80/35 festival brings eclectic music to Des Moines

BY NINA EARNEST | JUNE 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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A circus is coming to Des Moines this weekend. There’s no big top, no ringmaster. No wild animals or trapeze artists.

Instead, there will be three stages, 30,000 fans, and a musical menagerie: mashup, indie pop, funk, rock, punk, jazz, hip-hop, disco bepop, Americana.

Step right up — there’s something for everyone 80/35 music festival.

From the widely recognized headliners to the little-known fan favorites, this year’s 80/35 festival features a diverse collection of progressive and indie acts on both a national and local level.

80/35 will take place Saturday and July 3 at Western Gateway Park, 13th and Locust, in downtown Des Moines. The gates will open at 11 a.m. both days, and the music will begin at noon. Two-day passes are $60 and one-day passes are $35. A one-day pass bought the day of the festival are $40, and two side stages are free to the public.

Amedeo Rossi, the festival’s project manager, said organizers compiled a list of nearly 3,000 target acts they wanted to bring to Des Moines for the circus-theme festival. A group of around six “musicphiles” pored through the list, checking for Pitchfork-certified groups, acts who are up-and-coming, and bands receiving good ratings.

“We’re kind of like a mini Lollapalooza,” Rossi said. “And by mini, I mean mini.”

And for the first time, Rossi said, one of the free stages is “100 percent local.”

“Our mission is to grow the music economy and see more quality acts stop here, for a better touring scene and try to give our local scene a push to become more developed,” Rossi said.

Derek Thorn of the Iowa City-based band the Uniphonics said being accepted into the festival’s lineup could give the group a chance to represent its jazz, funk, and hip-hop fusion. A performance at 80/35 could serve as a segway off the local stage, he said.

“It’s an opportunity for indepedent bands to rub shoulders with the bigger bands and network further shows in the future,” he said.

Groups who have achieved more widespread acclaim are set to perform on the Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Main Stage.

Nora Kirkpatrick, the accordion player for Saturday act Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, said performing at a festival varies from a show dedicated to one artist.

“When it’s a festival, some people know you and some people hear you for the first time,” she said.

Yet the opportunity to reach out to new fans, Kirkpatrick said, is one of the draws of performing at a festival.

“It’s a great way to reach people who are there to see a band completely different from you,” she said. “Then maybe they’ll be into a new kind of music.”

Greg Gillis, known by the stage name Girl Talk, is set to close the festival the first night.

His music, mashing a mixed bag of digital samples into the perfect beats for a dance-ready atmosphere, is ideal for the end of the night.

“A lot of times there could be many great bands playing, but what I’m doing is more of a festive, party sort of atmosphere,” Gillis said. “So it works well in that particular position of kind of closing it out.”

This weekend, he said he hopes to return to something older from a 2006 album. But the show is constantly changing.

“Every show, I try to have a home run,” Gillis said. “I don’t really hold back.”

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