where: 2307 University Ave.
David Zollo and The Body Electric, Joe and Vickie Price, King of the Tramps
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Marcato, Alice Unchained
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Mother Ship Blues Band
When: 8 p.m. Sunday