For the past six years people have been gathering downtown for the Des Moines 80/35 Music Festival. This is a two-day event, in which bands from across the nation come and show Des Moines what they are made of. While most of the bands are local bands, this year there were some from L.A., Chicago, Nebraska, Washington, and even Australia, on Friday & Saturday, July 4th & 5th.
This was actually my first year at 80/35, and it was definitely an experience that I will never forget. 80/35 isn’t just a place to listen to some new music; there were also lots of venders and local artists showcasing their work as well. Sponsors had tents set up, each showcasing something free and different. From turkey legs, to face painting for kids, to shopping from local artists, there was definitely something there for everyone in the family.
There couldn’t have been a more perfect day stand to out in the sun, drink a nice beverage, and jam out to some killer music. Brother Trucker started off the main stage with a bang. The crowd was considerably large for a show starting at noon, and all seemed to be having a good time. Gloom Balloon took the stage after, and put on quite a show. The duo definitely didn’t disappoint with their stage jumping and crowd surfing. They even had a mural being painted in the background. The artists that were participating in the creation of the mural were local Des Moines artists, which made it even more amazing. By the end of their set, everyone had moved to the front of the stage. Their balloons scattered the skies, while people sang and jumped to the music. It was definitely and experience worth taking in. Dawes, Best Coast, and Conor Oberst took the stage and all had equally amazing shows. Ziggy Marley’s was the show to see that night though. The crowd was the biggest that I had ever personally seen, and I was blown away.
Besides the main stage, which was the only stage you needed to buy a ticket for, there were two other stages. The Kum & Go Stage started up with Des Moines one and only Quick Piss. If the name doesn’t grab your attention, their in-your-face music definitely will. Fury Things, Chicago Farmer, and TREE followed suite, all having stellar performances. When the music genius Circle of Heat hit the stage, there wasn’t a person there that wasn’t moving just a little. Black Diet, Surfer Blood, Pert Near Sandstone, and The Hooten Hallers also rocked the Kum & Go Stage. Pert Near Sandstone had a member tap dancing on stage along to the music; it was hard to NOT bop around to the awesome beats being produced by this band.
The HyVee Stage was the second free stage that was set up. M34n Str33t started off the set followed by the melodic reggae tones of Fire Sale. TWINS and the local band Cirrus Minor also shocked the crowd with their incredible sound and stage presence. Cirrus Minor had a member in amazing body paint. Their sound rocked through out the entire street. Des Moines bands Bonne Finken, GoodCat, and MAIDS all had the crowd moving with their killer sets. Max Jury and The River Monks were the last two bands to close out the HyVee stage to a staggering crowd.
Day Two wasn’t the greatest weather-wise, really rainy and gloomy, but that didn’t stop the day from starting off with some awesome music. The main stage rocked out to indie rock band Boy & Bear, followed by hop-hop artist Raz Simone, who took the performance to a whole new level, literally. He jumped off the stage after the first song, and finished his set in a split crowd. At one point he had everyone’s hands pumping. Des Moines’ own Envy Corps took the stage next, followed by the rhythmic beats of Xavier Rudd. Of course when Dr. Dog appeared, the crowd roared. But CAKE, the last performance of the night, was the grand finale for me. The enormous crowd was just as pumped as I was to see them perform, and they didn’t disappoint.
The Kum & Go Stage started off the day with a performance by a hip-hop group. Listed as ‘Dat Dude Biggz’, they performed under the name Eyeaa and sang of families, dreams, and opportunities. Their performance was more of a skit, and at one point his own mother was on stage fixing his hair. Their show was full of surprises and meaningful music. Har-Di-Har was up next and they are about the cutest thing I have ever seen. This husband-and-wife duo is perfect for one another and feed off of each others sound beautifully. They had one of my favorite sets. Soap, Shy Boys, and Useful Jenkins also performed. By this time the weather had started clearing up, and you couldn’t help but notice the Useful Jenkins performed barefoot, which is exactly what their music made you want to do. Kick off your shoes and just dance. The Whigs came up next, followed by Caroline Smith. Her set was another personal favorite for many reasons. Her crazy awesome sound mixed with the backup dancers and singers made for a really kick ass show. I found myself chuckling along as they played out their skits and sang about the silliest things. The crowd that gathered for her set was actually one, if not the biggest crowd of the entire night. King Fantastic and Those Darlins finished up the Kum & Go Stage but DJ Raj and Jesse Jamz closed out the night with an awesome dance party with music that had the whole street moving.
The HyVee Stage started its second day of shows with a few up-and-coming bands. Volcano Boys, Zeta June, Foxholes, and Kris Adams are all new to the music scene, but that didn’t keep them from having spectacular sets. James Biehn, Parlours, Aquamarine Dream Machine also performed. The Holy White Hounds stole the stage though, with their sexy rock and roll sound. The members of the crowd were really getting into the set, and still were when the stage finished its day of bands with The Maytags. This stage also finished the night with an after party featuring Shawn Shady, Cloudy With a Chance of Techno, and Timewlkr.
About 6,000 people paid to see the main stage on Friday, with an estimated 12,000 people at the two free stages. On Saturday about 7,000 people paid to see the main stage, and about 15,000 were estimated in attendance of the free stages. Started in 2008, this is something that I would hope to see happen for years afterward. Everyone that I ran into was so nice, and there was such an amazing vibe both days. Good music. Good art. Good people. All in all, my first music festival experience was a success. Each band had a little something different for everyone, so there was no disappointment. Almost all of the bands that played were new to me, and I still had a great two days. I can’t wait until next year to see what the Des Moines Music Coalition comes up with. All their hard work paid off.
-photos: Lance Shuey & Vanessa Popiano
-words: Vanessa Popiano