Nathaniel Rateliff and an Iowa barn: Why the beloved soul singer plays rural Iowa every fall
The first time soulful rock ‘n’ roll songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff brought his band the Night Sweats to play Codfish Hollow, he kinda hoped to go to bed early.
“It was a day before our first appearance on Fallon,” Rateliff said via email. “I was doing my best to take it easy and go to bed early so I didn’t look like s--- for the show.”
But that’s just not the Codfish way of doing things.
“I thought myself and the band were on the same page until I figured out that all of them were having too much fun and weren’t going to bed for hours," Rateliff said.
Don’t worry, though. Rateliff and the Night Sweats killed it on “The Tonight Show,” introducing to the world to “S.O.B.,” a foot-stompin’ folk rock anthem that would be inescapable for the rest of the year.
That head-turning performance in August 2015 rocket-launched the Colorado group from an opening act on tour to selling out amphitheaters and headlining festivals.
Still, Rateliff and the Night Sweats plan to make time each fall for a trip to the rolling hills of northeastern Iowa to headline GARP, a two-night festival at Codfish Hollow, Iowa’s beloved barn-turned-venue in rural Maquoketa.
GARP III runs Friday and Saturday, boasting 23 acts on two stages.
Rateliff began an open-ended run as GARP headliner last September; Iowa music luminary Sean Moeller curates the show in partnership with the performer he first booked in 2009. This year’s bill features support from soul singer LOLO, classic country act Cactus Blossoms, Denver band Bad Licks and more.
GARP offers an intimate experience that fans compete to see; there’s about 600 tickets inside the barn for sale each night with a limited number of additional lawn seats available.
In its third year, barn tickets to GARP sold out in less than a minute; a few $25 Friday lawn tickets remain available, Moeller said.
“Nobody knew about it until we announced it,” said Moeller, a tenured Quad Cities concert promoter and venue owner. “Everybody was on an even playing field. Everybody had the same chance to get tickets to that thing.”
Rateliff and company embraced the rural and welcoming come-on-in-and-feel-at-home atmosphere Codfish Hollow offers its visitors. The venue, hosting the likes of Norah Jones, Kurt Vile and the Counting Crows in previous summers, pairs renowned entertainment with dirt road escapism.
It’s a good time, plain and simple.
“I want to come back because I love the land there and I love the people,” Rateliff said.
From the archives: Inside the Iowa barn that’s a one-of-a-kind music venue
And the Midwestern serenity as a backdrop for an intimate show “makes you feel like you’re recording Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ live for an audience.”
So, Moeller worked with the band to ensure that, no matter how many records get sold or songs get streamed, the Night Sweats have a space reserved at the festival.
"Everybody in the band was just worried they’d never get to play there again,” Moeller said. “That was one of the things that was gonna bum them out the most. … We just decided to arrange it so that wouldn’t happen.”
As for how the band felt after that long night, the first of many Night Sweat trips to Jackson County?
“They had a blast,” Rateliff said. “Andy (Wild, Night Sweats saxophonist) had a long night of cuddling Garp — the Codfish family dog whose memory the festival (is) named after — in the field.
“I gave them hell the next day, but not too much.”
Find more information on GARP III at codfishhollowbarnstormers.com.