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80/35 was a whirlwind. It was hot, sticky, sweaty. But it was also chock full of great musicians, delicious food, crafty shopping, community and interactive booths, and lovely people. We love 80/35, we love it so much we invited our team of contributors to join us! Seven of us trekked up to Des Moines for the weekend, and we each fell in love with a different aspect of the festival.
Trusted Music Discovery
There’s a heck of a lot of music in the world, and sifting through it can be a full time job. And when you factor in seeing unknown bands live, the stakes are even higher (there’s no skip button!). Year after year 80/35 brings the best up-and-coming bands to the heart of Des Moines; bands that you’ve never heard of or bands that you’ve only heard whispers of from your hippest friends. The bands that are about to break are guaranteed to be at 80/35, rocking the small stage next to headliners like Kesha, The Shins, and The Decemberists. These are the bands you’ll be saying “remember when we saw them before…”.
Fest Fashion + Self Love
My own weird fashion sense in daily life can typically be traced back to the glitter, costumes, and tassels of music festivals I’ve attended in the past. There is no doubt that each festival I’ve attend influences my hair/fashion/makeup choices and, surprisingly, this Iowa festival tends to be a treasure trove of fashion inspo. The thing that sets 80/35 apart from other festivals is that the fashion is accessible to everyone. At 80/35, we saw women AND men of every size and shape sporting the confidence to be themselves, celebrating individuality and dressing however-the-heck they wanted. 80/35 is a safe space to explore who you are – both outward and inward – and be accepted for exactly that. Curvy, confident babes in nothing more than sparkly pasties, swimsuit bottoms and sheer skirts inspired me to fall more in love with my own body, flaws and all.
Dogs. And Also The Family Atmosphere
One of life’s simplest, purest treasures: dogs. Much like the crowd at 80/35, the dogs of Des Moines came in all shapes, sizes and colors; and they were all eager to be pet. Something special about a street festival that is (mostly) free is the wildly accessible aspect of it. Even if you weren’t there for the music, you were still welcome. We saw a cavalcade of cute pups, and plenty of “cool parents” exposing their kids to live, new music; and that struck a heartstring. Parents, keep taking your kids to experience culture, art, music, and food….and bring that pup along, I want to politely ask to pet it.
Does Jeff Rosenstock karaoke?
Sometimes it’s the little moments that make a festival memorable. That’s how we felt when Jeff Rosenstock, general badass and all around sweetie, read a letter on stage during his set. A fan passed the handwritten letter to Rosenstock, and noted on the envelope that it should be read immediately. Rosenstock complied, reading the full letter first to himself while his bandmates chided ‘How much money do they need?’ behind him. Rosenstock announced that he’d been invited to join the letter’s author for karaoke that evening in Des Moines. We’re still waiting to find out if the invitation was accepted.
Female Dominated Artists
Of the 38 listed artists on the 80/35 poster, 19 of them feature at least one female member and in a world where accounts such as @lineupswithoutmales exist, it is refreshing to witness such a balance. My first steps into the little 80/35 island were greeted by the madame of melancholy, Phoebe Bridgers to a sound check of “If It Makes You Happy” by Sheryl Crow. By the time I left 30ish hours later, Kesha’s generational power ballad, “Praying”, was still ringing in my head. From Ratboys to Soccer Mommy, Elizabeth Moen to Courtney Barnett, Starry Nights to Closet Witch, so many genres were covered at this festival, from local openers to national acts. I found myself feeling the naturalness of the artists, that just happened to be female, dominating every stage. The exposure that 80/35 gave to it’s audience puts them miles ahead of the curve in my book, a curve that has a lot of work left to do to get rid of its skew, but this past year’s fest certainly should be a solid prototype for all festivals to build towards.
I utilized the free stages at 80/35 and I had an awesome time. The shows were absolute quality. Notable touring acts such as Soccer Mommy, Ratboys and Remo Drive all were available to watch without a ticket. Going to the festival unburdened by ticket prices gave me the financial flexibility to buy artist’s merch and zines from local vendors. There’s a lot less pressure to “get your money’s worth”, which encouraged artist discovery and a relaxing atmosphere.
80/35 takes place right next to a beautiful sculpture park, and it draws on that area to create a celebration of music and art intermingling. Local art collectives showcase their work through balloon sculptures, installations, and on-demand poetry. I was able to connect with other attendees by working on a paint-by-number portrait of Kesha and assisting each other in flower crown design. But by far my favorite interactive project was at the PlantLed booth, where the bioelectric rhythms of plants were converted into midi files. Or, to put it simply, plants made music to communicate. I spent a lot of time rubbing leaves to hear how they’d react, which may sound weird to some people but at 80/35 it’s all part of the creative experience.