Even in the scorching heat, 35,000 music lovers ventured to Des Moines’s Western Gateway Park this weekend for the fifth anniversary of the 80/35 Music Festival.
The headliners at the fest (The Avett Brothers and Death Cab for Cutie) did not disappoint, but the true stars of the festival were the local acts. Mumfords, Bright Giant, Christopher the Conquered, and Leslie and the LYs, all hailing Iowa, were engaging, energetic, and just plain fun to watch perform.
A rising star from the state of Iowa, Bright Giant, rocked 80/35 on one of the two free stages at the festival on Friday. Bright Giant, receiving an abundance of local radio play in recent months, drew a large crowd at the fest. With Noah Bass shredding hard on the guitar and the Billy Corgan-esque voice of lead singer Josh Davis, Bright Giant gave a performance that would please any indie music connoisseur.
Mumfords also had a bombastic performance on the Hy-vee Triathlon free stage. Clad with patriotic undies and a fantastic brass section, the high energy of lead vocalist Nate Lodgson kept the growing crowd engaged- peaking as he performed a marriage ceremony between the cities of Des Moines and Ames.
Christopher the Conquered and His Black Gold Brass Band provided quite the experience on the Wellmark Blue Cross main stage on Saturday afternoon. A sassy combination of what felt a lot like televangelism, swing music, and a touch of comedy was a performance that kept the crowd pleased and intellectually challenged. As Christopher preached life’s eternal mysteries of love, creativity, and what it means to be human, their performance offered much more to the crowd than music.
The act that stood out was by far Leslie and the LY’s. More like performance art than music, Leslie Hall and her backup dancers/stage-hands took the Hy-vee Triathlon free stage by storm in gold jumpsuits and rhinestones galore. The novelty of her craftastic shows featured a giant replica of her cat, Nibbles, a blow-up doll of herself thrown on the stage by one of her backup dancers, and a hand made bird named “Cheryl the Crow”, also voiced by a backup dancer. A show admittedly mediocre- but that is what made it so appealing. Leslie even thanked the audience for staying after she sung her first four songs about pants. Leslie’s show was an experience- something I would recommend to anyone and to which I will undoubtedly attend another performance.
Want to learn more about any of these acts? Check out their websites below!