It’s been 7 years since I last walked across the hallowed grounds of Gateway Park in Des Moines, Iowa. Year 1 of the 80/35 music festival was quite a surprise for those who doubted a Midwestern summer music fest outside of Chicago or Milwaukee could be successful right off the bat. The people organizing did a fantastic job getting bands that had a wide appeal but weren’t crazy huge and costly. The headliners were The Flaming Lips and The Roots. Jakob Dylan played, as did Ingrid Michaelson and Andrew Bird.
On top of that they had free stages featuring local bands like Poison Control Center, Radio Moscow, even Ezra Furman was there. It provided a great way to discover new music if you weren’t digging the acts on the main stage.
This year they’ve outdone themselves. The talent at 80/35 is as good as anything you’ll find at a fest this summer and the tickets are less than half the price of Pitchfork and a third of Lollapalooza. The headliners are Wilco and Weezer, a 1-2 punch of summer fun if ever there was one. The undercard is full of amazing acts as well.
Friday night you can show up when the sets start at 5 and catch St. Lucia on the Hy-Vee Stage. Fly Golden Eagle, Hot Buttered Rum, Jenny Lewis, and Talib Kweli run through the evening before closing out the night with Wilco, Chicago’s favorite sons.
Saturday starts nice and early with The Kickback at 1:45, then Cloud Nothings at 3:15. Natural Child, Empires, and Christopher The Conquered fill in the afternoon and early evening hours before hip-hop’s hottest duo Run The Jewels hit the Hy-Vee Main Stage at 7. The Orwells hit across the park on the Kum & Go Stage at 8:15 and then Weezer will close the fest back on the Hy-Vee Stage with a sure-to-be crowdpleasing set.
The best part is that you get to spend a couple days in a big, beautiful park in the middle of Des Moines. If you’re from out of town you may not realize, but it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest, and the culture (art, film, music) coming out of the area holds up against any other region.
Many thanks to the fine people at the Des Moines Music Coalition for putting together another great lineup (the finest yet, in my opinion). I can’t wait to check out some awesome music and see a lot of great people who are working every day to make the Iowa music scene known on a wider scale.
Starting Friday afternoon I’ll be posting capsule reviews of each set we catch, and photos will be uploaded as quickly as possible. Make sure you follow Music.Defined. on Twitter if you want to keep up with everything we’re getting up to while there.