The sound

February 3rd, 2011 |


By Michael Swanger


Club 504 opens its spacious room to local and national acts


With a seating capacity of 700, a large stage equipped with ample lights and sound gear, a high ceiling, a long bar and a giant wooden floor that encourages dancing, Club 504 makes a powerful first impression.

“ ‘Wow’ is usually the first word that comes out of peoples’ mouths when they walk in for the first time,” said Skyler Van Walbeek, talent buyer for Club 504. “I think of it as a smaller version of the Val Air Ballroom.”

Located in the heart of downtown Des Moines’ East Village, Club 504’s physical presence is greater than its neighbors’ (though it has an unassuming storefront), but its diverse live music offerings fit in with the artisan mindset of the district.

“We’re going to try a mix of things to see what Des Moines wants when it comes to live music,” said owner Tim Flanagan, “but it takes people to support it for that to happen.”

Since its opening a few weeks ago, Club 504 has hosted shows from local bands like Brother Trucker, The Renegades of Sound and Cirrus Minor, to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Artimus Pyle, to a popular Latin music night. On Saturday, Feb. 5, legendary P-Funk frontman George Clinton will play there. Tickets are $32 in advance and $36 at the doors, which open at 7:30 p.m.

“That will be our first big show to kick things off,” Van Walbeek said. “We should be able to get the whole group on stage, they travel with 26 people.”

Van Walbeek, who has an associates degree in audio engineering and production from the Institute of Production and Recording, is familiar with the intricacies of touring bands. For three years, he has served as the soundman for The Nadas. He also works as an assistant engineer at Sonic Factory Studios in Des Moines. At age 23, however, this is his first gig booking bands.

“You have to be versatile to get paid in the music industry,” he said, adding that Scott Long and Scott Allen of Big Red Dog Productions will operate the club’s sound system.

Van Walbeek said that he will use his industry connections to help fill the club’s calendar while he works to establish the club’s reputation on the national touring circuit.

“There are a lot of great bands I’d like to see play here. We don’t want to limit ourselves to one style of music,” he said.

Flanagan and Van Walbeek said that they are contemplating rotating local blues and rock bands during the midweek as house bands, though nothing is confirmed. Flanagan also said that he would also like to host local garage bands, giving young musicians the opportunity to hone their skills before for an all-ages crowd.

“We’re interested in possibly putting them there with no cover charge and let them play for free so they can see what it’s like to play on a decent stage,” Flanagan said.

Some music fans might wonder whether Club 504 will compete with People’s Court because they are similar in size (People’s holds 900). But Van Walbeek says there is room for both venues in town.

“I don’t think it will be too competitive,” Van Walbeek said. “There are some bands that are loyal to Tom (Zmolek) and Amedeo (Rossi) and the Mews who said they want to see how we do before they play here. I’ve heard that from some fans, too. But if people want Des Moines to have a good live music scene they need to support everybody... Right now, we’re just trying to get the word out.” CV


caption: Skyler Van Walbeek books bands at the new Club 504 located in the East Village. Visit Photo by Michael Swanger



Upcoming shows at Club 504

Feb. 4: Johnny Reeferseed & The High Rollers, Thankful Dirt, $5

Feb. 5: George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic, Fat Tuesday, $32

Feb. 11: North of Grand, $5

Feb. 24: Pianopalooza, $5

Feb. 25: Bright Giant, Eric Murphy, Ben Wantland, $5

March 12: Satisfaction (Rolling Stones tribute band), tickets TBA