This weekend, I spent about 24 hours in Des Moines.
It went something like this: Drive from MSN to DSM. Arrive too early to check in to the hotel. Ride downtown. Get lunch (brunchpocalypse!) at Tacopocalypse. Ride to el Bait Shop for a beer or three and some nibbles. Ride to Raccoon River Brewing Company to find it closed. Ride back to the hotel. Drive downtown. Hang out and drink beer at the Locust Tap. Walk across the street to Wooly’s for the main event–a triple bill of heavy metal: Skeletonwitch, Sabaton, and Amon Amarth. Drive back to the hotel after the show, order pizza and watch low-budget professional wrestling, crash. Wake up slowly, pack up, check-out, and head to Mars Cafe for a Chemex. Go back to Tacopocalypse for lunch. Drive back to MSN. Relax on the couch with a beer and tell my wife all about it.
- Get anything at Tacopocalypse. Seriously. It’s all beyond excellent. So good that I would eat there every day if I worked in downtown Des Moines. Body by taco, indeed. If they served beer, I’d probably never leave.
- Skip the deep-fried chicken gizzards at el Bait Shop; they have no idea how to cook them. The bacon-wrapped tater tots are a winner though, and the deep-fried pickle spears were pretty good too. Their beer selection is awesome, though perhaps a little overwhelming for some when the server is wanting an order quickly.
- Mars Cafe is a real coffee shop. Well-selected roasts and our Chemex was done to perfection. Cool atmosphere and the type of crowd you’d expect down the road from a small Midwestern liberal arts college.
- The Locust Tap is definitely a dive bar, but one that served it’s purpose well: to provide a beer or two before a heavy metal show across the street. If nothing else, the wall graffiti will keep you busy for a while.
- Wooly’s is a decent small concert venue (we drove to Des Moines for this show in part to avoid larger ones in Chicago and Milwaukee), though they need to rethink the constant round of advertisements for future acts on the projection screen.
- We didn’t do as much riding as we’d planned, but what we did was pleasant and friendly, even when outside the downtown area and its burgeoning bicycle infrastructure. I’d definitely like to spent a bit more time in Des Moines with bicycle–especially since I’d clearly need to work off any number of tacos and burritos.
And what about the bands? Skeletonwitch was reduced to an instrumental quartet by the illness (or personal issues) of their lead singer over the weekend, so that was a bit of a disappointment, though they still hammered their way through an abbreviated opening set. Amon Amarth (the headliners) were everything we expected: loud, fast, growling Viking Metal that left us pummeled.
But Sabaton was the real surprise. I hadn’t heard of them when we bought tickets for this show, and only listened to a couple of their albums a couple of times beforehand. Having seen them on stage, this was clearly an oversight on my part–and one that we remedied on the way home by listening to four of their albums on random repeat until we got near Madison. Oh, and they’re probably the happiest metal band I’ve ever seen.