How the Des Moines Social Club got David Byrne

How the Des Moines Social Club got David Byrne

This week the Des Moines Social Club announced that former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne would deliver the keynote speech May 10 at the grand opening of the new 900 Mulberry St. location. So how did the group land the Oscar and Grammy winner?

Zachary Mannheimer, executive director of the Social Club, said he started giving Byrne more thought as an artist following a series of blog posts the musician made in July about his time Des Moines while headlining last year’s 80/35 Music Festival. In October Byrne wrote an editorial about New York, in part discussing how gentrification has made it tougher for artists in the city.

“I’m a huge supporter of the bike lanes and the bike-share program, the new public plazas, the waterfront parks and the functional public transportation system. But the cultural part of the city—the mind—has been usurped by the top 1 percent. ” -David Byrne

Byrne’s editorial struck a chord with Mannheimer, who had left New York to start the Des Moines Social Club for many of the same reasons. While driving back to Des Moines from the Austin City Limits Festival a few days later, Mannheimer was discussing the idea in the car with his brother-in-law. His suggestion to Mannheimer: Why not try to talk about it with Byrne?

“I found his email and later that night wrote to him about how I agree very much with what he wrote and why I love New York and what I’m doing now,” Mannheimer said. “I sent it at probably 1 in the morning and by 7 the next morning he had already responded.”

Mannheimer and Byrne emailed back and forth, carrying on the conversation for over a month. He was planning to fly to New York for Thanksgiving and asked Byrne if they could meet.

“We met for an hour or two,” Mannheimer said. “At the end of the conversation I told him we were having our grand opening sometime next year and if we could make it work schedule-wise, it would mean a lot if he would come and make a speech and open things up for us.”

Once the Des Moines Social Club set its opening date, Mannheimer got back in touch with Byrne and his assistants and began trying to work out the details. About three weeks ago, Mannheimer got confirmation that Byrne would be attending.

Mannheimer said Byrne was planning to fly back to New York from Los Angeles at that time already, so a stop in Des Moines was easy to arrange.

Mannheimer hopes that Byrne’s involvement will not only help to kick start the Des Moines Social Club, but larger artistic happenings in Des Moines as well.

“If you want to be an artist, Des Moines is one of the best places to be,” Mannheimer said. “What I’m hoping this does is put Des Moines more on the cultural map. A quote from him about Des Moines being a great place would probably go a long way.”

About the Author

Joe Lawler covers music and more for Juice Magazine. E-mail him at or follow his updates on Twitter @JoeLawler

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