The summer is in full force in Iowa — July 4 festivities came and went, and the city of Des Moines was once again overtaken by 80/35. In its ninth year, the festival featured images of cats on their signage and advertising signifying the 9 lives the festival. But the music, as always was the real attraction.
It all kicked off Friday evening with Canada’s Wolf Parade taking the Hy-Vee Mainstage and powering through a set of energetic and eclectic rock all on borrowed equipment. Having their gear misplaced by the airline that brought them to Des Moines forced them to play on instruments borrowed from the fellow performers, and while it added a little chaos to segments of the set it made the performance that much more impressive.
Following Wolf Parade, Lotus took the main stage, and brought a powerful energy and excitement that was reverberated by a crowd — which was increasing in size with each passing minute. Often dubbed as a jam band, Lotus mixes electronic components into their instrumental compositions, and as is the fashion at 80/35, they brought an entirely different flavor to the stage. The transitioning vibe continued as Nas took the stage to close out the night. Nas kept the energy level high and the crowd returned the intensity.
Of course the Main Stage wasn’t the only place to catch great sounds on Friday night though, as Craig Finn, and Des Moines’ own Holy White Hounds kept the crowds moving as they played the Kum & Go and Nationwide Stages, respectively, as the sun began to disappear behind the buildings.
Saturday began with another local band, Druids, who brought a punishing interpretation of psychedelic metal to the main stage. The punk sounds of The Black Lips erupted on the main stage, and Lizzo brought her unique balance of Hip-Hop/R&B keeping the crowd very engaged at the Kum & Go Stage. There were several bluegrass acts represented Saturday evening, including Jeff Austin. If you were looking for high energy you could check out the Minneapolis-based surf punk outfit France Camp. More a fan of multifaceted alt-pop? You could brave the mid-day sun to dance along with the infectious rhythms of Thao and The Get Down Stay Down, or Lucky Chops, a dynamic and lively brass band unlike anything I’ve recently seen. The weekend came to a close a bit too quickly as The Decembrists took the stage with their indie rock sound — so connected to the northwestern scene they hail from — that kept the crowd swaying for nearly 2 hours.
The 80/35 festival weekend was a huge success. From the energy of the crowd to the appreciation coming from all the artists — it’s without question that thousands left the festival with a list of new bands to keep them rocking long after this weekend. As we left the Des Moines area on Sunday morning, it was only fitting that the sky filled with clouds and spilled heavy rain onto the city. With that, the 2016 life of 80/35 truly felt as if it had come to an end.