Preview: Brother Ali

Last minute reminder: tomorrow night, Minneapolis MC Brother Ali comes to the Industry as part of his Fresh Air Tour, which features fellow Rhymesayers MCs Evidence and Toki Wright, and his DJ BK-One. Brother Ali’s new album Us, just came out this week. As before, Ant of Atmosphere handled the production. Ali has come under fire in the past for his frequently politically charged music, particularly “Uncle Sam Goddamn,” which caused ire with some corporate tour sponsors. I haven’t heard the new one yet, but based on prior output, I’d expect a similarly consistent piece of underground rap. What’s more intriguing about this show, though, is that it represents a turning point for the Industry, who have yet to to host the kind of event the crosses over with mainstream and alternative audiences. Earlier this summer, the Daily Iowan ran an article about the Industry’s show featuring novelty rapper Chingy, in which manager Prity Kumar stated, “We wanted to bring mainstream music to Iowa City, because there’s finally a locally owned, not a city-owned or university-owned venue, where we can house and host acts of this caliber.”

This Brother Ali show serves as something of a litmus test for the club – can it sustain this kind of show? Chingy is one thing, but what about the kind of bands that generally skip the Iowa City market? Critically acclaimed bands that have crossed over enough to have a far-reaching audience – I’m thinking bands like Grizzly Bear – generally skip Iowa City. If Brother Ali does well, it could be a breakthrough, because as the article intuits, there’s not a music venue big enough to play host to these acts that isn’t university owned or funded. Could the Industry be that venue? Thursday night may be a crystal ball.

Who: Brother Ali with Evidence, Toki Wright, and BK-One
Where: The Industry
When: September 24, 6pm
How Much: $15/$16 under 21

About the Author

Todd is a transplant from the East Coast who came to Iowa City to live life, love music, and enjoy cheap beer. In addition to working on Mission Freak and Mission Creek Festival, he writes semi-regularly for Tiny Mix Tapes and Daytrotter and books music and other events at local non-profit venue Public Space ONE.
  • Chris

    To be clear here: Grizzly Bear has played Iowa City- and Brother Ali has played here every year since his first ep hit, including opting to come and play Gabes on New Years Eve one year. The venue isn’t the litmus test for the audience the; more Iowa City is a litmus for the artist as to whether or not that artist might cross over.

    Except when Gabes turned down a little two-piece called The White Stripes because it was thought that no one would come… Other than that though the audiences in Iowa City are a proving ground for the artist, not the other way around, like the Industry suggests.

  • todd

    Good points. But Grizzly Bear played here pre-Veckatimest (I was there!), and things are just different for them now. I don’t mean to insinuate that Brother Ali either a.) is as big as Grizzly Bear (he’s not) or that b.) is too big to play the Picador (he’s not).

    The real point is – does the Industry want to sustain themselves on shows like Chingy? Or do they want to try to make it with more “legitimate” acts? This show could be a hint to how it plays out for them.