Artificial city

Once an Abe act, Artificial Stars make a return appearance on the main stage at SITP | Weekend | Music

On a humid June night, Jeff Koithan was examining the alley art that featured on the sides of several downtown buildings.

“Ah, that’s Sioux City art,” he said, standing in front of a large mural created by Kitty Hart (aka “Kitty Kitty Bang Bang”).

Taking inspiration from a nearby dumpster, Koithan added with a grimace, “and that’s the aroma of Sioux City.

Guitarist for the rock band Artificial Stars, Koithan was in the alley between Fourth and Pierce streets for an on-site photo op with his bandmates Luke Sweeney, Neil Strub and Ari Lebowitz.

Founded by Koithan and fellow guitarist Strub in 2017, the band will play the park’s main stage on Saturday July 2.

It could be a bit of a comeback for Artificial Stars, according to drummer Sweeney.

“We started off really hot,” he explained. “Then our original bass player Jesus Iniguez moved on.”

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“Ari joined the band as their new bassist in 2021,” Strub explained, continuing the story. “We played a gig and then life kept getting in the way of the band.”

Which for Strub, Lebowitz and Koithan meant marriage.

“All three of us got married to our girlfriends within the last year,” Lebowitz said.

As for Sweeney, who was already a husband, 2021 was a year for DIY.

“I renovated the attic of my house, turning it into a rehearsal space for us,” he explained. “It was my big project that took me a long time.”

As the name seems to imply, Artificial Stars is a leaderless set.

“We are a rock band and our sound has evolved over time as we have matured as a band,” Koithan said.

“I know we’re not as anxious as when we started,” Strub noted.

Indeed, Artificial Stars are probably less angsty than they were when the band played Park’s Abe Stage on Saturday in 2019.

“Jesus was still our bassist back then,” Sweeney said. “It was a huge step for us.”

Still, Lebowitz is getting emotional about appearing with his band on the park’s main stage on Saturday.

“I’ve been a volunteer at SITP since I was 13,” he said. “Over the years I’ve seen artists like BB King, Aretha Franklin, the Avett Brothers and Buddy Guy. Knowing that Artificial Stars will be part of this story is amazing to me.”

Strub nodded in agreement.

“The last few years have been crazy but we’re back,” he said. “We are recording a new album which will be released in the fall and we have some concerts booked this summer.”

“Saturday in the Park will remind people who were still here and ready to go again,” Strub added.