No one knows what their mission here is, but it's no wonder they're after us. With such talent concentrated in one space, they can strike a major blow to the arts community.

Or maybe they're tired of Elvis and want someone new to listen to. It's hard to say.

Whatever the reason, the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City will undoubtedly be the target. If you're brave enough to seek out acts like John Waters, Devotchka and Das Racist, it's best to proceed with caution.

Grab your tin foil and your colander. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Mission Creek Festival will take over Iowa City's downtown from March 28 to April 1 for the sixth year. National, international and regional musicians, writers and artists will perform and exhibit their work, providing a unique cultural experience.

"That's where a lot of our passion lies, in finding stuff that people haven't heard yet," said Andre Perry, executive director of the Englert Theater and founder of Mission Creek.

The festival debuted in Iowa in 2006, but its roots stretch across the country to San Francisco 15 years earlier when a young artist, thinker and community activist, Jeff Ray, wanted to create a festival to celebrate the musicians and artists of the Bay Area. His focus was on emerging talent and established underground artists. The small festival eventually became a citywide event that inhabits San Francisco's music venues and art spaces.

Perry, once a producer for the San Francisco event, moved to Iowa City and brought along the spirit of the festival.

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The energy of the University of Iowa population and local residents matched with a close circuit of venues makes Iowa City a prime spot for such a celebration.

"The idea was not to copy their sister festival in San Francisco but rather to take Ray's idea as an inspiration while building upon Iowa City's intrinsic artistic strengths: a healthy underground/experimental music scene, a strong tradition of folk and Americana music and a vibrant literary culture," according to the festival website.

Festival audiences get the chance to act as tourists as they hop from venue to venue over the course of a week.

"It has grown quite a bit," Perry said. "The numbers have increased, but it's always been high volume."

Choosing only three events that Perry was most excited about proved to be a difficult, but possible task: Guided by Voices, Ravens and Chimes and, of course, John Waters. "We've always been able to get bands we really like," he sais.

Perry notes there seems to be an increasing number of out-of-state travelers coming to Iowa City for the festival.

"But there is a strong base here in Iowa. We love it when Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Ames, Des Moines, Quad Cities, and all the smaller towns (attend). It is really what we're here for, to be a strong presence for Iowans," Perry said.

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