This weekend marks the annual 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines. While I sadly will not be able to make it this year, somehow the festival has found the strength to proceed without me. And I couldn’t be more excited for/jealous of my friends who will be there. It’s a great lineup of musicians I’ve loved for years (Dr. Dog, Best Coast, The Envy Corps, Conor Oberst, Cake…), and local artists I’m just now falling in love with (MAIDS, Max Jury, Parlours, The River Monks…). I mean, come on; it’s gonna be great! If you’re telling me you didn’t jam out to “First Day of My Life” back in the day, then you are a boldfaced liar, cause that stuff is indie gold. As is the whole lineup, actually.
Last year’s 80/35 was no different. I caught a really cool mix of local artists and big-time acts. Some of my favorite times were listening to the incredible Dustin Smith then heading over to catch the equally incredible Yeasayer followed by the David Byrne and St. Vincent show to end all shows. And all of this music set against the beautiful downtown Des Moines skyline? It’s perfect.
But 80/35 is not just a one-time phenomenon. In fact, the festival is symptomatic of something that all us residents know to be true: Des Moines is consistently an incredible music city. It’s a small enough town that great artists get a chance to grow and you get to see them do it. But the city’s also big enough to host tons of festivals, showcases, and music venues. I’ve seen jazz, rock, metal, hip-hop, indie, folk, and more all within the city. So while Nashville’s great and New York has a lot going for it, the best place to check out music in this fair United States might just be Des Moines, Iowa.