Iowa City Dandelion Stompers to celebrate Mardi Gras with show at the Mill

Iowa City’s New Orleans-style jazz group, the Dandelion Stompers, will come to the Mill to put on a Mardi Gras celebration on Tuesday.

Samantha Murray, Arts Reporter

Every Mardi Gras, the Mill lights up with music and dance. No one show is the same, but it is the same band every year bringing their unique sound.

In celebration of Mardi Gras, Iowa City-based band the Dandelion Stompers will take their show to the Mill at 6 p.m. tonight.

Chris Clark, the band’s baritone saxophone player and vocalist, formed the Dandelion Stompers in 2014. Playing jazz music of the 1920s and other surrounding decades, the Dandelion Stompers add a New Orleans flare to their music.

For the last six years, the Dandelion Stompers have put on a Mardi Gras show at the Mill. Alto saxophone player Devin van Holsteijn said the Mardi Gras performance is one of his favorites.

“The really interesting part is when dancers get out on the floor and are interacting with what we’re doing up on stage, because we don’t play it the same way two times in a row, and they don’t dance it the same way two times and that leads to a whole lot of discovery and fun,” van Holsteijn said.

The Mardi Gras performance is as interactive as the Dandelion Stompers can make it, van Holsteijn said. The group adjusts songs and their length to the overall mood of the room and encourages people to get out and dance.

Fellow band member Marc Janssen also enjoyed the dancing and crowd at previous years’ Mardi Gras shows. Because the show starts at 6 p.m., Janssen said more younger people typically come, with crowd members as young as three even joining in on the dancing.

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“It’s a really good time, it’s fun music to play and it’s a really fun audience to play it for,” Janssen said.

Janssen has been a part of the group from the beginning. After moving to Iowa City in 2007, he met Clark through the band the Gilded Bats, and befriended him. Years later, Janssen and his wife, Brandi, were invited to join Clark’s band, and they accepted.

Janssen said he is drawn to the traditional American music the Dandelion Stompers play.

“… Whether it’s the String Band tradition or the early jazz or early country music, that’s what I like,” Janssen said. “That’s what I like to listen to and that’s what I like to play, and it’s kind of accessible. It’s something that everybody can do.”

Katie Roche, the lead vocalist of the Dandelion Stompers, also joined the band at its origin at the invitation of Chris Clark. Roche said that the Mardi Gras show gives them the opportunity to play several traditional New Orleans songs and have fun with the audience.

Roche also spoke of the importance to keep playing jazz and of jazz’s origins in the 1910s and ‘20s, when the style was introduced and popularized by African American artists.

“It’s really important that people understand that this is one of the true American art forms, and jazz is losing audiences, so I think it’s really important that people take an interest in jazz and keep it alive,” Roche said.

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