A local artist, and so much more: A tribute to Charlie Vestal

Charlie Vestal performing during the 2016 Maximum Ames Music Festival. 


Love and togetherness are two things that run deep within the Ames music scene.

Every artist in the community plays a crucial part in making the community what it is, and they all add their own unique personality to it.

That uniqueness of character and artistry was evident in local musician Charlie Vestal, who died last week.

Performing, writing new music, giving back to the scene and encouraging his friends were all things Vestal did, and he did them a lot. The local music community has been carrying a heavy heart the last few days because of the impact Vestal made with his music and personality.

The scene in town is a tight-knit one. In fact, local musician Nate Logsdon described it as a family. Like any family, dealing with loss is tough, and Logsdon believes the local scene is forever changed.

“Our family will never be the same,” Logsdon said. “There’s no way to replace what we’ve lost.”

Vestal was a large part of the Ames music scene, as he played in many bands over the years and performed alongside several artists who call the community home. He also did many shows and recorded several songs as a solo act under the name Flavor Basket.

His friends describe his music as unique, different and creative. He was known for playing several genres of music including punk, pop and folk, all with well-thought-out lyrics and a one-of-a-kind style.

“You couldn’t write a song like Charlie if you tried,” Logsdon said. “He really had his own way of going about it.”

Vestal’s writing process was a constant one. Fellow musician and friend Lyndsay Nissen said she doesn’t know of many artists who wrote as many songs as he did.

“He had a unique ability to tap into that creative flow and just constantly be writing and come up with new stuff,” Nissen said. “It was really, really amazing.”

Vestal made creativity and music seem fun and easy, his friend Wally Neal said. Neal and Vestal worked together on several projects within the Ames music scene, and Neal said he feels people should dig into the music Vestal made.

“He was one of those people who made you go, ‘Wow, we can have a songwriter this good right here in Iowa?’” Neal said.

Along with being a writer, he was also quite the showman. DG’s Tap House manager Adam Brimeyer said Vestal was always well rehearsed and knew how to please his audiences.

“He had a really good mind for how to present his material,” Brimeyer said. “He knew how to take the material he had and do the most with it.”

Logsdon hopes to continue playing Vestal’s music for his own family and at shows in the future. He said he feels it is important to keep Vestal’s memory and work alive in the scene.

“I really hope he’s remembered as one of the greatest songwriters that Ames has ever seen,” Logsdon said.

Vestal had an all-out love and excitement for music in general, too. Logsdon recalled a time when Vestal caught a guitar pick flying through the air after watching the punk band The Queers.

Brimeyer said he and Vestal shared their passion for music with each other when they talked. Both of them geeked out over guitars while conversing, including the time Vestal purchased a Stratocaster.

Brimeyer recalled the excitement and happiness Vestal had after he showed him the new guitar.

Neal also had a special musical relationship with Vestal, as they produced Flavor Basket albums together. Neal said the times they produced music with each other are some of his most cherished memories with Vestal.

“There was always a sense of camaraderie and just excitement as we heard new songs come together, and it really meant the world to us both” Neal said. 

Beyond Vestal’s music and passion for it, he also touched the lives of the people around him with his positive and encouraging attitude. Brimeyer said Vestal inspired him to keep trying no matter what happened.

“To me, Charlie was one of the good guys,” Brimeyer said. “He was generally sweet and kind, honest and an open individual, and people like that tend to have a positive effect on people around them.”

That same positive energy that encouraged Brimeyer also affected Nissen. She said that after moving back to Ames and entering the music scene in town, Vestal always showed interest in what she was doing and gave her genuine encouragement.

“I admired Charlie as a songwriter, and it felt special that he would take the time to care about what I did,” Nissen said.

Vestal was also known for being accepting of everyone around him and Nissen said that Vestal treated all people the same, even if they were in a different clique or social group.

“It wasn’t about being cool or who’s who or anything like that,” Nissen said. “Charlie didn’t see that. He just saw all these people he cared about.”

Besides making his music known for years to come, his friends hope that Vestal’s qualities as a human being, that have inspired them, are remembered.

Vestal gave a lot to the community, and it will be a hard task for the Ames music scene to keep moving forward, but Neal said he feels it is important for everyone to stick together and keep doing what they love.

“We need to keep coming together, keep writing music and keep communicating with each other, coming to each other’s shows and just supporting each other,” Neal said. “We are very lucky to have had Charlie in our scene and in our community, and it’s hard right now, but it’s a positive that he inspired a lot of us.”

A memorial will take place for Vestal at DG’s Tap House at 5 p.m. Sunday to celebrate his life and the music he created.