Keep it weird for Chris
We’re all losers. I don’t mean that we lost a competition or that we’re down on our luck. I mean that in the sense that our community has suffered a great loss, whether we know it directly or not. We lost when Kirk Walther died in 2017. We lost when the Mill closed. We lost when Trevor Lee Hopkins passed away last year. And now we’ve lost Chris Wiersema. As a community that prides itself on art, music, literature and thoughtful culture, it’s difficult losing the spaces, and more importantly, the people that make Iowa City unique, beautiful and weird.
Chris was intelligent, self-deprecating, inclusive, thoughtful, exuberant, and empathetic, no matter where you happened to catch him. From behind the Tobacco Bowl counter, to behind the bar at The Picador, to Little Village articles, to basement house shows, to backyard bonfires, to his carefully curated, booked, promoted and hosted Feed Me Weird Things events – Chris always made time for everyone. Despite his depth of knowledge and esoteric tastes, when he came through the store (which was regularly for over 25 years) he always displayed curiosity and was always willing to talk music.
Kirk Walther used to refer to people who were music obsessed as “music heads,” and Chris was the definition of the term. He always sought new wavelengths and auditory experiences, seeming to take as much joy in the delicate sounds of an expertly plucked harp as recordings that sound like the murmurs of an industrial boiler room in action. That’s not to say he wasn’t discerning, because he was, but his open mindedness and penchant for the off-kilter, avant garde, unknown and underrepresented never waivered. Squelching synthesizers and unrelenting feedback that would drive the average person to madness not only didn’t cause him to flinch, but were enjoyed like a morning songbird. This is part of what made him an exceptional leader for booking music in Iowa City: absolute fearlessness.
Even when the ends didn’t meet or Chris had to use his own funds to book a faraway act, he believed in a shared sonic space that he could create for our community. When going to a Feed Me Weird Things show you were likely to hear people say things like “that was the best thing I’ve ever heard” and other people saying “that was the noisiest thing I’ve ever heard, but it’s an experience I won’t forget.” It was bound to open minds and it seems that’s what Chris wanted. Never settle for the mundane when you can try something new and perhaps even weird. Some of the best music we’ve ever tasted came from following Chris into the proverbial kitchen.
Going forward it’s hard to imagine what things will look like for young Iowa City outcasts and derelicts who will never know the shelter that Chris provided, but from our perspective we owe it to them, and to Chris, to try to provide those spaces, to remind them the world is small, but full of new things to taste test. Perhaps the best recipes are still unknown. Go ahead and feed us weird things. (Sorry to you, dear reader, and to Chris’ memory for beating this metaphor so thoroughly.)
Our hearts and sincere condolences go out to Chris’ loved ones, close friends and family.
P.S. Thanks Chris for often name-dropping ye olde RC in a public forum, even when it was undeserved. It means a lot to know you loved us. The feeling’s mutual.
116 S Linn St, Iowa City IA
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