Primary season is upon us. And with the Iowa caucuses set to take place next Monday, extremely on-fleek presidential candidate and erstwhile Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was holed up in Trump/Cruz country Tuesday with some of her constituents. Someone had to entertain those constituents, so a savvy organizer thought to call upon some college buddies from Iowa who'd relocated to the Twin Cities and started making throwback guitar rock.
Namely, Minneapolis collective General B and the Wiz.
The psych-rock quintet made their way down to Iowa to their alma mater Luther College early Tuesday morning to play a couple hours of music for supporters of the former First Lady. City Pages caught up with guitarist Seth Duin on the band's gobsmacked three-hour trip home to talk about the experience and how, even when you play for a super PAC-ed presidential candidate, you still get paid in beer.
City Pages: What's going on right now?
Seth Duin: We're pretty flustered right now. It was a crazy time. We're driving on our way back now. We stayed for some victory beers.
CP: I know CNN had the Democratic Town Hall yesterday, but what exactly was the event you played at?
SD: It was basically a campaign stop for Hillary. The Iowa Caucus is on Monday, so she's making all sorts of stops throughout Iowa, as is Bernie Sanders.
CP: How the hell did you get that gig?
SD: We got a phone call on Friday from a guy who works for the company that is helping to put on all her campaign stops throughout the country. He actually went to college at the same college we did, which is actually in Decorah, Iowa, there. He was a few years younger than us, but he would see us when we came back to play shows. He was given the opportunity to help plan this event, and he was thinking it'd be good to have live music, and we were one of bands that he thought of to do it.
The most shocking part was when she came out and thanked everyone for coming out, then looked at us and said, "And thank you to General B and The Wiz." So, if people are wondering if she is a smart candidate, she was able to remember one of the dumbest band names.
CP: You mentioned that you weren't coached on what to perform, but what exactly do you play at a Hillary Clinton party?
SD: They mainly wanted cover songs — jams that people could easily recognize — to get the mood going before she arrived and as people were filing in. Our drummer is actually up north in Duluth right now, so he couldn't make it. Our other guitarist [Kai Brewster] picked up drums two days ago and figured it out. We had an emergency practice last night and put together a couple hours last night. Hillary was actually 90 minutes late, so we had to improvise. We did a mix of some of our own songs and some other songs.
The covers that we do primarily vary between motown and classic rock, stuff that people can bop their heads to and groove a little bit. We didn't have a ton of time, and we were a little bit limited because we wanted to do what Kai would be comfortable playing on the drums. We have a big set of covers that we like to do at weddings. So, we picked the ones that would be appropriate for an event such as this and that we could pick up easily with only one night of rehearsing.
CP: What was the crowd like?
SD: It was mainly middle-aged white people. Older, which is to be expected in northeast Iowa. It started out with the people who get there early, the die-hards. When they started letting more people in, a lot more of the college kids started to show up. It was standing room only. There were parents bringing their kids, a big mix of ages, but mostly middle-aged white people.
CP: What was it like going through Secret Service?
SD: That was crazy. We pulled up, and immediately there were dogs and bald guys in fancy suits and SWAT guys. We set all our equipment up, and once we unpacked everything, everybody had to leave the entire place. We went down to the hotel bar and had a few beers while Secret Service did a giant sweep through the whole area. It is kind of weird leaving all your expensive musical equipment and having Secret Service flip it over. That was surreal.
CP: You said you got free beer for doing it. What were some of the other perks of being Hil Dawg's guests?
SD: When we booked it, the guy who was calling us to come down said, "You know, we don't have a big budget to be able to pay you, but I'm definitely buying you guys beers, and you'll get a picture with Hillary, and you'll get to meet her, and there will be all sorts of press there." So we were like, "Cool, we'll get to be on CSPAN!" I think he ended up being pretty busy, but we ended up going to a bar next-door afterwards, and the lady who introduced Hillary was there, and she bought us a round, so we got some free beer out of it, after all.
CP: And you got your picture on the Washington Post's Instagram.
SD: I think that girl actually got that picture with her iPhone. It was actually kind of funny.
CP: What was it like when you finally got to meet her?
SD: They ushered her out, and they took us down some stairs to this VIP lounge where she was probably hanging before the event. There were like 15, 20 select people who were campaigning for Hillary in that area, so they went to get a picture with her. They put us in that line. They told us Hillary wasn't going to be signing autographs, but we brought our snare drum, just in case.
Turns out she was totally cool. We got a picture with her. We got to talk to her for one, two minutes. She seemed actually, for someone who actually has to do this every single day of her life, she makes you feel like she genuinely cares for your well-being and wants to know what you're up to. I told her a couple of us were Americorps alumni, so we were like, 'Thank you Bill, for that!' We were speechless. She also said, "Well aren't they cute" after we got our pic with her. Not sure if that's a compliment or patronizing, but we'll take it.
CP: So, are you voting for Hillary now?
SD: We just figured it'd be a good opportunity and a fun experience in general. None of us are all the way Hillary or all the way Bernie, we're more along the lines of just not Trump.
Check out General B and the Wiz all around the Midwest this winter. Check out Hillary Clinton just about any time you turn on your TV for the next 10 months.
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