When I talk to record companies and music promoters, and the subject turns to the 80/35 Music Festival, it quickly becomes apparent that the annual Des Moines festival has come to be regarded as an example of “getting it right.” Around the country, weekend music festivals do not always succeed, and as we excitedly anticipate the seventh year of 80/35, props to the Des Moines Music Coalition and project manager Amedeo Rossi and his staff!
Of course, a crucial part of the equation is the selection of performers each year. The mix of local and national, established and rising, with wide genre representation and audience appeal, is always outstanding at 80/35. Every year attendees can get a solid weekend dose of some of the best Iowa bands, all gathered together in downtown Des Moines. It’s a fun reminder of the vital and thriving local music scene we enjoy all over the state.
As for the national (and international) acts appearing this year, here are a few I’m especially looking forward to:
Conor Oberst is an example of a core Studio One artist. We’ve been playing his music since the first Bright Eyes records came out in the late 1990’s. He’s been part of many other bands, including the supergroup Monsters of Folk. The Omaha native has been very influential in the indie rock world, a singer-songwriter with a distinctive voice and compelling writing style that updates the so-called “confessional” approach of the 1970’s. Oberst has a fine new record out called Upside-Down Mountain.
The California band Dawes is Conor Oberst’s backing band on his current tour, and they will also perform a set of their own earlier on Friday, July 4. From the beginning, Dawes has been described as 21st Century purveyors of the rich vocal harmonies and folk-rock style known as the Laurel Canyon sound. Their latest album is their third, Stories Don’t End.
Ziggy Marley, one of reggae legend Bob Marley’s children carrying on the tradition, is another mainstay of Studio One playlists through the years. Despite the similarity of his voice to his father’s, and the inevitable comparisons, Ziggy has always put his own personal and contemporary stamp on reggae. His new record is the back-to -roots Fly Rasta.
California is back in the picture with Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno’s band Best Coast. Their indie take on the girl group and classic California pop sound really seems to evoke the beaches of the Golden State. Perfect for July in Iowa! Best Coast’s latest is the Fade Away EP.
I’m a fan of Modern Creation, the latest album from the Athens, Georgia band The Whigs. Loud guitars, straight ahead live studio takes, rock and roll! The Whigs will be playing one of the side stages, so you can get even more up close and personal as they rock your world.
From Tennessee come Those Darlins, with a sound you could call country-punk, although it’s that and more. Vocalist Jessi Zazu and Those Darlins are known for a rowdy stage show, and they also will be on one of the smaller stages. Their latest record is last fall’s Blur The Line.
Those are a few of my picks for this year’s 80/35 Festival. Ideally, I want to see everybody. That may not happen, but making the rounds between stages I often find myself stopping to appreciate an excellent live performance from a band I had somehow overlooked. As you are making the rounds, be sure and stop by the Meet and Greet Tent and say hello to the IPR staff. We are hoping to present some informal performances from some of the Festival bands and individual musicians as they come by to visit.
See you at 80/35!