Backstage at the Englert with Elizabeth Moen

Elizabeth Moen played with local bands Hot Tang and Young Charles Friday night to celebrate her latest album.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Elizabeth Moen is seen before her performance at the Englert Theater on Friday, September 14, 2018. Moen performed at the Englert as part of her release tour for her LP “A Million Miles Away”

Lauren Barber, Arts Reporter

As we’re standing backstage in the dressing room, raucous applause can be heard through the floor above, followed by drum beats and guitars strumming, signaling that the first band, Young Charles of Iowa City, has taken the stage.

It’s 7:30 p.m. at Elizabeth Moen’s album release party, and the music is just getting started. As she puts the final touches on her look, an all-black turtleneck and dress ensemble, she gets a pop of color with blue-green lipstick and eyeshadow.

“I’m going for a subtle look. Like, ‘is she even wearing makeup?’ ” she said and laughed.

As Moen and her other supporting act, Hot Tang, continue getting ready, we head upstairs to hear the rest of the Young Charles set.

Young Charles consists of Mitch McAndrew on vocals, Harrison Horgon on guitar, Erich Martin on bass, Skyler Gonzalez on keys, and David Galloway on drums.

The group basks in purple and blue lights as McAndrew and the rest of the group deliver a set ranging from folk rock to blues-inspired songs, never staying in one genre for too long. The last song, “Dead West,” features a mid-song jam that shows the audience that these newcomers have a lot of talent waiting to be seen.

After a quick set change and time for phone checking and mingling for the audience, Hot Tang takes the stage. The group consists of vocalist/bassist Megan Buick, keyboardist Anna Kahn, and the newest member, drummer Jason Burkhardt. The trio has minimal set up on stage, but a yellow and orange sun piñata hanging off of Kahn’s keyboard is not to be missed.

Bathed in soft, warm lighting, Hot Tang delivers a synthesizer-filled set with Buick’s soprano voice drifting out over the audience as she sings about a range of topics, from leaving things in the past to eating vegetables for dinner. Much of the set comprises songs from Hot Tang’s latest full-length album, Mostly Mallards, which was released in May.

After Hot Tang’s set concludes, another set change commences and then finally, the lights dim, and Moen is set to take the stage.

Moen and her band arrive on stage with bright smiles, as she looks out onto the crowd. Because she considers Iowa City her home now instead of her birthplace, Vinton, Iowa, this show can be considered a homecoming of sorts, coming full circle from writing her first song here to now headlining at the historic Englert.

With carefully curated visuals and perfectly placed spotlights accompanying each song, Moen shines throughout her performance. Her powerful vocals reverberate off of the walls, and she delights the audience with a variety of special guests. Roots-rock legend Bo Ramsey joins Moen on stage as well as a group of children to help wow the Englert crowd a little more.

Additionally, Moen has two new additions to her set, Elly Hofmaier, a background vocalist, and Rachel Gulick, a trumpet player, who both help boost Moen’s performance.

The first half of her set features her slower songs from her old and new work, while the second half includes an outfit change as well as her more fast-paced music. McAndrew of Young Charles is welcomed back to the stage during the last part of Moen’s set.

Throughout her performance, she belts out lyrics to a packed house and oozes charisma from the stage. She ends with show with the closing track from her new album, “Planetarium,” the song the produced the title for the album, A Million Miles Away. The crowd greets the final notes of the song with a standing ovation and a great last note for Moen as she sets off on her tour across the United States.

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