BY HANNAH THOMAS
On Feb. 2, Drake students in the Recorded Music Industry J-term saw their class project come to life through Venus Rising, a concert they created and hosted at Lefty’s Live Music.
“For the first week or so, it was really hard just trying to conceptualize what we were going to do for the show and how we were going to pull it off,” junior Liz Bregenzer said. “It was a bit scary at the beginning.”
Bregenzer is one of nine Drake students who participated in the class, which paired with local record label Station 1 Records to produce the event in three weeks.
This year, students were asked to develop, book and promote a show for Station 1’s Lily Detaeye, a singer-songwriter studying at the University of Iowa.
Bregenzer was part of the publicity team and spent a lot of her time helping develop and promote the show.
“We had control over who else we wanted to book, what we wanted to call the show, the price of the tickets and when we wanted the show to start,” Bregenzer said. “We had control over all of those little elements.”
While they had the support of Drake professor Tom Swartwood and Station 1’s Executive Director Tobi Parks and Director of Operations Tom Kutz, the students were allowed free reign.
“They sat us down and told us ‘This is what you’re going to do. Do it,’” Bregenzer said. “They were there to help, but they definitely weren’t holding our hands.”
Junior Jordan Lundquist had a say in the event’s theme, which was inspired by the painting “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli.
“This painting represents both women’s empowerment and emergence,” he said. “In order to balance out the very baroque painting, we paired it with bright colors and simple text to bring this traditional figure of rebellion into the modern day … Juxtaposing the artists with the painting puts them in this same league of boldness.”
This strong theme, backed by the lineup of female artists like Lily Detaeye and Molly Brandt, was almost coincidental.
“We didn’t even really realize how all the bands were fronted by women until we sat down to find common threads between our acts,” Lundquist said. “We just wanted to represent great local music.”
High School Girls, the last performance of the night, was actually created by students in the J-term class. The group is led by sophomore Peyton Johnson.
“I was on the booking team and we were looking at opening acts,” Johnson said. “In order to save some money, me and a couple of guys in the class decided we could perform because we don’t need to be paid. We could just learn a couple songs and do it.”
Johnson said she was excited to get such an immersive experience in the world of music.
“You’re sitting there and Tobi is showing you these performers on the website and they look like such a big deal. Then Lily comes in and you realize that musicians are normal people,” Johnson said. “I’m a normal person and a musician. I can make it, too.”
After coming together for this single event, Johnson hopes High School Girls will continue to perform around the Drake area.
“I think it’s important for people to see that there are young people who are motivated, and even if something huge doesn’t come out of it, they are having good, clean fun,” Johnson said.
Lily Detaeye said she enjoyed working with the Drake students behind the event and the hard work they put into making the night a success.
“They’ve been doing a lot of marketing for it, which is cool. I wish more shows marketed like they did,” Detaeye said. “The class is full of people who know what they are talking about and care about it, so they’ve been a big help.”
She said she also appreciated the theme of the night as part of her life as a musician.
“It’s hard being a female musician because the field is so male-dominated,” Detaeye said. “People don’t necessarily give that any attention, so when you see an all female show people kind of wipe that away, but I definitely think it’s important.”
She hopes, however, that a show like this in Des Moines will help the local music scene move forward.
“I think right now is the time for (shows like Venus Rising), but as we progress we need to maybe get away from titling all female lineups,” she said. “When it’s an all-male lineup, people don’t go ‘Look at these men play their songs together, how beautiful.’”
Detaeye’s music can be found on Spotify and iTunes. Her next show in Des Moines is at the Gas Lamp on March 2 with Karen Wheelock and Peas and Carrot.