Review: 80/35 Festival

Posted on Posted in Blog, Everyday life

Live music, food, crowds, sweat, the smell of a certain recreational drug in the air, and hipsters and hippies galore. What is it I’m talking about, it’s 80/35! Yes, the biggest music festival in Iowa and for good reason.

Truth: I will say that I have lived in Iowa my entire life and 80/35 celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and it was my first time…shoosh. For some reason I just haven’t gone, but as you will see below, that was a mistake and in the future I will definitely be coming back.



80/35 was developed by the Greater Des Moines Music Coalition (DMMC), which is a non-profit group founded with the mission to support and cultivate Iowa’s music scene by bringing in large groups, supporting local groups, introducing local bands to the world, and growing the music culture here in the Greater Des Moines.

The festival started 10 years ago when the DMMC wanted to start a music festival here in Des Moines. They wanted to bring bigger groups here, but like many times before it, that would mean breaking the stereotype people have of Des Moines. What groups would come to Des Moines, Iowa, to play in a two-day festival? But that was the point! To bring music to Des Moines and let the world see what Des Moines truly has to offer.


80/35 Festival

The festival is an annual two-day festival in downtown Des Moines that focuses primarily on indie and jam music. There are around 50 national, regional, and local groups that perform on many stages over the two days.

How much does the festival cost, you say? Well, it’s actually quite reasonable. To get into the main stage that has the bigger bands it is $80 for both days and $45 for one day. I only did the one-day, but would highly recommend doing two if you are really feeling it, one of my best friends Krissy did both and thoroughly enjoyed it. They also have multiple free stages around the area if you don’t want to pay.



Bands from all over come to play at 80/35. Whether it is at the national, regional, or local level. The festival is meant to highlight all levels of music and support them. In the past the headliners have been bands such as:

Ingrid Michaelson, The Roots, The Flaming Lips, Public Enemy, Death Cab for Cutie, Wu-Tang Clan, Cake, Weezer, Nas, and this year was MGMT and The Shins.


My Experience

I shyly admit that this year was the first time that I had gone to 80/35. It’s not because I didn’t want to go but things just came up or I simply forgot that it was that particular weekend. But no more! If I am back in Iowa around this time again next year or the following years, I will be there.

I went the second day with one of my best friends Krissy and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. As I mentioned above, this festival highlights indie and jam music and those tend not to be my usual choice. (I like most music, except techno and country, still haven’t acquired a taste for those). But I will happily admit that after only going one night, I have now three new bands I like!

Krissy and I stayed by the main stage for the night because there were three really good bands there. The first band was The Maytags. They were called the night before at 11 pm (!) to play because another group dropped out. So they scrambled together and performed a hell of a show, and they’re local! If you like folksy mixed with brass music then you will love them.

The second band was probably my favorite of the night, which was The Motets. Their sound was amazing and their front man was absolutely perfect. They kept the tempo up with bits of singing and highlights of the different band members. I couldn’t stop moving because the high intensity of their set.

The headliner of the night was The Shins. Personally, I had never heard of them but the area was packed and when I told my best friend they were there, she freaked. I was pleasantly surprised with their sound and really enjoyed them.

New Appreciation

Before The Shins performed, they played a clip explaining how and why 80/35 was created and after watching that and actually being there, they should be proud because it worked! Even if you may not know a band or the music may not be your style, you may be pleasantly surprised by the experience and come out of it appreciating a new sound or group. That’s what it did for me. So if you are in Des Moines in the middle of July, come to 80/35 and get your rock on.


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