Icon For Hire proves authentic lyricism outpowers any and all labels

Four hours of punk performance, Illinois based group Icon For Hire with opening acts The Slow Retreat, Five AM, and Amy Guess, packed a powerful punch showing their sound doesn’t need a record label — it needs authentic connection.


Reba Zatz for the Daily Iowan

Guitarist and backup singer Shawn Jump of Icon For Hire performs at Gabe’s on Nov. 8th. The show was part of the 2019 Icon Army Tour. (Reba Zatz/The Daily Iowan)

Kyler Johnson, Arts Reporter

Heading into concert halls and entertainment bars, two to three hours of music is expected. The punk scene does it a little differently. Marking a four hour event, consisting of three different opening acts and headliner Icon for Hire, a slew of new music hit the entertainment scene of Iowa City.

Starting at an early 5:40pm, the first group, The Slow Retreat, warmed up on stage, setting the tone for the long evening of music ahead. Originating from Cedar Rapids, the Iowan group slammed the hall with their punk energy. 

Five AM were the next to take the stage, an Illinois punk sound tinged with eclecticism, making each song diverse from one another. The group let the crowd know about their latest music video released for their song “On My Life” about a week-and-a-half ago. 

As the crowd waited for the concert to continue, the speakers played The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance, uniting each and every listener under an iconic musical banner.

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The unified energy of the crowd offered a rejuvenating interlude between the first two slamming punk groups and the pop-punk-rock sounds to follow.

Pop-punk singer Amy Guess was next to take the stage, a flaring green fireball of energy with her hair and a sound reminiscent of Evanescence or MsMr, she capitalized on the united crowd, calling out for the audience to “groove” with her.

Amy Guess opens for Icon for Hire at Gabe’s on Nov. 8th. She was one of three opening acts for the 2019 Icon Army Tour. (Reba Zatz/The Daily Iowan)

Guess, originally from Calgary, but growing up for most of her adolescence in Las Vegas, has spent most  of her life attached to music. Looking to show a deep authenticity to self and to expression, Guess let this value shine with a setlist with songs from 2017 all the way to her latest song “Holy Hell,” which had its music video release Nov. 8.

“I try to be as honest and exposed as I can be,” Guess said. “The production of my music has grown around me being transparent.”

Meeting with the Iowa City crowd after the performance, Guess brought a smile, a hug, and a look of investment to every story she heard throughout the night. She allowed herself to be seen onstage and offstage in this transparent manner to which she aspires.

Transparency seemed to be an infectious theme as the headliners Icon For Hire took the stage. Lead singer Ariel Bloomer admitted to not having her voice be at top capacity, but the pink-haired charismatic singer called upon the crowd to help sing with her.

The fan base, which they endearingly call the Icon Army, fell in line eagerly. The unified audience leaned into the pulsing, collaborative sound. The kind of connection is a heart-warming surprise to a punk sound that can feel so forceful; it alters  the force of the music, making it a home for many to exist rather than just a sound.

Shawn Jump (left) and Ariel Bloomer of Icon For Hire performs at Gabe’s on Nov. 8th. The show was part of the 2019 Icon Army Tour. (Reba Zatz/The Daily Iowan)

“We do not have a record label, all we have is you,” Bloomer spoke from the stage, referencing the group’s current independent status in creating a sound for them and their fans — nobody else.

In their song “Now You Know,” the band brought four women up on stage, placing them behind a microphone to help rap and sing along about being a woman in the music industry. 

“We feel honored every day that we get to keep doing this,” Bloomer said.

As the group sang their final song, an explosion of pink confetti, a flurry of neon colored lights,  and a riffing guitar solo, created a searing image for the audience, perhaps enticing a few other as recruits to an ever growing army.