Over the last few years, it seemed like the exponential spread of the summer mega-festival was never going to stop, as little Bonnaroos and Coachellas started showing up from Maine to Oregon and everywhere in-between, including our own state. Like anything, this trend has been slowed by the economic situation—the Langerado Music Festival in Florida was cancelled this year due to low ticket sales—but we’ve still got our 80/35 right in Des Moines, happening this year over the Fourth of July weekend.
While the Pitchfork festival in Chicago (July 17-19) is less expensive and more innovatively curated, the 80/35 festival brings several names through the region that are nothing to sneeze at, including perennially underrated Baby Teeth, future-superstar Anni Rossi, and already-megastars like Tilly & the Wall, Broken Social Scene, Stephen Malkmus and Public Enemy. In order to see those bands you might also have to sit through G. Love and Special Sauce, so proceed with caution when shelling out $70 for a 2-day pass. Check out 80-35.com for the full information.
The folks in charge of the 80/35 festival, which features a handful of Des Moines bands, have snubbed Iowa City bands almost entirely with Public Property being an exception (see review on page 23). This fact was not lost on some local bands and promoters. A “response” show—which at one point had the working title 80/380—is going down on July 3rd at the Picador and will be entirely free. Featuring a chance to see the aforementioned Rossi for free makes the whole night worth your while, but she’ll be joined by a slew of local performers including Olivia Rose Muzzy, Beast Wars, Be Kind To Yr Neighbor, and a deejay set by the School of Flyentology. The Picador website is now promising entertainment on both the upstairs and downstairs levels, and possibly even the beer garden, so you don’t want to miss this.
The Picador also continues it’s run of bringing in some of rock’s new old guard, this time with Omaha’s own emo legends Cursive, who will be playing on the 25th. I mean “emo” here in the best possible way, as Cursive has released a bunch of albums that are raw, passionate, musically bombastic, and generally transcend the genre limitations that other bands might be more content to work within. Whatever, it’s Cursive, you’ll either be there or you won’t.
If it’s music with plenty of bombast that you like, then you might want to check out The Antlers, who are playing the Mill on the 16th. Their debut, Hospice, has the blogosphere all a-Twitter, and has also been picked up to be re-released by the folks at Frenchkiss records (also responsible for Les Savy Fav and Hold Steady albums). The Antlers (not to be confused with Crystal Antlers, who are also pretty good) can move from quiet, almost ambient soundscapes to soaring anthems over the course of three minutes, and while I’m not sure if they’re as buzzworthy as everyone thinks, I’ll certainly be there to find out for myself.
If you like “beards and vests” music (see also: Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Iron & Wine), then there are three shows that you simply can’t miss coming up this month. The first is Blitzen Trapper at the Picador on the 18th. Coming off two really great records, Wild Mountain Nation and last year’s Furr, these guys have earned it. The last time they played in town it was opening for Malkmus, so you know that they have chops. The second is the Bowerbirds at the Mill on the 20th. Their Mission Creek show in April was simply stunning, and their new album, Upper Air, is excellent. Finally, long-time Iowa musician and impresario David Strackaney returns with his own brand of freak folk as Paleo. A truly unique and talented songwriter, Paleo once wrote and recorded one song every day for an entire year. Tragically underrated, come check him out at Public Space One on the 25th.
Public Space One also has some shows for those of you who like your electronic music with a healthy dose of dance and pop sensibilities. Minneapolis bands Kitten Forever and Unicorn Basement bring girl-punk attitude and massive drum machine beats, respectively. They’ve played Public Space One, and I think one or two other house shows. Really highly recommended. Also, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone will play an encore show at Public Space One on the 31st. When it comes to simple melodies and heartbreaking songwriting, he’s one of the best.
If you want some even more local action, check out Molly Rinwald, who are playing with Prussia (also good) at the Mill on the 1st. Molly Ringwald (who were once hilariously, though unsurprisingly, listed beside a picture of the actress in the Iowa Source magazine), are a three-piece that feature some serious guitar loop-pedal action and tons of junk percussion, including what looks like a helium dispenser. It’s really frantic, sweaty, and good rock ‘n’ roll. Lastly, the Mill’s newest door guy Doug Robeson will be doing his Summer Soul Spin on two Wednesdays this month, the 8th and the 22nd. If you like soul (and who doesn’t?) show up, drink some whiskey, and be thankful that you can tap into one of the deepest collections of 45s in the Midwest.