Behind one of this year’s best albums, The Wonder Years return to Des Moines
The Warped Tour 2018 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. The tour is ending after 24 years. Juan Carlo
Dan Campbell can’t recall the last time his band played Iowa.
“The last time? That’s hard,” said Campbell, frontman of Philadelphia pop punk outfit The Wonder Years. “I have this list of the first time we played every state. ... April 25, 2010 at Vaudeville Mews.”
It’s probably tough to recall because The Wonder Years spent the last decade crisscrossing continents, playing rooms in Argentina, Australia, Japan and the countries in between — each city full of passionate fans who faithfully shout along to the group’s working-class anthems.
The Wonder Years return Nov. 13 to the Hawkeye state, playing Wooly’s in Des Moines’ East Village. The show comes in support of the band’s sixth studio album, “Sister Cities,” a cathartic collection of guitar-driven stories showcasing how emotional experience can connect humans who otherwise seem worlds apart.
Have Mercy, Oso Oso and Shortly open the show.
Campbell first thought of writing a global record in 2016, a way for the band to document a world tour. Space on the tour was limited, so they didn't bring a documentarian, instead opting to take photos and journal the experience.
The images and words manifested into 11 impassioned anthems music tastemaker Pitchfork described as having “an overpowering sense of earnestness and vulnerability that makes it work.”
The band tracked most of “Sister Cities” live, a move Campbell explained as so “everyone can feed off each other’s energy and feel it.”
On the album’s concept, Campbell said: “There’s a huge running, worldwide narrative from certain leaders that attempt to condition differentness as opposition to you. … Hey, we’ve been to these places where people are saying that the people (who) live there are your enemy. They’re really nice. Everyone’s really cool and they’re much more similar to you than you think that they are.
“People are kind of alike and the ways they are different form you are not more adversarial.”
The Wonder Years bring to Des Moines an untethered live performance; a place where concertgoers unite through shared experience.
Campbell’s grizzled vocals lead the charge with proclamations of coming-of-age unease and suburban anxiety, such as 2015’s “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” or 2011’s “Don’t Let Me Cave In.”
“Everything we have that night we’re going to give you on that stage,” Campbell said. “That’s the plan from the beginning of this band.”
It’s about creating a community, he explained. The Wonder Years provide an opportunity to unite — an experience that’s created lifelong friendships and engendered marriage proposals, Campbell said.
“We want to you to feel like you’re part of a community in that crowd and everyone is coming together and singing together,” Campbell said.
The group’s due to play 11 countries in four months; a run of shows that could be the Wonder Years’ last for the coming months. Campbell’s due to become a father in 2019.
“We’re not saying we’re not going to tour next year or ever again or anything like that,” Campbell explained. “There will be a next one, I hope, but I can’t tell you when it is.”
If you go …
Who: The Wonder Years with Have Mercy, Oso Oso and Shortly
When: Nov. 13 at 7 p.m.
Where: Wooly’s, 504 E. Locust
Cost: $18.75-$25 before fees