The Vandon Arms
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The Vandon Arms

Des Moines, Iowa, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | SELF

Des Moines, Iowa, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2005
Band Alternative Punk




"Top 10 Iowa Bands"

Playing music in Iowa can be difficult. A lot of music venues are bars, so they can’t accept minors, and because of this, shows are emptier than Ames in the summer. But there are so much great talent in Iowa. So, go support them. Here are the top Iowa bands to betray your radio with.

I have no qualms with starting this list praising Des Moines-based Maxilla Blue. Produced by scene veteran Aeon Grey and fronted by the sharp-witted Asphate Woodhavet (say it out loud), Maxilla is a hard-hitting indie rap group here to prove Iowa can rock a beat. On stage, the guys are backed up by the vinyl-crushing DJ Touchnice and the Floor Spiders breakdance Crew. Missing out on Maxilla Blue is doing an injustice to your eardrums.

Public Property from Iowa City makes me think of summer. The seven-piece reggae/ska band pulls inspiration from Bob Marley, The Skatalites, Toots and the Maytals, and Fela Kuti. Check out the track On My Way and enjoy a sunny day.

Ames-hailing blues/psychedelic band Radio Moscow sounds like something you’d find on the soundtrack of Almost Famous or Dazed and Confused. Though jam bands don’t get much respect because of their we’re-just-here-to-play-not-get-famous label, Radio Moscow tours religiously and blows minds across the country. I think my favorite part, other than the music, is that their album art looks like something off the cover of Cream Magazine.

Put The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly and Rancid in a blender, mix them together, and ship them to Des Moines, and you have four-piece punk/celtic group The Vandon Arms. Equipped with boot-stomping drums and old-country mandolin, The Vandon Arms’ self-proclaimed “pub rock” style is enough to start a fist fight in a chapel.

Possibly one of the coolest urban bluegrass bands in the state, Mr. Baber’s Neighbors from Des Moines is a five-piece strings-only group with a strong, folky feel. The fast finger picking and relentless rhythms combine to produce a catchy, front porch vibe suitable for any warm Saturday night.

Folk Rock band The Nadas instills a sense of nostalgia in any ‘90s music fan. A mix of Third Eye Blind, Eagle Eye Cherry and Shawn Mullin (I know, obscure right?), Des Moines-based Nadas has a laid-back, folk rock sound and calm, everything’s-going-to-be-all-right vocals. Check out Goodnight Girl from their new album, The Ghosts Inside These Halls.

Prepare yourself for one of the roughest sounds in Iowa. Pella’s An Airbag Saved My Life is a hardcore group equal parts sense of humor and face bashing. The sound is fast, rough, and a little reminiscent of southern rock. If you think calm is overrated, check them out.

Introducing Des Moines to the trip-hop genre is trio Cleo’s Apartment. Inspired by the likes of Public Enemy, Herby Hancock and DJ Shadow, Cleo’s gets a crowd bobbing with sick turntablism, ambient keyboards, and precise, poetic live drums.

For such a little lady, Roxy Copland of Des Moines has a deep, soulful voice to complement the slew of talented musicians she works with. Decidedly Jazz pop, Roxy’s music is the modern equivalent to the sensual, smoky bar soloist with a Coltrane air.

The Josh Davis band, led by singer-songwriter Josh Davis (did that surprise you?), is a folk rock band with a little country twist. Reminiscent of the Goo Goo Dolls and the Gin Blossoms, Josh Davis seems to be perpetually chasing after woman. With the warm, comfortable sound the band radiates, it’s a wonder he hasn’t caught her yet. - Generation Iowa

"Sent Off EP REview"

I've promoted this one to the top of the pile, so that I can get the review out there in time for the World Cup! The Vandon Arms hail from Des Moines, Iowa, and usually play a highly competent brand of Celtic punk in the manner of Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys. This recently released EP is a bit of a departure. Most of the songs are in more of a streetpunk style, and as the cover suggests, the dominant theme is football (soccer). Three of the six tracks are humourous takes on being a football fan, and the closing track 'Over There' is a potential anthem for the U.S. national team (though its riff sounds suspiciously like the one from 'Vindaloo'). I can really relate to 'My Football Team's Got Me Drinkin'', a lament for a lovable losing team over a stomping Ramones-y beat.

It's not all full-on punk, though. Even the noisier tracks tend to have traditional instruments shining through. And there are two traditional tunes that are played in great spirits and with the acoustic instruments cranked up. These two are not really football songs, but they're both famous for being sung at football grounds. 'The Blaydon Races' is an old Geordie song that's popular on the terraces at Newcastle United matches. And the rollicking 'Miss O'Leary' is a big hit among Chicago Fire supporters: 'Late last night while we were all in bed / Miss O'Leary left a lantern in the shed / When the cow tipped it over she winked her eye and said / There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight / Fire Fire Fire!'

This won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you're into football, folk, punk and drunken singalongs, you might find it as appealing as I do.

Available through iTunes and MySpace Music.
- 21st Century Reviews

"Band Review"

OK, this is easy. The first comparsion that leaps at you has to be Flogging Molly. Imagine the 'Molly stripped down without the accordian, tin whistle and flute mixed in with the same sneering attitude of Dropkick Murpheys.

It's no secret that I love the sound of punk that has been dunked into some kind of Celtic sauce. When it's as raw as this, it's fantastic. OK, so vocalist can't sing soaring scales and you wouldn't want him singing your child a lullaby, but that's precisely the point; it's vocals like *THAT* that I love so much. And when the music is played like this, it works perfectly.

Their page on Myspace offers 8 tracks, one being a live version of the Pogues classic, "Streams Of Whiskey", but I rather enjoyed "Boys Back Home", a track that basically raises a glass to our military boys and girls and has a killer hook throughout it.

Have Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murpheys got competition? No, not yet, but as soon as they are signed, they'll be making up ground very quickly.

Do yourselves a favour and check this lot out. Sneering, lively but most importantly, a hell of a lot of fun. Great stuff. - Itchy Bum

"Health to the Company Review"

Fans of the Irish punk-rock genre will not be disappointed by "Health to the Company"- the latest offering from The Vandon Arms. Following up their "Losers & Boozers" EP, The Vandon Arms deliver another solid release of their own style of "pub rock."

Both lyrically and musically tighter than their first offering, the band maintains their signature style while taking themselves to the next level without losing any momentum. In the tradition of all good Celtic-inspired bands, the first album had its fair share of drinking songs, which is a staple with the genre; however, with their second release, the band has taken on more subjects of deeper meaning, most notably with songs that express support for our troops.

"We've never been, nor will ever be, a political band... so what we sing about has nothing to do with whether the war was right or wrong but the amount of sacrifice young men and women make for our great country," Says Buz, the lead vocalist and mandolin player. "I didn't want people to think we were just a drinking band without anything to say."

While the band's lyrical maturity clearly shines through, the instrumentation is equally as strong. It is a well-crafted album that captures the high-intensity energy of their live shows and highlights the collective talents of the group. Start to finish, the album stands out as being refreshingly different from everything else that everyone else plays. The Vandon Arms have definitely carved out their niche, not just in the Irish punk scene, but as a credit to the area music scene as a whole, and perhaps beyond.

For more information on The Vandon Arms, visit or Be sure to watch for them at this summer's inaugural 80/35 Music Festival. - DMMC

"Band Review"

Since discovering The Vandon Arms, I can’t stop listening to them. Their music has an infectious kick you just can’t get out of your head; if you like Flogging Molly, you’ll love this Irish punk group.

Why I haven’t discovered them before now I don’t know, but according to their profile, the four-piece has shared the stage with such great acts as The Unseen, Reel Big Fish, Agent Orange and more.

Seriously, what are you waiting for? Get thee to their profile and rock out. They’ve got some AWESOME music (I recommend The Righteous Fight and The Boys Back Home), and they’re sure to become a favorite.

If you decide you really love them, check out their merch selection; from what I can tell, they’ve got two CD’s available for purchase. Go to town, lovelies. :)

You can also check out The Vandon Arms official website or their Myspace, if that’s your fancy.

Stay True,

Denise - News in Punk

"Band Review"

"...breakneck rhythms, a mandolin, and charisma to spare." - Des Moines Register

"Losers and Boozers review"

While digging through iTunes one day, (I love how iTunes lets me sample every song before committing to a purchase,) avoiding work, linking from one “sounds like,” or “also purchased” to another, I found the six-song EP, “Losers and Boozers”, by The Vandon Arms.

The Vandon Arms is a four piece band from Des Moines, Iowa, comprised of a bass, guitar, drums, and a mandolin. That’s it. No fiddle, pipes, or even a decent whistle to be found. So at first I was dubious. Don’t get me wrong. I love the mandolin, I even own and occasionally torture the missus with one of several every now and again!

But was a single mando enough “folk” for a good folk-punk band? Maybe, but The Vandon Arms aren’t just a good folk-punk band, they are a great one! A minute into track one, and I was reminded that instruments do not make the band. I forgot my initial apprehensions and began really getting into these guys.

The thing I first noticed about TVA was how tight and professional they sounded. These guys came together as solid as any band at the height of their career, and possess a sound somewhere between Dropkick Murphys, The Tossers and Saint Bushmills Choir, with some of the best elements of each.

The EP opener was the traditional foot-stomper, “Muirsheen Durkin”. Executed with the appropriate enthusiasm, track 1 shows off the strength of the mandolin/electric guitar combo and the band’s great use of chorus.

“Losers and Boozers” is an introspective, if unrepentant, self analysis delivered with tempo changes swinging from a last-call, barfly lament to a rowdy, fist-pumping chant that must whip a live audience into a 12-step-dropouts' frenzy. This one is probably my favorite track off this EP.

Track 3 is the ubiquitous “Whiskey in the Jar,” which sits precariously on the line between a respectfully traditional rendition and a high-speed, punked-out anthem. A very well done version that had me wondering how a voice so relaxed could sound so effortless moving along with a song sung so quickly.

The “Legend of Johnny Grey” relates a folk hero-style tale of rebelling against oppression and shows how TVA use the mandolin as a perfect bridge between the guitar and vocals.

“Brothers in Arms” is a Dropkicks-esque mug-swinger about camaraderie, I assume of the band members, starting with a glass-clinking sing-along that morphs into an upbeat, happy tune that somehow both sounds sincere and avoids sounding sappy.

Closing track “The Journey” is a drums-free, acoustic number that comes across as heartfelt and thoughtful but maintains a really nice pace.

Suffice to say, I was very happy to find this EP on iTunes. If this is a hint at some of the new blood in the Celtic Folk-Punk Genre, than the future is looking good.

Review: Christopher Toler, THE Blathering Gommel

- Shite n Onions


Losers and Boozers EP - 2007

Health to the Company EP - 2008

Live and Worse Than Ever - 2010

The Sent Off EP - 2010

No Loyalty Among Thieves - 2013



In a damp, cold basement just off of Ingersoll Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa, The Vandon Arms started off as a group of friends playing the music they loved for no one but themselves. There were no fans, no Instagram or Facebook pages, nothing for sale, and no disillusions of being rich and famous. The early get-togethers resembled drunkin sing-alongs more than any band rehearsal or show. The group and their friends would belt out old Irish choruses a the top of their lungs for hours.

With their popularity on the raise, in 2006 the group recorded their first EP, Losers and Boozers. A few years later the group saw the release of their second EP, Health to the Company, as well as the introduction of a new drummer, Hutch. With Hutch in the mix The Vandon Arms have been able to up their live performance as well as improve the dynamics of the band. In 2010 the group had another busy year. They released two new albums, The Sent Off EP and Live and Worse Than Ever.

Today Buz, Clint, Hutch, Craig, and Moosher still carry on the same attitude that came with those early basement sing-alongs. Their music and live shows are simply about having fun, not making money, being cool, not being cool, or anything else that too many other bands get caught up in. This has always been and always will be the band's philosophy. As long as fans want to hear Vandon Arms music and turn out to see them live, they'll keep playing.