There is a lot that is unique about 515 Alive. For starters, it is the only event of its size in the state that caters exclusively to fans of dance, house and techno music. Basically, if you are a fan of DJs, 515 Alive is your nirvana.
But beyond that, 515 Alive should stand as a shining example for anyone who is looking for proof of the concept that you do not need the weight of a big, nonprofit entity behind you to create something great.
“It was such an amazing idea with a lot of passion behind it,” said Jeanna Calvert, AKA DJ RackCity, who has performed at the event for five years now. “(Local DJ) Brad Goldman legitimized it as a business, and now I feel like the current owners have done all the right things.
“They’ve added these big-name artists to really make Des Moines a contender with other major cities. They’ve made it two days so they keep the buzz for local artists going, but they can also add these bigger names as well. I’m super proud.”
The effort behind taking 515 Alive to the next level is headlined by Dan Green, a local DJ with a passion for electronic music and a desire to see home-grown events like this one thrive and add to the tapestry of Des Moines’ social scene.
“I don’t think people understand the amount of work that goes into just a simple event at a bar,” Calvert said. “(515 Alive) is on a whole other level from that. Just the amount of time and passion it takes and the level of relationship building. You have a lot of people in town doing their own thing, and (Green has) bridged all those things together. It’s a labor of love.”
That relationship building has perhaps been the most important aspect of 515 Alive’s success. Anyone who is a fan of the electronic dance music (EDM) scene knows how much the festival means to the crowds who pay to get in. But just as important is what the festival provides to the local artists who get on stage and perform.
“It’s unbelievable,” Calvert said. “It’s a way to connect to each other. One of my favorite things is that I’ve gotten to see other DJs perform. A lot of time, we don’t get to see or appreciate each other’s work. So, this is a time for our art form to come together and appreciate how everyone’s doing and how we’re progressing. I can enjoy doing my thing and come out and support what everyone else is doing.”
There will always be a level of debate in music circles about whether or not DJs are musicians. But what can not — or should not — be argued is how successful 515 Alive has become, nor how important the event is to the complete musical layout of the city. As the event continues to grow, Calvert hopes to see new people through the gates every year and hopes to see 515 Alive continue to be a conduit through which people who may never have experienced techno or house or EDM to get their first, local taste.
“515 Alive is about interacting with people and participating with the crowd,” she said. “Everyone can really appreciate the music and come away with an amazing experience, but it’s really about being there and feeling the energy and giving your support to what’s going on in town.” CV