The Nadas Duo brought it all home at the M-Shop

Jason Walsmith (left) and Mike Butterworth (right) of The Nadas perform a stripped-back version of their expansive catalog spanning over 25 years. 

Gabby Lucas

Jason Walsmith and Mike Butterworth of Iowa legend folk-rock band The Nadas brought it all home Friday night at the Maintenance Shop (M-Shop). 

Performing as The Nadas Duo, Walsmith and Butterworth returned to their hometown of Ames for a one-of-a-kind, intimate acoustic performance where they reminisced on the glory days of their formative years as a band in the mid-1990s. Mike Butterworth’s daughter, Emma Butterworth, opened the show.

Emma Butterworth, a senior at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, stunned the room into silence with her powerful contralto voice. Armed with an electric guitar, a keyboard and her un-abiding charm, Emma Butterworth performed a mix of her own original songs and covers of artists such as The Lumineers, The Head and the Heart and Tom Petty.

Emma Butterworth said growing up around the artistic process of music made it inevitable that she would become a musician just like her father.

“Back in middle school, I started writing music to deal with all that teenage angst,” Emma Butterworth said. “I thought that it would be better to put words on a page rather than, you know, punch someone in the face.” 

The Butterworths have a studio in their house where the musicians of the family record and collaborate. Emma Butterworth said it’s fun to make music with her father, and she’s happy to be following in his footsteps.

“It’s almost like a full cycle,” Emma Butterworth said. “He played [at the M-Shop] when he was 18, and now I’m his first child playing here.”

Emma Butterworth is applying to Columbia College Chicago, where she said she hopes to professionally study music.

With the aspiration of creating a “storytelling and listening room experience,” the Nadas Duo performed a completely acoustic set. Even unplugged, the duo’s voices resounded, and their harmonies fit together like puzzle pieces. Songs were separated by goofy stage antics and expert crowd-playing. 

The duo lost no momentum between songs. The stage banter ran aplenty, and the set was filled with memories and tales from their early days as a college band in Ames. They kept the crowd busy with profound expertise, encouraging sing-alongs to ballads like “Carve Your Name” and “Dancing Lucinda” and getting everyone out of their seats to dance when they performed fan-favorites such as “River.”

Walsmith said the M-Shop is the perfect type of venue to create the “listening room” experience that they were going for.

“This is a little bit different from the typical rock-and-roll show that people are used to,” Walsmith said. “It’s nice to be able to mix it up.” 

While the Nadas may have started as just Walsmith and Mike Butterworth, the Nadas Duo has only been performing together for a few years. Between house shows, living room tours and regular performances as a full band, Walsmith said it’s always fun to come back to Ames and relive the good old days. 

“We don’t [perform in Ames] very often, but it is cool,” Walsmith said. “We played here for a long time. Like, way after college. We kept playing here until People’s closed.”

Walsmith said it was great to return to Ames to play at the M-Shop.

Every time the duo returns home to Ames, Mike Butterworth said they still love the same old food stops and stomping grounds, despite how drastically the city changes between visits.

“It’s surprising how much [Ames] changes all the time so quickly,” Mike Butterworth said. “There’s apartments on Lincoln Way and Welch that weren’t there when we were or when we were there last.” 

For a while, Mike Butterworth said the band often only performed on Main Street and never had the opportunity to see Campustown.

“So I went years and years without seeing Campustown, and now it’s completely different,” Mike Butterworth said. 

Despite the ever-changing nature of Ames, one thing that remains constant for the Nadas is their audience. Nadas crowds are usually comprised of the band’s friends, family and regulars who have been fans for years. Mike Butterworth said it’s always exciting to see someone new at their shows.

“Anywhere we go in the country, we have the same deal where it’s maybe someone who saw us here or some other Iowa college when we were growing up, and they live in, say, Portland, and they’ll come and they’ll bring their friends to share their experience with them,” Mike Butterworth said. “That’s kind of how we’ve been able to keep doing it, I think.”

Emma Butterworth has an EP in the works, and a Nadas Duo album and tour are both expected to launch in the spring.