Think all farmers are huge country music fans? While this may be common, it is not always the case. A unique concert venue in Iowa is a perfect example of that.
Codfish Hollow Barnstormers draws all kinds of people to a 900-acre farm to jam to local and national indie and rock bands.
“The farm has been in my family handed down generation to generation, for five generations — my great-grandfather, Frederick Wilhelm Stamp farming it and then my grandpa, Arnold Stamp who built the round barn,” explained Tiffany Biehl, who owns the barn in Maquoketa with her husband, Shawn.
Most of the land is rented out to local farmers who grow corn and hay and raise beef cattle. Tiffany and Shawn stay busy with the bands and barn setup but do find time for some small-scale farming.
The barn was constructed in 1954, and has had music in it from the beginning, but it did not become the sought after venue it is today until 2009.
“Shortly after the barn was built, my grandfather, Arnold Stamp, held a barn dance to celebrate,” Tiffany said.
The time in between the barn was used for typical things, such as storing wagons and farm implements, hay, and sometimes cows. Tiffany, Shawn, and friends would just sit in the barn and appreciate the awesomeness. They would dreamily discuss the seemingly far-fetched idea of having live music in the barn. Until one day a friend mentioned that a company called Daytrotter was looking to put together a barnstormer live music tour and was looking for cool venues.
Tiffany described that after the initial meeting both parties agreed that this would be a unique collaboration. Two weeks later, the barn held its first live show, since that barn dance in 1954. The whole process moved so quickly that there was no stage, and the barn was still full of manure. But Tiffany and Shawn were hooked.
“Once that first show got going, we could just feel how right it all was and how the barn was meant for that kind of thing and how well it suited us to be a part of it,” Tiffany said.
That first show not only got the couple hooked, it also showed them ways to improve. The barn has since had a stage put in, new electric, new lighting, and a green room for the bands. The barn has become a sensation that has hosted over 40 shows including John C. Reilly, Counting Crows and Norah Jones.
There is also camping on premises on the day of the show, but it is not for the agriculturally faint of heart. Their website states, “It’s not a campground, just a cow pasture/field with a few fire rings. No electric hook-ups for campers.” But one of the perks of staying in a cow pasture are the hay rides from the camping area and parking lot (once again a cow field) to the barn.
The uniqueness comes not only from the agricultural background of the venue but also from the location and the hospitality of the hosts.
“I think the really great music and the relaxed atmosphere are the main the things that draw people to our events. But there is something magical about the place itself. You feel a real sense of relaxation and beauty when you enter the hollow. It is not easy to explain, you have to feel it,” Shawn described.
This barn has unique attributes that not only attract concert goers, but also bands. The main attraction for the bands is the support from Tiffany and Shawn, who agree that it is all about the music and the musicians.
“It’s about supporting musicians and getting their music out there in the purest way we can, and staying true to that. I think the bands sense that, the audience senses that, and even people who’ve never been here get a sense of that. The fans truly realize it when they hear a band here that they’ve heard play at other venues, they often say it is the best show they have ever seen them play,” Shawn said.
People have started realizing this and are flocking to this 600-person capacity barn. Not just from Iowa, but from surrounding states and other areas in the country. They have had multiple shows sell out, so if you’re interested be sure to check out their website early.
Another way that the couple supports the bands is through true farm-based, agriculture hospitality. Agriculturalists are some of the friendliest people, and Shawn and Tiffany prove it to the bands at every performance. They make sure that the bands have everything they need while they are at the barn. Without giving away too much of their secret, they provide home-cooked meals, hot showers, laundry, snacks for the road, and other amenities.
“We aren’t special, we’re just nice. We try to be an oasis of friendliness on the hard tour schedule road. Pretty much every band says they never want to leave,” explained Shawn semi-jokingly.
Something that makes Codfish Hollow unique is that they do most of the setup for the concerts themselves. They spend a few insanely hectic days before each concert preparing the barn and the farm. Some of these tasks include cooking breakfast, lunch, dinner, after-party food, and green room food.
“We do everything from filling coolers, ice runs, setting up two bars and the ticket area, the stage area, the entire green room, the porta-potty readying, putting out road signs, getting all of the vendors set up where they need to be, cleaning our house, setting up the art gallery, mowing, putting out tables and so much more. You name it, we have to do it,” exclaimed Tiffany.
So what makes Codfish Hollow Barnstormers different? Maybe it’s camping or parking in a cow pasture, maybe it’s the view, maybe it’s the irony of rock concerts on a 5th generation farm, or maybe it’s the hospitality from Tiffany and Shawn. Maybe you will never know until you go and experience it for yourself.