cover story

June 30, 2011 |
By Jared Curtis


80/35 Festival Rocks Des Moines


Fourth annual music festival continues to build momentum


The 80/35 Music Festival will once again descend upon downtown Des Moines this weekend, covering numerous city blocks with music, food, drinks and live entertainment to keep residents and visitors entertained.

On Saturday, July 2 and Sunday, July 3, more than 40 local, regional and national acts will take to the event's three stages, offering a wide variety of musical genres and styles. The festival continues to feature up-and-coming, and established artists, mainly in the indie rock niche. And although there have been random complaints about the so-called "unknown artists" filling the line-up, music critics across the U.S. continually praise the 80/35 Music Festival as one of the most progressive of its kind. Festival organizer Amedeo Rossi knew what he wanted four years ago when the idea came to fruition, and he believes it's all moving in the right direction.

"I think we have a niche, and I'm pleased with where things are at as we learn from each year," Rossi said. "So far sales have been really strong, and we're looking forward to a great festival."

Music fans can discover music that is new to the festival at the festival's website, www.80-35.com, with bios, free downloads, live performances, music videos and much more. The 80/35 Festival mobile app also adds to the interactive component of the festival. It can be downloaded on the site and allows fans the opportunity to create their own schedule as well as learn about updates and artist information.

" We've made it really easy to study the music on the site with plenty of links and videos, and we're really excited about the mobile app and all it offers, too," Rossi said.

Although the festival has had some bigger-name acts headlining in years past, Rossi is happy with their choices this year — Girl Talk and of Montreal — as they both bring a fun, party atmosphere to their shows.

" The general public probably won't know most of the acts, but that happens every year. The point of the festival is to bring new and exciting artists to town, and I think we've done that again this year. All of the acts we're bringing in are well sought after on the festival circuit," he said. "Plus, both of the headliners are fun — of Montreal put on a great show with costumes, and we've given them a lot of freedom to get crazy. And Girl Talk will bring the biggest party ever to Des Moines."

Tickets are on sale now — one-day passes run $35 ($40 day of), two-day passes are $60 and VIP is $150. There are also plenty of free activities taking place including the Kum & Go Stage, the Local Stage, Dahl's Kids Zone, Meredith DIY Craft Fair and Do More Village.

" Not only is it a celebration of music, it's a celebration of Des Moines, and I'm proud to see this festival continue to succeed," Rossi said.

Check out the following six acts along with the entire festival schedule.


Girl Talk


Girl Talk

Headlining the first night of the festival is Gregg Gillis, aka Girl Talk. The mash-up/sampling wiz has been causing booties to shake and heads to bob since his first album, "Secret Diary." His newest album, "All Day," which is the follow-up to his break through, "Feed The Animals," is receiving plenty of praise, and Gillis doesn't seem to be slowing down. He was honing his set for an upcoming round of festivals when he took a few minutes to chat with us.

" Whenever I have downtime, I'm always looking forward and working on new stuff, from chopping up songs to discovering new samples," he said. "I customize the set to each show and have an idea of how the show is supposed to flow, but things change throughout."

Gillas has become a master at knowing what hypes a crowd, creating unique songs including a popular mash-up of Kelly Clarkson and Nine Inch Nails."

" The crowd loves it, and it's exciting for me to find something that really works," he said. "There are staples of the year, but I know when they've been played enough. I really never re-use samples, but I did break the rule for 'I Want You Back' by the Jackson 5, because I used it for 'Secret Diary' and then again for 'All Day.' "

Gillis was originally to play the first 80/35 Music Festival but had to cancel at the last moment. He made it up to Des Moines fans by selling out People's Court a few years back. Excited for the headlining spot on Saturday, Gillis appreciates the opportunity for another chance to rock the 80/35 crowds.

" I felt really bad about missing that show; it's the only show I've ever cancelled. I was booked for a few other shows, and the travel was impossible, so we just couldn't make it," he said. "I knew I had to come back, and I'm excited to be back in Des Moines. A positive side to me missing the first festival is that my show has gotten bigger, tighter and more orchestrated. The level of the show is a lot different from a few years ago, and I think it's more fitting for a festival."

With the headlining spot, Girl Talk will have the freedom to create.

" I can't really go into the specifics for the show, but anytime with a headlining slot, I try to go as big as possible," he said. "I love the opportunity to play for people who have never heard of me. I have a wide range of fans — from people who love pop music and the samples, to people who hate pop music but love to hear it manipulated. People come to the show to party, and, hopefully, I can get them moving and physically reacting to the show."


Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band


Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band

Creating one of the most unique sounds of the festival, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band (Reverend J. Peyton – guitar/vocals, "Washboard" Breezy Peyton – washboard and Aaron "Cuz" Persinger – drums) attacks listeners' eardrums everywhere they play. Incorporating a wide variety of influences, the trio unleash of force of sound that has been enticing fans everywhere they go.

" We play a lot of festivals during the summer and like it because you get a lot of different bands and different fans all in the same place," The Reverend said during a recent interview. "I think we have a unique sound, but there are always people in the crowd that don't know what's going at first. We love winning people over, and by the end of the show, they're enjoying themselves."

The trio will play a variety of old and new songs including some from their newest disc, "Peyton on Patton," a tribute to Charley Patton, who is known as the "Father of Delta Blues."

" Charley has been one of my heroes, and not enough people know about him or his songs. I hope to turn more people on to his music and show how important he was," Peyton said. "I tried to get the arrangement back to the way Charley did it. I hope I did justice to his songs and fans will get some enjoyment out of it."

Incorporating a washboard into a band's sound is no easy task, but thanks to the skills of Breezy and her menacing playing style, it fits perfectly.

" We started playing together on the front porch, then we did a couple of shows, and it blew up," he said. "The fans loved it, and we knew we found something that was unique. So we worked it into the sound."

Numerous bands can be seen both days, but it's a good bet that fans will have a blast during The Reverend's set.

" We play real, from-the-heart music while putting on a show because we don't want to just stand there and play the record. There's way more that goes into our live shows, and people tell us that they (our shows) get better every time," he said. "Our goal is the same as it was for our first show — play the songs, stay true to ourselves and give 150 percent no matter the day or the time."


Karl Denson's Tiny Universe


Karl Denson's Tiny Universe

Offering a unique mixture of funk, jazz and other genres, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe brings pure musicianship to the stage. Their Sunday afternoon set is the perfect time for Denson and crew to infect the audience with a grooving sound through the evening hours.

" We play a lot of festivals because it offers a great advantage of playing in front of a lot of people who may have never heard of you and then winning them over," said Denson, who was enjoying a few days off at his home.

Denson not only fronts the Tiny Universe Project but also the Karl Denson Trio and The Greyboy Allstars. He also collaborates with a wide variety of artists.

" All the groups do their own thing with their own sound, but they're all equally as fun," he said. "I got my priorities straight, but sometimes I'll even admit I have a lot of irons in the fire."

Denson said the group is working on a new album, and fans should to expect to hear plenty of fresh material. The album should be released this fall and is tentatively titled "What You Want." It represents a new era for the Tiny Universe.

" This is the first time we've all been writing together, so it's a real collaborative record with the entire band involved in the process," he said. "I can't do it without my band, and over time they understand what I want to do musically. It would be super hard to replace them because they are doing stuff other musicians couldn't do."

Denson looks forward to introducing his sound to a new audience.

" Our sound is a lot different than what's out there, and we're definitely doing our own thing," he said. "We go out there and perform the best we can and hopefully make some new fans as we take them on a musical journey."





Bursting on the scene in 1999 with "Nia" and "A2G," Blackalicious — MC Gift of Gab and DJ/Producer Chief Xcel — was considered one of the most popular groups in independent hip hop. But after their critically acclaimed 2005 album, "The Craft," was released, the duo went on hiatus, causing some to wonder why when it appeared they were ready to cross over into the mainstream.

" We had been making records together since high school, so we wanted to stop for a second and explore and do other things," said Gift of Gab. "I think it's healthy when a group can venture out and do other things."

Releasing numerous albums during the past few years has fueled the creative atmosphere within Gift of Gab.

" I enjoy everything. I'm an artist, and my job is to create," he said. "I always compare it to traveling. You might live in the dopest city in the world, but it's always good to get out and travel."

Both members have continued to work on solo projects and collaborations, but recently the talk of bringing Blackalicious back has been popping up.

" I'll be putting out another solo album this year, but we got a couple of ideas in the works," he said. "X has already given me some new tracks, and I've started working on them. A Blackalicious album will be the next thing."

The duo plans on bringing more to the 80/35 festival than just a turntable and microphone.

" We'll have some background singers and a live band to create a unique experience," Gab said. "We'll be playing the old stuff and some songs we've never played live before."

Gift of Gab says the duo is excited to return to Iowa and perform for such a wide array of fans.

" We've always had good experiences in Iowa and have nothing but love for the Midwest," he said. "We know it's been a minute, so we're looking forward to do what we do and show people what Blackalicious is all about."

Gift of Gab offers a few reasons for people to check out their Saturday evening set.

" Blackalicious is hip-hop times 10 live. We bring our A-game and always give it 110 percent. Why do it if you're not going to give it your all?" he said. "We pride ourselves on being people who work hard at our craft, and it translates to the audience. Believe you and me, you'll leave feeling like you've just been part of an experience like no other."


Thankful Dirt


Thankful Dirt

Local married duo Molly and Darren Matthews, otherwise known as Thankful Dirt, have become a force on the local scene, building an ever-growing fan base thanks to Molly's powerful but soothing voice and Darren's impressive guitar skills. The duo will perform at its first 80/35 Festival on Saturday afternoon and couldn't be happier.

" We are very excited about it. We feel like we've been working hard, and it feels good to have that acknowledged," Molly said. "We are even happier that there will be so many other fine local acts included this year. We think it's important for folks to see that original music doesn't have to be from 'someplace else' to be good."

The soft-spoken duo is known for its intimate and soul searing performances, but the opportunity to play outside in a festival setting will allow them to create a much bigger sound.

" We are excited to play our songs for a larger audience. This event draws an amazing and diverse audience, so it's a huge opportunity for us to spread the seeds of Thankful Dirt," she said. "We are bringing the entire band this time, and we're excited about it. We've only played with our full band once in Des Moines for our record release show, even though we've done numerous shows and events with them in eastern Iowa. We are very excited to bring the band back to the Des Moines audience."

They will be performing songs from their self-titled album, as well as a few surprises.

" We will definitely be playing several songs from our debut album, because we're still promoting it so we can afford to make album number two," she laughed. "That said, we will be playing some new material, as well as incorporating a musician and an instrument that has not been seen at any Thankful Dirt show before."

They encourage people to check out their set and experience every artist the local stage has to offer.

" Supporting the local stage is a great way to find out about the music that is happening in, and music that is reflective of — our lives here in Iowa," she said. "We'll play our hearts out for you because connecting as people is what it's all about for us."


D.O.P.E. Clique Movement (DCM)


D.O.P.E. Clique Movement (DCM)

Although only a handful of hip-hop artists are scheduled to perform, every act is on point including the local crew holding it down for the 515, Derelicts Of Popular Entertainment Creating Lyrical Intelligent Quotes Utilizing Excellence, aka D.O.P.E. Clique Movement (DCM). The crew — which includes Gadema, Young Tripp, Chris DSKUS10, Richie Daggers and Bru'tal The Son of King James — is doing its own thing and building a strong fan base along the way.

" The group was originally gonna be simply known as D.O.P.E. It was Tripp, Daggers and myself," said Gadema. "But Chris D came back from a 'long hiatus,' and we inducted him. Daggers picked up Bru'Tal, and we thought his intelligent style would be a good contrast to our roughness."

The MCs and DJ have joined forces to create what some could consider Des Moines first hip-hop super group.

" I started DCM to click up with, in my perception, the best emcees the city has to offer," Gadema said. "We're more of an umbrella of solo artists who better one another's solo talents. But a DCM album, tentatively titled 'No Permits – No Parlay,' is in the works."

Gadema considers their set at 80/35 an opportunity to open some eyes and ears.

" I especially like performing in front of large groups of people who don't particularly listen to hip hop because their perception is so corporately influenced," he said. "But they soon realize there is a lot more to it than what MTV or the radio feeds them."

Each of the member's skills and style brings something unique to the group that Gadema believes you won't find anywhere else.

" A lot of cats out are trying to emulate what's hot on the radio and end up making a mockery of what we eat, sleep and live every day," he said. "In my opinion, we are hands down the most unique and explosive group around, and we have an understanding of the purity and strength that hip-hop — and even rap — can invoke in a person." CV


80/35 Stage line-up


Saturday, July 2


Main Stage


Noon – The Chatty Cathys

1:30 p.m. – Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band

3:15 p.m. — Titus Andronicus

5 p.m. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

7 p.m. — Galactic

9 p.m. — Girl Talk


Kum & Go Stage


Noon — Wolfgang

12:45 p.m. — NewVillager

1:45 p.m. — Generationals

2:45 p.m. — Cory Chisel

3:45 p.m. — The Junkyard Orchestra

4:45 p.m. — BBU

5:45 p.m. — Bitch

6:45 p.m. — Jessica Lea Mayfield

8 p.m. — Blackalicious


Local Stage


12:15 p.m. — Grinning Match

1:15 p.m. — Wolves in the Attic

2:15 p.m. — La Strange

3:15 p.m. — Brother Trucker

4:15 p.m. — Christopher the Conquered

5:15 p.m. — Thankful Dirt

6:15 p.m. — Cashes Rivers

7:15 p.m. — The Poison Control Center

8:15 p.m. — Mr. Baber's Neighbors


Sunday, July 3


Main Stage


Noon — Rebel Creek

1:45 p.m. — Yelawolf

3:15 p.m. — Karl Denson's Tiny Universe

5 p.m. — Okkervil River

7 p.m. — Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

9 p.m. — of Montreal


Kum & Go Stage


Noon – Infantree

12:45 p.m. — Bear Hands

1:45 p.m. — The Giving Tree Band

2:45 p.m. — Pink Mink

3:45 p.m. — Gold Motel

4:45 p.m. — Civil Twilight

5:45 p.m. — WhiteWater Ramble

6:45 p.m. — Handsome Furs

8 p.m. — The Macpodz


Local Stage


12:15 p.m. — Love Songs for Lonely Monsters

1:15 p.m. — Land of Blood and Sunshine

2:15 p.m. — The Uniphonics

3:15 p.m. — The River Monks

4:15 p.m. — DCM

5:15 p.m. — The Workshy

6:15 p.m. — Parlours

7:15 p.m. — David Zollo & The Body Electric

8:15 p.m. — The Envy Corps