Some say this town is dead. Gus would probably argue that
Hairy Mary's, just east of Drake University, at 2307 University Avenue, is easily the only punk
bar in the Des Moines metro area, and likely the only one in all of central
Iowa. It's closest in-state competitor is Gabe's, which is two hours
away in Iowa City.
The first incarnation of Hairy Mary's was opened on the city's north
side during the late 80's/ early 90's (if my memory is correct). It then closed up shop, only to be
reopened a few years later in a different location. Live, aggressive music
is a staple of the establishment, and they frequently host all age’s shows.
Slipknot played many of its first shows on the stage at Hairy Mary's, and
the bar now hosts both local, regional, and national acts like Fu Manchu and Nashville Pussy.
This is not your typical Des Moines bar.
My friend and I went to check out a band on a Saturday night. We ended
up sitting at the bar waiting for the show to start. Gus, one of the
bartenders, was quick to make friends with us. It's always a good idea to
make friends with your bartender, as stronger drinks tend to be a fringe
The bar clearly has its regular clientele, although after my first few
trips there I already feel like a regular. Gus has introduced us each time
to the regular customer sitting next to us at the bar. First, it was Brad,
the beautiful Kurt Cobain look-a-like, who kept interjecting comments into our
conversation. The next week it was Dave, who Gus referred to as his
"personal Cliff's Notes." Then Gus said that we were the only two girls in
the whole place that were likely to be anywhere near Dave's intellectual
level, since we clearly read William Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson
Gus is also conviced that we are party girls. I am not about to argue with him on either point.
Even beyond stiff drinks and making you feel welcome, you have to love a
bar where the bartender will give you his last few cigarettes to
The place is dark, the music is loud, and there is never a lack of
things to look at on the wall- orange flames, a bikini-wearing surfer girl,
an old motorcycle that has clearly seen better days, and a wide array of
The posters that tell me the band who played my friend's
20th birthday party, Shiloh Church, has also played here. The posters on the wall
show me the resemblance between Courtney Love and Stevie
The pool tables are covered in purple felt, and the lights overhead are
rigged through old drums. The last time we were shooting pool, a chocolate
lab came in and I can only assume he belonged to one of the other bartenders.
He ran around the bar as if he owned the place, and I could hear him
drinking from the toilet in the men's bathroom. He hopped up on a bar
stool with skill and ease, and looked so comfortable at the bar that it
nearly entitled him to a drink of his choice.
This is where the cool kids are, the ones with so much metal in their
head that they would scare your grandmother. This is where the cool kids
are, the ones who roll their own cigarettes because they are too cool for
those mass-produced ones. This is where the cool kids are, the ones who
leering at you over their broken pool cue. This is where the cool kids are,
playing foosball on a Wednesday night. This is where the cool kids are,
inked and wearing black. This is where the cool kids are; regretting they
are in Des Moines and grateful there is at least one place for them to go
This is the bar you want to call your own.
Check out their web site (www.hairymarys.com) for a listing of up-coming acts and contact information.