116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Every time I come to Codfish Hollow, I love it more than I did the time before. I’m sad it’s only been four times. Well, soon to be five — ’60 British rock icons and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Zombies will be there on July 2 … and so will I.
I’ve come to accept my innate Iowa-ness. For many years, I rebelled against it, but now, after many years, it’s something I happily embrace wholeheartedly. And thusly, I bristle whenever I see Iowa brushed off pop-culturally as an example of just a place you fly over on a cross-country flight, that’s inhabited by uncultured hicks (see “Sleeping With The Enemy”).
But this place? Codfish Hollow. We truly have a place that’s all ours. If you like music, you have to come here. You should actually travel to come here. At least once. You won’t regret it.
What: Codfish Hollow, music venue in a barn
Where: 5013 288th Ave., Maquoketa; 64.3 miles east of Cedar Rapids and 89.5 miles northeast of Iowa City
Season: April to October; no heat or air conditioning in the barn
Extras: Bus ride from parking area to barn; free primitive camping 2 hours before show time, no electric hookups or running water; no pets; bring food or buy from vendors; also shop from art vendors; cash-only, no credit/debit cards or checks
Origin: First barn concert was July 25, 2009, with Caleb Engstrom, Catfish Haven and The Local Natives, presented by Daytrotter.com; since then the site has hosted more than over 400 musicians/bands and 150 shows, including John C. Reilly, Counting Crows, Dinosaur Jr., and Norah Jones
The sounds, the acoustics, are just insanely good. I saw shows there by both doom metal band Sleep and Texas post-rockers Explosions in the Sky (yes, the “Friday Night Lights” band). Ever since those two gigs, my friends and I have made it a mission to get Chicago/St. Louis instrumental post-metal band Russian Circles to play a show there. A better venue for their sound simply DOES NOT EXIST.
Wait, never heard of Russian Circles? Well, that’s kinda the point (still, Spotify is your friend). But yeah, Metallica and the Rolling Stones aren’t playing at Codfish. It’s an intimate venue — capacity is well less than 1,000 people — so there’s a certain exclusivity to actually being able to get tickets.
But if you are lucky enough to get a ticket? Well, when you’re here, it’s a community. Local arts and crafts. Local vendors. Local food and craft beers. It’s a destination — you’re so happy to be there, so everyone just gets along. There’s never any drama. At least, I’ve never experienced any.
And it’s beautiful, in the most Iowa ways possible. Those of us living in the Great Plains appreciate wide-open spaces and breathtaking sunsets — ain’t no mountains or smog blocking those out. Last summer, a national television audience got to see these on full display during the inaugural “Field of Dreams Game” between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees in Dyersville. Well, on a clear night at Codfish Hollow, there’s nothing better than a peek at the sky — either when you’re tailgating with friends beforehand or especially at dusk before entering the barn for a perfect night of live music.
When I was growing up, Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver — the place U2 made famous with its “Sunday Bloody Sunday” video in the rain with the pillars of fire — was my ultimate concert destination. It didn’t disappoint. Been there a handful of times now.
But ... Codfish Hollow? Man.
My friends, I implore you — get here. At least once. Find a show and I’ll come with you. Because Codfish Hollow is OUR Red Rocks.