First gig of the year and it felt like our first gig back. It was an honor to perform at the state-of-the-art theatre, Stephens Auditorium. The Goldfinch Room Songwriter Showcase hosts shows throughout the year featuring singer/songwriters. This focus on original music brings out the best in performers.
Aaron and I had several new songs we featured at our show and were pleased by the reactions and interactions, even with in this large space. There was laughter from Aaron's new tune, You Don't Know, about love's endearing miscommunications and how they tie us together. Heckling is encouraged at The High Crest shows, especially between the performers. It is moments like these that make the live music experience so special, so one of a kind. The listening audience is always an appreciative audience. Just know that the appreciation will always be reciprocated.
I can't explain how freeing it is, singing your songs in this arena. Our voices carried into the black open space of the auditorium, clear as a bell. There was no doubt, we were having fun! Everyone, despite the largeness of the space, felt connected. The notes and instruments carried our songs and our show. After all these years performing, that might be the easy part.
That is why I need highlight the care and professionalism that Tammy Koolbeck and the crew showed us. We have been trying to book this show for two years now and we stayed in touch to make it happen. Abileen and Rockwell were stoked to hang in the amazing green room complete with snacks and a large flat screen. We had an easy set up and sound check experience. Our friends and family in the audience were personally tended to with compassion. When traveling as a family, care and respect like this is met with enormous gratefulness.
Thank you, Goldfinch Room, for hosting and bringing attention to the singer/songwriters in the state of Iowa and thank you for treating the musicians and our craft with respect.
I would recommend this showcase to anyone wanting to connect personally to the ever-present song. We artists work to create something that means something to us, to our community and to our world. Your support and engagement is what keeps art and music alive.
We had heard about the virus. The knowledge about it was starting to spread…it was starting to spread. Our trip to Yuma, Arizona was one that was on the books. We were very excited to reconnect with our friend and music brother, Grant Baetz, who had just relocated to the desert not too long ago. Do we stay or do we go?
It was our first trip to Yuma and our first trip in our renovated vintage camper and van. We were going to give it a try and see how far it would get us. The renovation wasn’t quite done. A few inside lights of the camper weren’t fully functioning. There were details that we knew weren’t done…but we went anyway. We had time to figure out the details later, for now the road was calling and we were going.We left March 3rd.
Together my family makes 5 of us, Abileen (11 years old at the time), Rockwell (2), Aaron, my husband and road captain and we mustn’t forget Mango, our traveling cat. We sardine into our travel rig, hug Papa and hit the gas pedal.
Right out of Des Moines we hear a thump at the back of the van, then “clunk, clunk, clunk”. The sound is not good and the feeling I have is worse. I army crawl over all of our things in the back of our very large van and see that the back tail light has completely flown off, is now dangling by the wiring and whipping in the wind. We pull over and encounter our first road repair. It didn’t take us very long, did it? But luckily we have duct tape and are prepared for anything. We tape that light up and in just minutes we are laughing and back on the road.
Traveling with kids is hugely challenging, especially little ones. There was so much we would be learning along this trip and our travels. We rolled all the way to North Platte, NE and found a cold little place to park along a lake, next to the interstate. It was cold but we bundled up, turned on the space heater and did the best we could. The next morning everything was frozen but we loosened up and began again. And we were hitting the edge of Colorado before we knew it.
I can’t say I was feeling too confident. Everything felt like a threat. My energy level was down due to being sick right before we left and it was still hanging around. I couldn’t get full breaths and was very tired. (Covid?) I couldn’t wait to get to the desert and out of the cold! One mile at a time.
We stopped at the Welcome Center in Colorado, found a teepee shelter and got out our lunch. As the kids were finishing up, Aaron and I were really contemplating, “Can we even do this?” Are we seriously going to continue? It was in question for sure! There was some serious health threats on the horizon, do we have what it takes to traverse this adventure? So many thoughts were running through our minds!
I took a little walk with Rockwell so he could burn off some energy before getting back into his car seat, and I saw it there on the ground as a little message for me. It was an old key card to a hotel room. I picked it up and there was literally an arrow pointing west that said, Journey. Onward.
Ok, universe…I will follow. This was the day Rockwell screamed loud and long before his nap. He also threw up into my hands when a watermelon seed stuck in his throat and car sickness combined. I looked over at my daughter and I saw her very grossed out with a new level of respect in her eye when I caught the throw up. Yeah, this is what Mom’s do.
A moment of peace passed through the van as Rockwell finally fell asleep and as my eyes wandered to the terrain we were passing I saw a white buffalo in a herd. The white buffalo is an omen of unity, hope and positive transformation, another sign to keep going.
We made it to an RV park, right outside of Colorado Springs in Falcon. You could see the Mountains. I hadn’t seen these Mountains in years. My God, are they breathtaking! The RV park was run down and full of full timers and worked just fine as a parking spot for the night.
In the morning the mountains gleamed purple, the sky widened and the sun was rising. It was a new day.
We headed straight to the popular attraction, Garden of the Gods. Here, we encountered our first hesitations in public. People from everywhere, just checking out the place like everything was normal, but no one felt like this was normal. We breezed through the visitor center and gift shop and kept our distance from everyone and it was off season so this wasn’t too hard.
The visitor center had hand sanitizer out and no one was touching anything. (This whole trip I couldn’t find any hand sanitizer!) It made it difficult because no one knew what to think about this new level of social uncomfortableness. We soon found our way to the walking paths and the Kissing Camels rock formations. We spotted a blue bird that was hanging around us and we claimed that it was Grandma’s spirit giving us well wishes! Continue on!
Navigating the terrain with our van and trailer combo was going well and we were thankful for our little rigs ability to sail over Mountain passes. Our most favorite campsite this whole trip would be found in Salida. At this RV resort we had open picking for our site, we were able to remotely reserve and saw no one while we were there. We camped right beside the Arkansas River. This stay would inspire a song out of Aaron that will be released on our upcoming album. We did end up going into Salida to the grocery store and to dinner at a burger place. This is one of the last times we would eat inside a restaurant. We lingered at this campsite the next day, playing, enjoying the river, the sunshine. This was a hard place to leave.
Pushing off we went a bit too far and found ourselves near Pagosa Springs with nowhere to park…at night. It was 30 degrees. We needed electricity! This was another remedy that we would make sure to have with us the next trip, a generator, power whenever we needed it. This night we needed an electric hook up, and just in the nick of time I found the only open RV park in the area. We plugged in got warm and waited for another day to begin.
Making memories is hard work! By this time we were unorganized, tired but still going (this would become an ongoing theme!) The 4 Corners and the Grand Canyon were on our agenda for the day.
We drove to one of the most surreal places I have ever been, a part of the country where I had never been. To see so far in every direction, to see clearly the vanishing point, to experience land and more land stretching into the horizon; it felt like another planet. Where have we landed? We took the mandatory picture on the 4 corners spot and bought a tiny dream catcher at one of the booths.
Onward to the Grand Canyon! This place! I have always wanted to experience the Grand Canyon! We rolled in an hour or two before sunset and went straight to the edge. We had to see this! But we only had enough phone battery to take just a few photos. We snapped the shots and freaked out over the enormousness of this place. It is so large that your mind has a hard time putting it all together. It really is that magnificent! We did climb the lookout tower but our enjoyment was overpowered by our close proximity to people and our hunger kicking in.
I had made a reservation at one of the campsites and we found our parking spot. I promised the kids a warm dinner that night, but that wasn’t happening – so cold! So the next morning I made bacon, eggs, toast and fruit and we were off to the right start. Still cold! This whole trip, Aaron and I both will never forget not having any hot coffee, plenty of luke warm, cold coffee though!
We went to the official visitor center and saw the canyon from the edge again. Way more people visiting from all over the globe were there. The virus was on our minds the most here. This is where we began to see people wearing masks and social distancing was happening. Asking someone to take our picture by the sign was now strange. It was also cold and a bit drizzly. It was time to go and all I knew was I didn’t get enough time in this sacred place and I would be back.
We headed south, we were Yuma bound and Grant was waiting for us!
The Saguaro Cacti are the first indication that you have made it to the Sonoran Desert. We were beyond excited to see these rare beauties up close. We were getting close. The temperature was warming up. We were almost there.
Our Route, Pt. 1
Mar. 3 – North Platte, NE
Mar. 4 – Falcon, CO
Mar. 5 – Salida, CO
Mar. 6 – Pagosa Springs, CO
Mar. 7 – Grand Canyon, AZ
by Kat Darling
"In That Year, 2020" is a flashback blog series that I am writing documenting our travels through the Western part of the United States during the Covid 19 Pandemic. I am collecting these stories for my children, the road warriors and anyone who has lived through this crazy time. Thanks for reading! - Kat Darling
Just a day before Valentine’s Day 2020, I didn’t perform the gig with any knowledge that this would be my last live performance in Iowa. You don’t know it is going to be the last time you experience something, but have you ever been in that moment and know you need to pay attention, to savor this moment? I had this pull to enjoy and be present. It felt like a treat I was consuming that I might never have again.
My husband and I pulled into Perry, IA this day a year ago. We turned onto the main street and passed the beautiful Hotel Pattee stretching a block long and holding authority like a court house in a small town. We have played many times at the hotel and memories came flooding back.
We weave through the downtown and see many old buildings that have been brought back to life and others that have not. Just around the corner is the magnificently restored, La Poste, where we were scheduled to play. This place was refurbished by a team of wildly dedicated individuals who have teamed together to breath creativity into the Perry community.
The Cellar’s Handle Bar Happy Hour was in the basement bar of this building. More than a bar, this space is a community gathering place. Glowing from the inside, it looked inviting and warm. We park the van at the back of the building and I do a quick stroll of the block in the nipping February air snapping a few pictures as I went including a few selfies to promote the show.
We start to unload our gear and get ready for the perilous load in down the back steps. A fun entrance for the simple couple to pop in, but we are not so simple. We start carrying, one load after another carefully navigating the long row of small cement steps with guitars and gear in hand. This is what keeps us strong, we say. Of course, always greeted with the kindest and warmest of welcomes, we greet our Perry friends and start to set up.
After, I found myself in a moment alone spending company with the art work that was being featured that month. With no one in the whole place, I had a private moment just for me and I pulled out the new song I had been working on, just wrote it the night before. I opened up and began to sing to just the paintings, the mismatched chairs, the brick walls and my voice rang, the acoustics of the place enriching the sound. I sang alone.
When you don’t know something is going to end, is it really less sweet? I have been struggling with the live gig life for some time, a divide of who I was and who I had become. Still madly in love with music, my creative creature needed nourishment in different ways and this gig was nourishment.
We do our thing. We sing our songs. We fill requests. The night is full.
Laughter, food, music, comfort, friends…all were present this night. My soul was full.
It was the last live “in person” gig that I performed.
It feels weird to say but also fitting. This was the end and and soon, there would be a new beginning.
The year in front of me was going to bring more challenges, and more enlightenment, and I have never needed it more. But this night, I was not encumbered by what the future would bring.
After the gig we pack up and teeter our gear back up the stone steps. One step at a time was how to get this job done.
After our last load we went back downstairs to do the once over look to make sure we had everything.
“You two make a really good team. You are really lucky.” the gal cleaning up told us.
“Yeah, we do. I think we make a pretty good team too.” I said.
We have been doing this long enough. We better be! I never forget how lucky I am to get to do this job with my husband. This exchange lifts me up and I felt proud.
I didn’t know what gig or lack of gigs was coming around the corner but I did know that the only way to go, at least this night, was home.
The song I sang to the paintings…
When I’m Alone
When I’m alone, I think of you
When I’m alone, I miss you
When I’m alone, I feel you
I feel the tears falling down my face
Too long, I’ve been in this place.
Never again will I be here to say
what it is the moment means
All these questions leading me
To a place I’m supposed to be
A place, I can’t even see
When I’m alone, I think of you.
When I’m alone, I miss you
When I’m alone, I feel you
I feel the tears falling down my face
Too long, I’ve been in this place
I am bending in the wind
I am blown all the way down
I am waiting for the break
I know it is coming around
To that pain, I am bound
When I’m alone, I think of you
When I’m alone, I miss you
When I’m alone, I feel you
I feel the tears falling down my face
Too long, I’ve been in this place.
By Kat Darling
The High Crest has taken some new turns during this pandemic. We were traveling through the southwest of the US when the country began closing down and we were issued the "stay at home" order. It was surreal absorbing the news of our new life while we were on the road. As we arrived back in Iowa, our journey continued...in a place we call home.
To adjust to this "new normal" we knew right away that we wanted to bring our music to our listeners as quickly as possible. I am a firm believer that music is therapeutic and in the face of our new reality and Covid19, I knew we could use some relief. My first desire was to connect to our friends in our live music community and sing some songs for everybody.
We need music! It connects us, revives us and encourages us. Now, here came this chance for us to bring The High Crest music directly to you, where you live.
The High Crest began, what we called, the Hunker in the Bunker Sessions. We recorded several performances and streamed them live on Facebook. We are in the process of putting these recordings together for an album. We connected with so many of you through our live streams! We laughed and sang, read all the comments and received tips and encouragement.
As I explored other options to stay financially afloat, I applied for a grant through the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. I was chosen to receive a $1,000 grant. With the help of this grant and our fantastic community, my creative career has been validated and The High Crest can continue to operate.
I believe the arts are extremely important to preserving individual livelihoods and our collective culture. On behalf of The High Crest I want to thank the Iowa Arts Council, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and YOU for continuing to invest in creativity. Thank you!
The High Crest
Read the full press release below:
DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs (IDCA) announced today that it has awarded $191,000 in grants to Iowa artists and small nonprofit arts organizations who are reeling from the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The first-round relief grants were limited to artists and small nonprofit arts organizations.
The list of recipients includes community theaters, choirs, youth arts groups, a documentary filmmaker and a blues musician who has entertained Iowa audiences for more than 40 years.
In all,156 Iowa artists and creative workers each received a $1,000 award to support their artistic career. In addition, 14 Iowa nonprofit arts organizations each received a $2,500 grant to support their operations. The IDCA received a total of 285 applications in this funding round.
Applicants cited a range of financial losses resulting from canceled performances,
festivals, residencies, commissions, teaching opportunities and more. Organizations lost revenue from admissions and gift-shop sales, as well as canceled classes, programs and fundraising events.
“Iowa’s creative professionals and cultural organizations have been deeply impacted by the current crisis,” Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Chris Kramer said. “Our industry is incredibly resourceful and resilient, but with so many revenue sources threatened at once, it’s extraordinarily challenging for the creative workforce to navigate.”
Kramer added, “The economic loss to arts organizations is estimated at over $4.5 billion nationwide. Here in Iowa in a typical year, the creative sector accounts for 2.3 percent of our economy and more than 42,000 jobs.”
This was the first round of grants from the new Iowa Arts & Culture Emergency Relief Fund, which is administered by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. Grants awarded through this fund are intended to support the Iowa artists and nonprofits that have suffered the most, serving as a bridge between severe financial loss and other state and federal assistance.
"Artists and community arts organizations have been hit particularly hard by this emergency and are some of the most vulnerable members of our industry right now," Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said. "We want to help Iowa artists and these arts groups bridge the gap, so they can sustain a basic living until audiences and patrons return."
In a recent survey conducted for Iowa by Americans for the Arts, 255 arts and cultural organizations across the state reported a total financial loss of $2.85 million as of April 7. On average, those organizations lost approximately $11,000 due to closures, cancellations and increased expenses.
Nearly all of the respondents reported that they have canceled performances and other events, affecting an estimated 100,000 audience members and participants.
Sixty-two percent of respondents expect the pandemic’s impact on their organization to be “severe” or “very severe.” A quarter of the organizations have reduced staff or payroll.
The Iowa Arts Council will accept applications for a second round of emergency grants April 24 through May 1 from all Iowa arts and cultural organizations that have existed for at least three years, maintain a 501(c)3 nonprofit status and had an operating budget of at least $10,000 during the past fiscal year. The details and application will be posted online at iowaculture.gov.
Funding for this second round of grants comes from the National Endowment of the Arts, through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The grants are intended to help save jobs in the arts sector and keep the doors open to thousands of cultural organizations that add value to America’s economy and the creative life of its communities.
Last week I had the opportunity to tell my story on the Hoyt Sherman Place stage for the Des Moines Storytellers Project - My Great Adventure: Wanderlust. The Storytellers Project is a series of live storytelling nights where Des Moines Register journalists curate and host nights of true, first-person stories.
Like the rest of the storytellers, my story was very personal to me. The story I tell walks the listener through the last four years of my life. In telling my story I claim ownership of the events and feelings that have taken place. I am confronting dreams of full time travel put on hold, the deepest parts of my grief and the moments that have kept me going through it all. And why after everything I've been through, I still Wanderlust!
This was not an easy thing to do! To have this story in repeat in my head for two months was exhausting and overwhelming, not just for me, but for my family too. I want to thank Aaron Short, my husband, for his unconditional support and love through this process. We've been in this together and that isn't changing. His support helps my strength and belief in myself.
But it took accepting who I've become, the person I am - right now, to give me the personal power to write my story, edit it, then say it aloud and share it with others.
I signed up to do this because I know the power that storytelling has on the listener and the teller.
Linda, my mother-in-law, passed away in December and after, I felt giant waves of grief. I didn't want to be alone in my grief. So I reached out and found support services and I am using them, my family is using them. I found this so beneficial that I decided to really tap into some healing and bring my story to Hoyt Sherman, sold out crowd of 1,200 people..."Holy hell, what have I gotten myself into!?!"
It was healing! I had many people come up to me and speak of their own experiences with grief and how my story touched their lives. I had friends show up to support me through this whole journey and I am so grateful. Thank-you! I also want to thank Lee Rood for being my coach and the whole DM Register Storytellers team who makes this event happen.
Every storyteller has a unique perspective that no one else can have. That is what makes the human condition inspiring. That is why it is important to share our stories because the only way we can walk in someone else's footsteps is to discover and learn more about their lives. That is why storytelling is so important!
I have new music to share too! The High Crest will be releasing a new song I wrote, You Have To See It, that accompanies my story so you will be able to hear that soon.
The Storytellers Project will be available on different platforms, including Iowa Public Television, streaming live at https://www.storytellersproject.com/ and in print in the Des Moines Register in the next few weeks.
The inspiring stories from last Tuesday can be found on Sound Sound Cloud at
Thanks for listening!
My 1st and biggest fan was my Mom, no doubt about it. She was the single most strongest source of support in my life. Even though she is gone, she remains an enormous part of who I am right now. I turn to memories of her in my darkest moments and in my bravest moments. She is still with me, helping me.
I am eternally grateful for her patience listening to every single "bad" note I sang. I really could go on and on but I am THE MOST grateful for her encouragement towards what made me happy, and music always made me truly happy.
All Saints Day, All Souls Day and All Saints Sunday has my heart and mind on my loved ones who have gone. Music is my connection to so many friends and family who have passed on. Music helps float memories into your consciousness creating the soundtrack of our lives.
I have a couple of songs that, when I hear them, remind me of my Mom. When I listen, it is a moment when I am given permission to stop and think of her, to be with her for a moment. A meditation on my love followed by the act of letting go when the song ends.
Music connects us to everything. The rhythms of this world, of our universe, are at work creating waves that connect us all.
This is the month of November where every single one of us is encouraged to be thankful and full of gratitude. So this month The High Crest has decided to revive our blog and share stories of our gratitude from our experiences as independent musicians. We want to share why your story has helped us live ours.
This is the month of November where every single one of us is encouraged to be thankful and full of gratitude. So this month The High Crest has decided to revive our blog and each day share stories of our gratitude from our experiences as independent musicians. We want to share why your story has helped us live ours.
Yesterday we were taking a walk in the neighborhood where we are currently staying and we hear someone yell, "Aaron Short!" There is a fella approaching obviously excited to see us. We are hard to miss when we are all together.
He swings in and gives Aaron a hug and says, "I've been to a lot of your shows and they have changed my life. I love your music!" He was smiling and genuine and wasn't hesitant about coming right up and telling us how he felt. I love this. Even though this encounter was brief and we were on our way just a few minutes later, what he said to us stayed with us.
You see, this is a job that requires you to believe in yourself. Creating is a very personal and therapeutic experience. It is intimate and needs to be nurtured forward into the world where it will eventually be shared. Creating music and art (and sharing it) is an important job but it can drain you...into a million pieces.
This moment was the moment we needed to keep believing, to be encouraged, to want to continue to do this job. In this one moment we were reminded that people need what we have to give and that it does good in the world when we do the hard work to express ourselves.
We are grateful for the moments when we are reminded that this job means something to somebody..and that means A LOT! Even if you can't always see the love and support, make sure you always remember it is there for you, waiting for you when you need it the most.
-The High Crest
The High Crest got a wild hair last night and decided to submit to NPR's Tiny Desktop Contest...just in the nick of time!
New Year, New Songs
by Kat Darling from The High Crest
This is a new day with a brand new song.
It has been a very, very long time since I have written a song - to the point I was starting to get anxious every time I tried. I wrote a chorus two years ago on my birthday. I sat there at my kitchen table and wrote just these few sentences, crying my eyes out.
"When it's time to move on, I won't know how long I've been missing you.
If I have the strength to change, I know things won't be the same
As they were when I was with you."
My words warning me, it was going to be a long time.
Just the other day I picked up my guitar, paper and pencil and found more words to go with this chorus. I felt like I was sewing together this piece, stitching myself together. Just today I finished the bridge and the last of the verses.
And I'm going to share it with you tonight at the Greenwood. The song is called Chance to Change.
Plan for the future, stay in the now, learn from the past. Life can be a dizzy dance.
THE ICEBERG ILLUSION
By Kat Darling from The High Crest
There is one question going through my mind in the wake of David Bowie's departure from this planet, what are you waiting for?
Make art. Make it because it means something to someone, but most importantly, make it for yourself. Reinvent your "how". Reinvent your "why".
I have been, in my past, a closeted artist from the public, but now I feel like I am a closeted artist from myself. There is actual fear in making art. You wouldn't know it by looking at Bowie, but I am pretty sure at some point he paused and asked, "What the hell am I doing?" - Then again, maybe not, it is Bowie.
Whether it is an elaborately designed outfit, paint on the paper, some photograph hiked miles to get, a song that has finally unearthed itself out of your soul, it has to mean something...to someone, but most importantly yourself or else why would you have gone through all that work.
Art is self discovery, art is pain, art is beauty, art is controlled chaos.
What if more of us shared our art!?! Oh, what a world we would see!
But we have to take responsibility. Even as artist we have responsibility. And we have to function out in the world of reality and responsibility and think in monetary terms of what is realistic and achievable, just like everyone else.
Does the art/music world support the arts as it should?
Yes, fans support the arts the way they should, with undying passion!
Do we are artists have access to the best tools to create?
The internet and technology has blown our minds!
Do we have the financial income and infrastructure to make a living making art?
Money is a bully!
This last question is one question that has scared my art into a dark corner and is actually yelling really loudly at me. Do I sound crazy? Yep! I'm an artist!
I still remember being taken back when my Mom defended me, "Well, she's an artist. She might be broke, but she is happy." It was so weird to hear those words, "She's an artist..." I heard my mom admit that I'm an artist, and what the heck does that mean!?! I really AM an artist.
And making music and art with my loved ones has made my world a very happy place. I have given a lot and put so much into everything...then why even now is it hard, very hard to make art my living? Well...that's life! You learn your lessons when you do, whether you are young, old or in between.
Get down to get up.
This year has been a crazy ride from the tip top of the white crest of the wave to the dark bottomless water in between.
There has been failure and continuous sacrifice, there has been social/personal pressure and disappointment. But there has also been some divine moments, hard work and lots of dedication.
In 2016 The High Crest is refocusing and shaping our goals. We are working hard and training our self discipline. Right now for the winter we are hunkered down on the Eastside of Des Moines, taking this time in hibernation to...plan.
In those plans...
Reporting from The High Crest base camp...
Booking to travel - We are booking in Iowa and the Midwest (also including CO and TX).
Aaron's Solo Album - Aaron is working on putting together a ticketed show in the recording studio that people can attend, live! More dates and details to come.
The High Crest family style single - The 10' Dragon, is set to be recorded this year.
In the dead of winter it is hard to see the spring but I am dreaming of easier times and I am working hard to ensure that they prevail.
This is more than keeping the dream alive...it is keeping sanity in tact! Oh yeah, and the bills paid.