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Sound Circuit

Hollowmen revive Midwest sound

8/19/2015

For as long as music has been played in Des Moines, the city does not, in all honest reality, have a huge number of bands that we could call “legendary” or “iconic.” Each person you talk to in the scene will have a different definition of what that means, to be sure, so there are very few points of universal agreement. But The Hollowmen is one of them.

The Hollowmen play Lefty’s on Saturday, Aug. 22, at 9 p.m.

The Hollowmen play Lefty’s on Saturday, Aug. 22, at 9 p.m.

Being most commonly likened to Minneapolis’ highly influential act, The Replacements, The Hollowmen were known for songs that were built with punishing rhythmic components, while still keeping one eye on pop accessibility.

The band’s lifespan was short —1984 to 1989 — but incredibly influential on the structure of Des Moines’ music for the next decade. In terms of genuine talent and raw potential, the band still stands as one of the greatest the city has produced. And now, a quarter-century after its component parts — guitarists Mike Sangster and Tom Armstrong, drummer Joe Page and bassists Eric Svenson and Jim Roth — went their separate ways, The Hollowmen are reuniting for two shows.

“I give all the credit to DaVo,” Svenson said in a phone interview, referring to local musician, body artist and Midwest music historian David “DaVo” Wilkins. “He reached out to me via Facebook to see if we’d be interested in playing as a part of a multi-decade tribute to Iowa music.”

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Svenson reached out to the other members of the band, who had long since scattered to the far reaches of the map, to gauge mutual interest. Everyone felt the time was right. The show would come with its own set of challenges, however. The band’s members had all moved on to other things: Armstrong turned to country music and moved to San Francisco; Roth tours with Built to Spill. Perhaps most importantly, drummer Page died in 2007, leaving a large space to fill.

“It was when we came back for Joe’s funeral, which was a tough enough time on its own, that we all realized, ‘That’s it. We can never have the full lineup together again,’ ” Svenson recalled.

For the two reunion shows, the band will incorporate a pair of drummers, one of which is Svenson’s own son.

“He probably had no choice, but he grew up listening to Hollowmen songs in the car,” Svenson said. “Plus, when Joe joined the Hollowmen, he was much younger than the rest of us — in his mid-teens. So I think having his part played by another teenager is fitting.” CV

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