The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Punk-rock goes philanthropic: Iowa City artists perform in support of local charities  

The Illiterati Fest 2 brought Iowa City’s northside community together in support of local artists, vendors, and the South District Market. 
Isabella Tisdale
The James Theater in Iowa City on Monday, July 17 2023.

Behind a plume of cigarette smoke on the walk up to The James Theater’s Gilbert Street entrance was a portal to the pinnacle of the 1990s punk rock scene: welcome to Illiterati Fest 2. 

 The fest began at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, with a performance from Lex Leto, a local music artist whose enchanting voice was accompanied by elements of jazz, pop, and electronica. They were followed by local punk-rock band Fishbait with a set list that brought the crowd from a trance-like state to an intense mosh. 

 Following the exciting contrast between the opening performances were local artists Mr. Softheart, a post-punk trio, Mary Bozaan and Avery Mo of Die Mad, and self-described “mistress of indie/garage rockdom,” Penny Peach.

 Anthony Worden and The Illiterati headlined the performance as the fest’s namesake and drew in a large crowd of people willing to freely express themselves through hardcore dancing. The band, consisting of Avery Moss, Capel Howorth, Elly Hofmaier, Aaron Knight and Carlo Kind, began playing together around 2017, and has since performed alongside artists like Hippocampus and Neil Hagerty

 The debut fest took place at Gabe’s last July and included aspects of both music and literature. 

Worden, a University of Iowa alum, shared that the first Illiterati Fest was supposed to be his last due to him moving out of Iowa City, but he recently decided to move back. 

 “It’s a way to get all my friends together to play in a show, bring in the community, and support a local charity,” Worden said. 

 The band is dedicated to donating the entirety of their fest’s proceeds from ticket sales to local non-profits. Last year, they chose to support Inside Out Reentry, a program that helps facilitate the reintegration of formerly-incarcerated people into Johnson County. 

 This year, they are supporting the South District Market, an indoor market that serves Iowa City’s southside community year-round and provides an opportunity for local businesses to expand, including a pop-up diversity market this summer that takes place in the South District Market’s parking lot every week from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., with the last market set to take place on Tuesday, July 18. 

 “None of the bands are getting paid. We’re all doing it pro-bono for this charity,” Worden said. “We’re bringing people together to support a great cause and have a big party.”

 As each artist rocked their respective sets, they were illuminated by projections that were colorful and quirky, handpicked by Pat O’Connor, the fest’s visuals director and friend of Worden’s. 

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  O’Connor’s unique approach included visual projection through live footage combined with old, wacky DVDs. 

 “I had all this stuff, and [Worden] just thought visuals would add to the show,” O’Connor said. 

 Even the space where O’Connor sat during the show was, in its own right, visually captivating: behind the thick of the crowd, a Persian rug that couldn’t have been larger than five by seven feet defined the perimeter of O’Connor’s workspace. 

 In it, there was a bulky CRT display screen used to project VHS tapes and DVDs onto the walls, the floor, and the faces of the band while O’Connor crafted the visual arrangement, often layering old cartoons with clips from Youtube. 

 “If I’m ever doing something, I’m going to be decorating it,” O’Connor said.

 In addition to the auditory and visual aspects of the show, local vendors Thick n’ Thrifted and Grimtooth’s Very Metal Things set up shop inside the theater, featuring multiple clothing racks of second-hand goods.   

 Worden shared that the Illiterati Fest 2 was just the “jumping-off point” and that he hopes to hold next year’s fest at an outdoor venue on the northside.

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About the Contributors
Avi Lapchick
Avi Lapchick, Arts Editor
Avi Lapchick is an arts editor at The Daily Iowan. A fourth-year student studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Iowa, she previously held the positions of staff photojournalist, summer arts editor, and assistant arts editor at the DI. She is happiest when she is writing or painting.
Isabella Tisdale
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.