80/35 Festival 2013 Recap

The 80/35 Music Festival is an annual two-day event in Des Moines, IA....
80/35 Festival 2013 Recap

80/35 Festival 2013 Recap

The 80/35 Music Festival is an annual two-day event in Des Moines, IA.  It occurs in the center of the Midwest in the United States, and gets its name from the two major interstates that cross paths right in the center of the state.  The festival is in its sixth year, and was created by a Des Moines-based nonprofit called the Des Moines Music Coalition.  It has been a successful and well-attended gathering each year, with a wide-ranging list of past acts like The Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, Avett Brothers, Spoon, of Montreal, Galactic, and The Roots (to name a few).  This year’s line-up included headliners David Byrne & St. Vincent and Wu-Tang Clan, along with an array of styles from bands such as Deerhunter, Yeasayer, Wavves, Tea Leaf Green, Menomena, Kitty (formerly Kitty Pryde), and Umphrey’s McGee, Friday & Saturday, July 5th & 6th.

support local music80/35The City of Des Moines has benefited greatly from the Music Coalition’s event, as the festival has a paid-stage area for some of the acts, but also hosts two other stages that are completely free to music fans (not to mention these stages draw crowds just as big, if not bigger, than the main stage).  These stages haven proven to be perfect for music lovers and musicians alike, allowing local and regional acts to play alongside the touring artists.  The structure and vibe of the event are representative of the music scene in Des Moines – incredibly supportive, passionate, and collaborative – all set in a beautiful, clean, and accessible city.

 

Day 1

Annalibera

Annalibera

Anna GebhardtClick image for full gallery

Annalibera opened the festival on one of the free stages.  The band is one of the most promising up-and-coming groups hailing from the Des Moines area.  Only having played a handful of shows, they literally announced the release of their first recording from the 80/35 stage.  Singer Anna Gebhardt is backed by members from two other great Des Moines Bands (Ryan Stier of River Monks, Chris Marshall & Phil Young of Tires – see below), and their tasteful writing coupled with their well-rehearsed live show is what allowed them to snag a spot at the festival while still in their infancy.  People showed up in droves to listen to their folk-tinged indie sound.  Gebhardt’s vocals soared powerfully and the band drifted in and out of nice, melodic grooves.  Steir also sang at times, with a warm, inviting tone, which coupled nicely with Gebhardt’s sound.

 

Tea Leaf Green

Tea Leaf Green

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Tea Leaf GreenTea Leaf Green has become known as an absolute staple in the jam/festival scene.  They are from the San Francisco Bay Area and seem to tour almost non-stop.  They made a name for themselves initially as a jam band, but Friday’s show did not seem to fall into that realm.  Their set consisted of fairly straightforward rock-esque tunes, although their intense precision and tight playing shed light on their jammy roots.  According to a nearby self-proclaimed Tea Leaf Green fan, the release of this year’s In the Wake brought a fairly significant shift in the band’s sound, and most of the songs being played were from the album.  One great element of the band’s live show is the presence of two drummers – not doubling up on the same part, but rather knocking out the same rhythm on different elements of their kits to create a wall of sound.

Tea Leaf Green

 

Dustin Smith

Dustin Smith

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Kitty

Kitty

KittyClick image for full gallery

The world seems to be very divided about New York-based rapper Kitty, and the same can be said about the crowd at 80/35.  Approaching the stage, people could be heard walking in the opposite direction exclaiming, sentiments along the lines of, “What was that?!?”, while others were absolutely eating it up.  She has an interesting approach, often interrupting her own songs to mention seemingly pointless things about the world in front of her.  Some have even described her as, simply, “awkward.”  She did not seem to embrace the folks in the crowd, but many of them did not seem to embrace her either.  That being said, more than a few fans throughout the grounds could be heard raving about her set.  Throughout the rest of the evening, the rapper could be seen gallivanting throughout the grounds of the festival – just a young artist having a good time.

Kitty

 

Roster McCabe

Roster McCabe

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Yeasayer

Yeasayer

Chris KeatingClick image for full gallery

New York-based band Yeasayer combines some great organic and electronic sounds in an über-clean way on their album, and they bring that sound to the live stage in a powerful way.  By the time the band took to the main stage, a large mass of humanity had surfaced and everyone was getting into it.  They executed their songs with a ton of energy, getting heavy at times and really living up to any hype that had built them up before their appearance.  If one is into upbeat music and enjoys hearing it executed well in a large, live setting – Yeasayer is a good bet to see live.

Yeasayer

 

Euforquestra

Euforquestra

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Menomena

Menomena

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MenomenaPortland’s Menomena played one of the most highly anticipated free stage slots as the sun was setting over the Des Moines skyline.  There were some serious sound issues and the band started much later than expected, which seemed to aggravate the group as well as the crowd.  Once they started, the sound engineer still did not have the levels dialed in, but Menomena still sounded pretty damn cool.  They bring in samples, keys, guitar, sax, and drums while all of the members contribute to rich vocal harmonies.  Even with a shortened performance that did not sound as great as it should have, the group was one of Friday’s highlights and, by far, the most packed of the free stage shows.

Menomena

 

David Byrne & St. Vincent

David Byrne & St. Vincent

Annie ClarkClick image for full gallery

This pair got together over the course of the past few years record an album titled, Love This Giant (QRO review). The two of them had very different careers up to that point (David Byrne with Talking Heads fame, and St. Vincent, i.e. Annie Clark – QRO interview – with a successful experimental indie-pop career of her own).  A 31-year age gap separates the two, but they meld together onstage to create a beautiful range of sounds, both strange and captivating.  David ByrneThey brought with them an impressive horns section, which sounded phenomenal on top of their synth-heavy songs.  Byrne and Clark have such an interesting look on stage together, and the movement of the band coupled with the lights was captivating in a simple way.  Both Clark and Byrne played songs from their respective careers, but much of the set focused on songs from Love This Giant.  This show is worth checking out for any and all music lovers.  Fans of either artist have reason to go, of course, but even an onlooker/listener could enjoy the experience without any knowledge of their work.

David Byrne & St. Vincent

 

Jesse Jamz

Jesse Jamz

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Day 2

Dylan Sire & Neighbors

Dylan Sire & Neighbors

Dylan SiresClick image for full gallery

Iowa Public Radio puts on a play-in contest every year for a spot on the main stage at 80/35.  This year’s winner, Dylan Sires & Neighbors, won the honor and it proved to be well deserved.  They played the very first spot at noon on Saturday to a small, but growing, crowd.  The trio, looking sharp as hell in white pants and pastel shirts, played a tight rock ‘n’ roll style with hints of early pop.  These boys had a fantastic energy and presence, ripping through songs from their new album, No One.

 

Mighty Shady

Mighty Shady

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Gloom Balloon

Gloom Balloon

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Prissy Clerks

Prissy Clerks

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Uniphonics

Uniphonics

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Mr. Baber’s Neighbors

Mr. Baber’s Neighbors

Mr. Baber’s NeighborsClick image for full gallery

The second Saturday act on the main stage was bluegrass band Mr. Baber’s Neighbors.  They were perfect music for lounging in the Iowa summer sun – creating a rootsy pick-a-thon.  It was about the most stereotypical bluegrass look and sound one can imagine (group of down-home looking gentlemen, playing closely to each other crowded around the same mic), but everyone seemed to enjoy the performance.  Some folks took naps in the grass others threw a disc back-and-forth – all the while Mr. Baber’s Neighbors kept the festival rolling.

Mr. Baber’s Neighbors

 

Escondido

Escondido

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H.D. Harmsen

H.D. Harmsen

Dustin HarmsenDustin HarmsenClick image for full gallery

Multi-talented Dustin Harmsen played an afternoon set in front of a partying crowd on a free stage tucked away on a side street.  Recently released album Papoose has been garnering a ton of acclaim in the Des Moines area.  Harmsen, with a classic frontman approach, swaggered around the stage backed by an impressively large group.  The group’s sound is classic, and they played a loud, fun set.

H.D. Harmsen

 

Water Liars

Water Liars

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SP3

SP3

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Wavves

Wavves

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Nathan WilliamsSan Diego band Wavves played the main stage in the middle of the day as the heat was at its peak.  When all was said and done, it is fair to say that Wavves rocked harder than any other group at the festival.  The group’s punk sound spilled over the crowd, and the members head-banged around the stage for the duration of their set.  Their newest album, Afraid of Heights, has been pretty well received and the songs on the record play well live.  These young axe slingers have a cool thing going for themselves – a fast, brash show; good old rock n roll.

Wavves

 

Tires

Tires

TiresTiresClick image for full gallery

Tires is arguably the most badass band in Des Moines.  The trio throws live guitar and drums over the top of incredibly heavy hitting electronic tracks.  Every time this band plays Des Moines, there is a strong turnout, and their 80/35 set was no exception.  They tore through their songs with nearly no break (except to switch instruments halfway through) and the crowd was going wild from front-to-back.  Their show was complete with a couple of confetti bursts (one near the end of the set, and another during a huge drop in their final tune).  Their typical set involves wonderfully crafted light shows, but they were able to be just as captivating in an outdoor, mid-afternoon performance.

 

Umphrey’s McGee

Umphrey’s McGee

Umphrey’s McGeeClick image for full gallery

Umphrey’s McGee (like the aforementioned Tea Leaf Green – see above) tours relentlessly and makes it on the bill for festivals throughout the country every year.  Looking around the festival throughout the two days, it was very clear many of the attendees were excited for Umphrey’s.  They’re an impressive collection of musicians, all masters of their instruments, flying through jam/funk/jazz/progressive movements.  Jam bands are often a divisive force in the music industry (either loved or hated), but Umphrey’s fusion of styles makes them approachable to any listener who has an appreciation of talent and an open mind.

Umphrey’s McGee

 

Trouble Lights

Trouble Lights

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Strange Names

Strange Names

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Jon Wayne

Jon Wayne

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Deerhunter

Deerhunter

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Bradford CoxDeerhunter’s set started with some technical difficulties and a late start, but it in no way took away from their performance.  They eased into their first song, locking into a solid indie sound.  Singer Bradford Cox (QRO solo live review) has an interesting approach and odd demeanor, but it is fun to watch.  At one point, he picked out a fan in a Black Flag t-shirt named Timmy and dedicated some of the set to him.  There was such a casual, give-no-shits, presence about the band, but they were spot-on while they pumped out an awesome sound.

Deerhunter

 

Mumfords

Mumfords

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House of Large Sizes

House of Large Sizes

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Wu-Tang Clan

Wu-Tang Clan

The RZAThe GZAClick image for full gallery

Wu-Tang Clan was nearly an hour late coming to the stage, but it did not seem to matter to anyone in the crowd.  Maybe it was expected, or maybe people were just having fun regardless, but nobody was getting upset.  When the hip-hop legends finally emerged, the huge crowd (easily the biggest of the whole festival) absolutely blew up.  The energy level was through the roof and all of the current Clan was present – The RZA (QRO solo photos at a festival), The GZA (QRO solo live review), Method Man, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon (QRO solo photos at a festival), Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, Cappadonna, and DJ Mathematics.

Method ManRaekwonWu-Tang hit their peak in the early-to-mid ‘90s, and they are far from young guys these days, but they brought a ton of hype and excitement with them.  They just kept bringing the rhymes and proved to be a fantastic way to close out the festival.  At one point, DJ Mathematics starting tearing up his turntables with spin moves into eventual pseudo-acrobatics.  It was an impressive sight involving all four limbs and some serious experience.  They paid tribute to their fallen Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and played so many of their most memorable songs, including “Bring da Ruckus”, “Cream”, and “Gravel Pit”.  They expressed what seemed like genuine appreciation and excitement about being in Des Moines, and truly rounded out a fantastic mix of artists for 80/35.

Wu-Tang Clan

 

80/35

something for everyonesomething for everyoneThere was something for everyone at 80/35 in Des Moines this year, and attendees would have been hard pressed not to have enjoyed something about every act.  The organizers have continued to spend time highlighting artists from different genres with one thing in common – they are ALL solid.  This festival may not be as big as some of the others throughout the summer, but it is always guaranteed to be a fantastic time.

-words: Thomas Rue
-photos: Lance Shuey

80/35

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One Comment
  • Debut Album of airy/dark electro-pop from Annalibera – DOA
    27 April 2015 at 6:59 am

    […] by David Byrne & St. Vincent, Wu-Tang Clan, Yeasayer, Deerhunter) which was covered by QRO Mag and Tiny Mix Tapes, and recorded a Daytrotter session. On the strength of this scant teaser […]

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