Club AM
Des Moines, Iowa



Stalking the only afterhours around.

The capital city of Iowa is peculiar, with flourishing suburbs and a downtown area that has just started showing new signs of life. Due to a law that was passed in the early 1990’s banning any organized dancing after 2am, there is very little clubbing going on here. But Club AM is the only venue that is allowed to remain open past two in the morning.
Club AM got around the restriction by lobbying the city, and by charging an annual membership fee of $25 for the privilege of entering with up to three guests, as well as bringing in your own alcohol (the club has no liquor license). Club AM also charges an individual cover at the door which members and guests still have to pay.
As Des Moines’ only afterhours dancing location, Club AM shares a warehouse with another club next door known as Statik, which operates during regular bar hours. AM opens at one, and the music continues until five. The radio spots claimed that everyone was partying there after all the bars closed, and that they played the latest house, trance, and techno.

Stalker #1
Upon entering Club AM, I found I had to be a member or a guest of a member to get in. One friend offered to let us in on his membership card, but we ended up finding temporary membership cards at other clubs and bars in the area. These were valid for one night only, so we used them to get in.
Since there is no alcohol here, you have to bring your own drinks. All kinds of people are walking around, carrying their 6 packs and mingling. The bars sell energy drinks, soda, and pizza for those who are hungry after hours, and there is a cage right above the bar for those who want to dance. The sound system and lights were both very good, though I was left wishing for a massive disco ball, instead of the two medium-sized ones. For the size of the place though, the lights are impressive, and consist of numerous spots and cans, moving yokes, gobos, a large laser, and some patterns. A mirror covers the entire wall and gives a feeling of spaciousness to the dance floor.
Music-wise, however, I was a bit unimpressed. The DJ’s did not feed well off the crowd, and the music selection and mixing were poor. The music consisted of Top 40 pop, high-energy techno, and some mainstream chart urban music to pander to the crowd when nobody moved to the dance music. There was no good house or trance being played. Most people were not dancing anyway, but standing around and drinking. It was something to do instead of going home at two, but it wasn’t the exhilarating experience we thought it would be.

Stalker #2
I was excited to see this dance club, though I was a bit intimidated by the bad-boy-wannabe attitude of the door staff. Walking in, I saw a small non-descript lounge with leather couches to my left. In the main room (which is practically the only room in the place), I could feel the music pounding, so that was a good sign. I was really appalled by the interior décor though, which consisted of standard stools and high tables, as well as some metallic chairs and tables. The walls were covered with simple isosceles triangle patterns, barely visible under small gooseneck lamps attached to the walls (the kind you would use to light a DJ booth). There were two pool tables in the corner, and a window for serving food (which was closed – they just had pizza at the “bar”). And, there was no liquor for sale here, just energy drinks, juices, and water.
There were no comfortable places to sit down and chill out, except for the lounge near the front. The rest of the furniture was very non-descript, and the sparseness reminds you that you are in a warehouse. Restrooms were somewhat acceptable – they actually had soap dispensers, which was a rare observation in this town. Another good thing was that the club was not too dark, as some places are. The DJ booth looks spacious and decently equipped.
Overall, I thought Club AM was a good idea, but it needs more in terms of offering that surreal clubbing experience, especially at an hour when most people here are used to going home at bar close. The name is kind of cheesy too, but they seem to get away with it here. If I’m ever in Des Moines again, I might come back, but I do hope they make some significant changes by then.

Stalker #3
I’ve lived in Des Moines for only four years, and in that time I’ve seen some terrible ideas for clubs. Places open and close all the time because they’re not done right, and only the oldie bars with pool tables and jukeboxes remain. For young professionals, there are few clubbing options, so I was excited when the idea for Club AM first came out - a club that is allowed to open after everywhere else closes! It had never been done before, and the opening night there was packed, with lines all the way outside.
Though it’s a pricey venue compared to other places, we went to Club AM because there was nowhere else to go. We paid for our memberships, plus door cover. The door personnel were generally unpleasant, but then the owner welcomed us, gave us wristbands, and invited us to have a good time. The place is spacious, but it doesn’t feel like it’s being used well. It has this atmosphere of feeling very exposed in a big room. The B.YO.B. policy is kind of nice because it means people save on their drinks, but it’s really strange watching people walking around with beer cases and bottles of liquor.
I enjoyed the strength of the sound system (though sometimes it felt a bit too loud), and the lights were pretty good. Not sure about that huge mirror covering the wall, though. The DJs did not seem to have much patience with their mixes as they would sometimes throw a song on mid-verse, and it felt silly when they would play some really ridiculous song like “Brown Eyed Girl” after cheesy mainstream urban music. The hip-hop they played was not very genuine, nor was the house. Musically it’s a lot like any other mainstream bar in the area, and guest DJs are generally not welcome, so it is very predictable. However, AM is a nice place that can build a following with time and effort.




Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications