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Feature Story

Summer music festivals


The season just got even hotter

Kesha will perform at 80/35 on July 7 at Western Gateway Park in Des Moines.

It’s finally here. The season Iowans dream about on dark and frigid February nights. The landscape is once again lush and green, sweat beads form immediately after stepping outside, and there’s music in the air: It’s summer music festival season. You want a festival near a river? There are four. How about country music? Plenty of that to go around. Looking for a scenic escape? Check. An urban block party? Got it. Short on money? Two events on this list are free. Whatever festival vibe and musical genre you are looking for, you can find almost all of them right here in Iowa. Get it while the getting is good.

Port of Dubuque, Dubuque
June 8-9

Down by the Mississippi River is America’s River Festival. Now in its fourth year, the festival focuses on up-and-coming country acts and classic rock bands. This music festival is unique in that The Tappening beer tasting serves as the onsite pregame for Saturday night’s music. While this does require a separate $30-$40 ticket purchase, more than 25 breweries offering more than 100 samples will be available, with the Buzz Berries providing musical entertainment while the 21-plus crowd gets buzzed.

LINEUP: Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo, John Kay & Steppenwolf, Night Ranger, Main Street Jazz Band, The Struggs, Michael Ray, High Valley, Walker Hayes, Lindsay Ell

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa (Oct)

Missi Sippin’ Landing, Burlington
June 14-17

Also down by the Mississippi River, Burlington Steamboat Days takes place over four days with three stages and more than 20 bands. Organizers claim this year’s lineup has the most live music in the event’s 56-year history. The music runs the gamut from classic rock to 90s acts, country and Christian music. Sunday’s entertainment begins with the inaugural Burlington Steamboat Days Praise Fest and features five local praise bands.

LINEUP: Sister Hazel, Craig Morgan, Soul Asylum, Fuel, Survivor, Jefferson Starship, Charlie Daniels Band, Adam Cunningham, Hailey Witters, Stump Town, Nathan Gross, Photograph, Late Night Radio, Crush, Shaman’s Harvest, Stars In Toledo, The Miss/ng Letters, The Howling Tongues, The New Breed, Fretworks, Jordan Feliz, Captives Set Free

Midland will perform at Big Country Bash on June 23 at Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater in St. Charles.

Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater, St. Charles
June 22-23

In the second year of the country music festival’s revival — it was on hiatus from 2012-2016 — the event moves south to its new location in St. Charles. This year’s lineup is another step in the right direction and moves to restore the event to its former glory. Big-name headliners include Brett Eldredge and the Grammy-nominated band Midland. The latter was featured in Vogue Magazine for its killer style. Tent camping and RV camping passes are also available.

LINEUP: Brett Eldredge, Dan + Shay, Midland, Kane Brown, Phil Vassar, Russell Dickerson, Justin Adams, Aaron Watson, Raelynn, Tucker Beathard

Phantogram will perform at 80/35 on July 6 at Western Gateway Park in Des Moines.

Western Gateway Park, Des Moines
July 6-7

Celebrating 11 years, the Des Moines Music Coalition snagged mega pop star Kesha to headline, along with a slew of other fantastic national, regional and local bands. The beauty of 80/35 is that two of the three stages are free — Kesha, Phantogram and the like will perform on the paid main stage — but music fans can experience plenty of top-notch talent in the free areas. Keep an eye on Aussie Courtney Barnett and up-and-comer Soccer Mommy. Plenty of food, drink, art and other activities await in the heart of downtown.

LINEUP: Kesha, Phantogram, Courtney Barnett, Atmosphere, Car Seat Headrest, BJ The Chicago Kid, Phoebe Bridgers, Jeff Rosenstock, Vagabon, Sawyer Fredericks, Priscilla Renea, Soccer Mommy, The Poison Control Center, Remo Drive, Ratboys, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, B.Well, Telekinetic Yeti, Elizabeth Moen, Closet Witch, Extravision, Karen Meat, Matthew James & The Rust Belt Union, The Host Country, Da Younger, Ramona & The Sometimes, Foxholes, Starry Nights, Grand Ave Ruckus, Honeycreeper, Pink Neighbor, Comandante, BassRaja and Pri yon Joni with Himanshu on Dhol, Closed Format.

LeClaire Park, Davenport
July 6-7

Yet another festival down by the — you guessed it — Mississippi River. This blues festival features notable local performances from the 2017 Iowa Blues Challenge winner Avey/Gouws Band and All Sweat Productions, featuring musicians from Iowa band The Candymakers and more. One act not to be missed is 14-year-old Brandon Niederauer, a guitar prodigy who has been endorsed by John Mayer and has played with members of the Allman Brothers Band, Stevie Nicks, Slash, Lady Gaga and more.

LINEUP: Jonny Lang, Avey Grouws Band, Kris Lager Band, Walter Trout, Peña Brothers Band, David Berntson, All Sweat Productions, Ellis Kell Winter Blues All-Stars, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, Shaun Murphy

Grandview Park, Sioux City
July 7

If you’re trying to ball on a budget, this is the festival. For the cost of zero dollars, attendees can see acts like Jason Isbell and Boz Scaggs. Also gracing the festival is hip-hop group Arrested Development, who have been around since 1988, long before the hit show of the same name. Catch them singing their anthemic song “Tennessee” on the Abe Stage, where you can also catch Sioux City band GhostCat. The free fest also includes a beer garden, arts area and kids zone.

LINEUP: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Boz Scaggs, Galactic, Dave Mason and Steve Cropper, Delta Rae, Arrested Development, John Wayne and the Pain, City of the Weak, GhostCat, Thick Mistress, Young Rambo, Vibe Rations, DJ Alex and Scnd Sndwch

Jerry’s Farm, Lone Tree
July 12-14

In 2004, Eufórquestra wanted to throw a fan appreciation party of sorts and reached out to a local farmer named Jerry to host the event. Since then the event has grown and Eufórquestra has continued to help organize this festival, in which they will play not one but two nights, all still taking place on Jerry’s farm. The band hails from Iowa City, and as such, the lineup tends to focus on bands from that area, along with the band members’ handpicked folky and funky favorites from Iowa and beyond.

LINEUP: Eufórquestra, Turkuaz, Fruition, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Middle Western, Miles & Nielsen & The Rusted, Hearts, Chicago Afrobeat Project, The Diplomats of Solid Sound, The Candymakers, The Maytags, Kind Country, Dead Larry, Baberhood Bluegrass Band, The Tripp, Brothers, Flash In A Pan, Elizabeth Moen, Some Friends, The Uniphonics, Soul Sherpa, Ryne Doughty, Bees, DJ Buddha, Grosso Family Band

Flanders Farms, Cumming
July 14
Facebook @g14festival

In its debut year, this event is unlike any other. Billed as a boutique festival, more than 30 local and national artists — including comedians and more — will be featured. Attendees can camp on the farm, that, in addition to the music, will have activities late into the late. Take a fire throwing workshop, a graffiti lesson or pet goats in their sanctuary. This new one-of-a-kind festival allows its attendees to reconnect with nature and get spiritual on a pristine farm setting.

LINEUP: Notixx, Zebbler Encanti Experience, GoodcaT, Moniker, Velvo, B.Well, Jade Reed, Pie in the Sky, LAV.ISH, Uknown Artist, more TBA

Guthrie County Fairgrounds, Guthrie Center
July 27-28

I’m out of river jokes. At least this festival differs from the other river festivals in that, instead of taking place near the Ol’ Mississip, it’s next to the South Raccoon River. This year the event has even more of a reason to get rowdy at the ruckus by turning 10. In the same location for all 10 years, the Guthrie River Ruckus has gotten quality headliners from the beginning, and this year is no different with country star Jake Owen and celebrated classic rock band 38 Special. Whoop it up 24/7 by staying overnight at the campgrounds, where there’s even a shower house to clean up in.

LINEUP: Jake Owen, 38 Special, Walker McGuire, Joe Diffle, Sammy Kershaw, Chris Janson, Collin Raye, LANCO

Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater, St. Charles
Aug. 3-4

Visionary Sam Summers’ hand-picked music festival is back for a fourth year. The single stage setup means music lovers don’t have to choose which act to see and, instead, can sit back and take in every band on the bill. The campgrounds are a world of their own, with the Campfire Stage featuring Wheeler Walker Jr. Hinterland has always produced a quality lineup, and this year is no different with headliner country singer Sturgill Simpson, the intoxicating Tash Sultana and stunning synth-pop band CHVRCHES.

LINEUP: Sturgill Simpson, Band of Horses, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, CHVRCHES, Blackberry Smoke, Margo Price, Tash Sultana, Anderson East, J Roddy Walston and The Business, Tyler Childers, Joshua Hedley, The Nadas, Ancient Posse

515 Alive will take place Aug. 17-18 at Water Works Park in Des Moines.

Water Works Park, Des Moines
Aug. 17-18

At close to 100 names spread across five stages, 515 Alive easily boasts the most acts of Iowa’s summer music festivals. The event began in 2002, spotlighting electronic music, but has seen many incarnations since, and finally seems to be hitting its stride. To see festival circuit regular Bassnectar, well-known rapper Future and SoundCloud rapper Lil Xan all on the same bill in this state is next-level. Promising everything to be bigger and better than last year — complete with light and laser shows — it’s shaping up to be an unforgettable experience.

LINEUP: Bassnectar, Future, RL Grime, Ganja White Night, Cashmere Cat, Lil Xan, Trippie Redd, Denzel Curry, Maxo Kream, Opiuo, Space Jesus, Manic Focus, Space Laces, Beak Nasty, Champagne Drip, Charlesthefirst, Cofresi, Darci, Dirt Monkey, DMVU, Esseks, Golf Clap, Infekt, Phaseone, Riot Ten, Russ Liquid, Shlump, Subtronics, Sullivan King, Zeke Beats and more. ♦


June 15 The Prince Experience at Simon Estes Amphitheater, $20-$25
June 16 The Nadas at Simon Estes Amphitheater, $20-$25
June 16 The Lacs at Brenton Skating Plaza, $20-$25
June 18 The Summerland Tour starring Everclear,
Marcy Playground and Local H at Brenton Skating Plaza,$30-$299
June 20 Social Distortion at Brenton Skating Plaza, $35-$175
July 7 Cody Johnson at Simon Estes Amphitheater, $20-$75
July 10 Gin Blossoms at Simon Estes Amphitheater, $20-$25
July 13 Chase Rice at Brenton Skating Plaza, $30-$55
July 27 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and the Pork Tornadoes
at Simon Estes Amphitheater, $20-$25
Aug. 26 Gov’t Mule at Brenton Skating Plaza, $35-$40
Sept. 2 Shakey Graves at Simon Estes Amphitheater, $25


Aug. 9 Casting Crowns, $30-$45
Aug. 10 Reba McEntire, $50-$65
Aug. 11 Daughtry, $25-$35
Aug. 12 Old Dominion, $21-$51
Aug. 13 Papa Roach, $27-$42
Aug. 14 Jim Gaffigan, $32-$45
Aug. 15 Thomas Rhett, $43-$60
Aug. 16 Earth, Wind & Fire, $37-$47
Aug. 17 Sugarland, $52-$67
Aug. 18 Peter Cetera, $27-$37
Aug. 19 Florida Georgia Line, $70-$80 ♦

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