Guide to the weekend events


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Comic Cameron Esposito discusses the odd experience she had while checking into her hotel in Iowa City for her performance at The Englert Theatre for Mission Creek Festival.
Laura Hordesky/Press-Citizen

Just like it is every year, the Mission Creek Festival is an overload of music, literature, comedy and many other art forms rolled into one hectically fun week in Iowa City.

With dozens of events happening, Mission Creek is best enjoyed by seeing as much as humanly possible in the days you have.

Weekends are always the busiest during Mission Creek. As someone who has been going to Mission Creek events for five straight years now, I like to think I know how to best take it all in. My advice for Mission Creekers: Always have a plan.

Here’s my plan of attack for enjoying the Mission Creek weekend: 

Friday

Some of my own personal highlights of Mission Creek Festival have been sitting inside Prairie Lights for a book reading. So let’s kick off Mission Creek weekend with a literary discussion led by one of the city’s, and the nation’s, literary leaders.

University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop director Lan Samantha Chang will lead a discussion on representation in the modern literary world. She’ll be joined Hafizah Geter of VIDA, a nonprofit feminist organization that amplifies the voices often marginalized people in publishing today, William Johnson of Lambda Literary, a nonprofit focused on helping LGBTQ writers, and Cathy Linh Che of Kundiman, an organization that champions Asian-American writers. The free event is at 3 p.m. Friday at Prairie Lights. 

To continue the literary theme, walk a few blocks east to White Rabbit for the start of the annual Lit Crawl, which runs from 5 to 8 p.m. at various venues. The crawl will feature a slew of readings at White Rabbit, RSVP, NoDo and the Iowa City Yacht Club from 5 to 6 p.m.; Fair Grounds, Revival and Dublin Underground from 6 to 7 p.m.; and HABA Salon and Saint Burch, formerly Atlas, from 7 to 8 p.m. The entire crawl is free and open to the public.

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I’d recommend dipping out of the crawl around 7:30 p.m. and stopping by nearby eateries for a bite to eat to fuel up for a late night. Go to Pullman if you want a slow-paced dine-in meal, or hit up NoDo or Mesa for quick-service sandwiches or pizza. 

You don’t have to walk far to see Margaret Glaspy perform her electric guitar-infused indie rock at 8 p.m. at The Englert Theatre. She’s opening for the indie dream-pop duo Wye Oak at 9:30 p.m. Wye Oak’s performance coincides with the release of the band’s latest album, “The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs.” General admission tickets to the concert are $20. 

If you’re too wired after seeing Wye Oak, the Yacht Club will be hosting Mission: Beat, a series of live DJs spinning until well after midnight. 

Saturday 

There’s no shame in sleeping in after a Mission Creek Friday night, so let’s start Saturday activities at 11 a.m. with some ice cream. It’s the Iowa City Expo for Comics and Real Eclectic Media, or ICE CREAM, which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Public Space One. The expo features works of local comic book makers, zine creators, visual artists and more handmade wares, all for sale. 

By noon, make sure you’re at FilmScene for a free screening of “Tickling Giants,” a documentary about the festival’s biggest international comedy star, Bassem Youssef (speaking at Hancher later Saturday — more on that in a minute). Before, during and after the Egyptian revolution, Youssef became Egypt’s equivalent to Jon Stewart, hosting a regular comedy satire show mocking all sides of the political spectrum. The documentary shows his rise in international comedy and how he was exiled from his home country. Youssef will be at the screening and speak after the showing.

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Afterward, make your way toward The Mill, but you’ll probably want to get a bite to eat before. Two new restaurants sit right next door to The Mill: Estella’s Fresh Mex with its selection of burritos, tacos and more, as well as Soseki Cafe, which serves sushi, coffee and more. 

The festival’s Literary Magazine and Small Press Book Fair will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at The Mill. Free and open to the public, the fair features over 30 presses, magazines and literary organizations presenting dozens of works for sale. Including The Iowa Review and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the event is a chance for literary fans to stock up on things to read long after Mission Creek is over. 

Hang around The Mill for the festival’s keynote reading featuring Jamila Woods, Hanif Abdurraqib and Alissa Nutting, starting at 6 p.m. Also a free event, the reading features three unique literary voices. Woods, one of the headlining musicians closing the festival Sunday, is also a noted poet. Abdurraqib is a poet and essayist whose latest book of essays on music, “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us,” received a rave review in the Washington Post last December. Nutting, a professor at Grinnell College, is hot off the critical success of her 2017 novel “Made for Love.” 

Make sure to be at Hancher by 7:30 p.m. for Bassem Youssef — it’sthe only major Mission Creek event not in downtown Iowa City. So whether you take a long walk or drive to Hancher, just make sure to get there because Youssef’s story of political satire literally getting him kicked out of his own country makes him one of the unique Mission Creek performers in recent history. 

Heading back to the heart of downtown Iowa City, make sure refuel with some food. I suggest Dumpling Darling at this time of night, not only because it tastes good but because the hearty food with serious spice will energize you for more Mission Creek events. 

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Built to Spill, a raucous originator of the indie music sound, will perform at one of the most historic, and loudest, venues in Iowa City. Begining at 9:15 p.m. at Gabe’s, tickets to see them and the two opening acts playing at 7 and 8 p.m. are $30. 

After getting your eardrums blown off, per usual during a Gabe’s show, head over to The Englert for the soulful sounds of indie folk prodigy Julien Baker. Baker’s popularity and critical acclaim have grown noticeably since she was announced as one of the performers in December. That’s due in large part to the release of her second album “Turn Out the Lights” in October of last year. She performs at 10:30 p.m. at Englert. Tickets are $20 and allow you to see openers perform at 8 and 9:15 p.m., as well. 

Sunday

The last day of Mission Creek is always the most relaxed, with only a few events.That means you have time to go to church, get some brunch — whatever you normally do on a Sunday. 

Just be ready for the festival’s final event, a headlining performance from the aforementioned soul-singer and poet Jamila Woods at 9:15 p.m. at Englert. She has two openers: Des Moines synth duo Ancient Posse at 7 p.m. and Chicago hip-hop artists Psalm One at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. 

For the full schedule of Mission Creek events and ticket information, visit missioncreekfestival.com.

Reach Zach Berg at 319-887-5412, [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @ZacharyBerg. 

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