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Feature Story

Summer Music Festivals


N1307P46008HOnce the weather warms up, it’s easy for music fans to find something to do almost every night of the week. For fans of outdoor music, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas in July. And June. Plus August and early September.

Many of those outdoor shows are part of festivals, giving casual fans a chance to take in a sampling of music for a relatively low price. Maybe you go because you’re a big fan of Chunderwear (probably not a real band), but you end up with four or five new favorites before that hipster jerk at work has even written them off. Take that, Todd.

So here’s a look at the main festival happening between the Missouri and the Mississippi this summer. There are established fests, brand new ones and a few that have made significant changes since the last time you went. Enjoy, and don’t forget to take some sunscreen.


Where: Port of Dubuque, Dubuque

When: June 8-10

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa

Cost: Free June 8, $20-$55 June 9-10


Classic rock and country come together for the third annual America’s River Festival. The lineup’s bigger names lean toward classic rock, with Styx, The Guess Who, Little River Band and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band providing the most recognizable names and hits. For those looking for an affordable night out, June 8’s performance by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Brandon Lay is free.

In addition to music, June 10 features The Tappening, a craft beer event featuring brewers from around the Midwest.

Lineup: Styx, The Guess Who, Little River Band, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ryan McGrath Band, Zero 2 Sixty, Old Dominion, Tucker Breathard, William Michael Morgan, Brandon Lay


Where: Riverfront, Burlington

When: June 15-18

Cost: $45 per day or $55 for all four days


For more than 50 years, Burlington has brought varied acts to its annual Steamboat Days, ranging from Louis Armstrong to N’Sync. In 2017, the headliners are mostly of the country variety, with Brantley Gilbert, Gary Allan and Locash each closing out a night, while Christian rock band Skillet is the lone twang-free act.

Steamboat Days also features a new Mississippi Landing beer garden, focused on craft beers, with its own lineup of musical acts.

Lineup: Skillet, Brantley Gilbert, Gary Allan, Locash, Ghost of Judas, Money Shot, Jive Radio, Jake McVey, Leaving Abbey, Photograph: A Tribute to Def Leppard, StumpTown


Where: Living History Farms, Urbandale

When: June 25

Cost: $30-$39


For years, Big Country Bash was a reliable festival for country fans, until it wasn’t. In 2012 the festival was cancelled, with vague promises that it might return in the future. Vague promise fulfilled! Five years later, NASH-FM 97.3 and 92.5 KJJY have revived Big Country Bash, moving it west to Living History Farms.

Headlining the revived event is Billy Currington, whose hits include “It Don’t Hurt Like it Used To,” “Let Me Down Easy” and “Good Directions.” A fireworks display will close out the event, for extra “America, F-yeah”-iness.

Lineup: Billy Currington, Locash, Tracy Lawrence, Michael Ray, Runaway Jane


Where: LeClaire Park, Davenport

When: June 30 – July 1

Cost: $10 in advance of June 30, $15 at the gate, $15 in advance of July 1, $20 at the gate


The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival has been bringing blues greats to the Quad Cities for more than 30 years, but in 2015 the event was canceled due to financial problems. It returned in 2016 in a slimmed down form, which is how it continues this year.

In addition to touring acts like Joanna Connor and Hamilton Loomis, the MVBF also features a Local Scene Stage, with Iowa bands performing in between main stage sets.

Lineup: Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers, Joanna Connor, Hamilton Loomis, Dana Fuchs, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, The 3 Kings, Corey Dennison Band, Marquise Knox, Travis Ried Band, Zach Harris Band


Where: Grandview Park, Sioux City

When: July 1

Cost: Free


It’s amazing looking back over the 27-year history of Sioux City’s Saturday in the Park to see some of the acts that have played: Aretha Franklin, Wilco, B.B. King, The Neville Brothers, Melissa Etheridge and many others. The lineups are usually impressive, but the amazing thing is the cost: free.

This year English soul singer Joss Stone headlines along with New Orleans bandleader Trombone Shorty. This year’s lineup might not be Aretha Franklin or B.B. King-level talent, but it’s still an awesome show for no money at all.

Lineup: Joss Stone, Trombone Shorty, The Revivalists, JOHNNYSWIM, 35th and Taylor, Brother Ali, Prof, The Magnolias, DAD, Sharkweek, Heatbox, Stop Motion Skeletons, Goodbye Old Friend, Tapwater Shrimp


The Shins play the 80/35 Music Festival, July 7-8.

The Shins play the 80/35 Music Festival, July 7-8.

Where: Western Gateway Park, Des Moines

When: July 7-8

Cost: $42 per day or $80 for both days


This summer will mark the 10th annual 80/35 Music Festival. Over the last nine events, the Des Moines Music Coalition’s combination of indie, jam, hip hop and miscellaneous local bands has brought in headliners like The Flaming Lips, Wu-Tang Clan, Weezer, Cake and Death Cab for Cutie.

So how are things looking for the 10th year? Maybe a little more middle of the road than some would have expected for a milestone year. Headliners The Shins and MGMT aren’t the buzziest acts the festival has ever landed, but both have new albums (or should by the time the festival happens; MGMT’s “Little Dark Age” is due out soon).

There’s some strong acts further down the bill, including Jack White favorites Chicano Batman, one of the first performances by William Elliott Whitmore and David Zollo’s Middle Western, soul singer Charles Bradley and rapper Action Bronson. You can also check out the band whose shirt you’re least likely to wear to a family outing, Diarrhea Planet.

As always, 80/35 features two free stages, mixing regional and local acts together with no tickets required. The Generation Z stage also returns, with a focus on giving a spotlight to teenage musicians in the area.

Main stage acts: The Shins, MGMT, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Action Bronson, The Motet, Elephant Revival, Hop Along, Coral Creek, prettygirlhatemachine

Free stage acts: Bully, Chicano Batman, Diarrhea Planet, Radio Moscow, Middle Western, Modern Life is War, Trevor Sensor, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Markaus, Dan Tedesco, A Giant Dog, Tha Fut, The Suburbs, Ancient Posse, Elizabeth Moen, Henhouse Prowlers, Traffic Death, Lily DeTaeye, WebsterX, The Vahnevants, Bad Bad Hats, Aaron Earl Short, Stutterin’ Jimmy & The Goosebumps, ZULUZULUU, Glitter Density, Closet Witch, Closed Format, DJ Apollo, DJ Chris Coffey, BassRaja, Comandante Marcos, The Yelps, Queen Kenzie, Serenade Your Mother, Jackson Overton & Tyler Fraaken, Trevor Lambert, DMMC Summer Camps, Girls Rock! Des Moines


Where: Jerry’s Farm, Lone Tree

When: July 13-15

Cost: $95 for two days, $115 for three days


Euforquestra moved from Iowa City to the jam mecca of Colorado years ago, but they still return to their home state every July for their own festival, Camp Euforia. Euforquestra will play sets Friday and Saturday nights, with electronic world music trio Beats Antique and Mussel Shoals electronic duo BoomBox also headlining.

For one weekend, an old barn is transformed into a concert hall, with a bar shed, camping, late night campfires and more, providing outlets for nearly non-stop music.

Lineup: Euforquestra, Beats Antique, Boombox, Public Property, Mr. Baber’s Neighbors, The Way Down Wanderers, Flash in a Pan, Cycles, Pho, The Workshy, Rude Punch, Funkma$ter, The Grosso Family Band, Elizabeth Moen, Halfloves, Goose Town, Maximilian Eubank, DJ Buddha


Where: Guthrie County Fairgrounds, Guthrie Center

When: July 28-29

Cost: $64-$220


It will be a weekend of Ford trucks, beer for horses and American flags as metaphors when Toby Keith headlines the ninth annual Guthrie’s River Ruckus. “Where It’s At (Yep Yep)” singer Dustin Lynch co-headlines the show.

The River Ruckus is a camping-focused show, and the music doesn’t start until the evening both days, so attendees can sleep late/start partying early. Past headliners for GRR include Hank Williams Jr., Eric Church, Justin Moore and Lee Brice.

Lineup: Toby Keith, Dustin Lynch, Granger Smith, Joe Nichols, Clare Dunn, Colt Ford, Jeremy McComb, Casey Muessigmann


Ryan Adams will play the Hinterland Music Festival, Aug. 4-5.

Ryan Adams will play the Hinterland Music Festival, Aug. 4-5.

Now in its third year, Sam Summers’ curated, late-summer show has quickly become a destination festival for indie rock and alt country fans. After landing Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros in 2015 and Willie Nelson and Ray LaMontagne last year, 2017 has Hinterland topped by the iconic Ryan Adams and English indie rock trio alt-j.

But a big part of Hinterland’s success is its undercard acts. This year that includes Dwight freaking Yoakam, The Head and The Heart and local acts Annalibera and Max Jury. Mix that all together with camping, and you get two days of musical bliss a half hour from Des Moines.

Lineup: alt-j, Ryan Adams, Gary Clark Jr., The Head and The Heart, Foxygen, Dwight Yoakam, Shakey Graves, Annalibera, Nikki Lane, JD McPherson, The Cactus Blossoms, Max Jury


Where: Water Works Park, Des Moines

When: Aug. 18-19

Cost: $15-$119.50 for general admission


Two years ago, it seemed like Water Works park might start landing some cool festivals before heavy rains forced several relocations and cancellations. Things are looking up this year, with EDM and hip hop festival 515 Alive moving to the park for its 15th year.

Topping the bill is Canadian DJ Excision, “future funk” DJ Griz and “Wasted” rapper Gucci Mane. Between the headliners, the move and the approximately 1,347 other acts performing at the festival, 515 Alive has grown tremendously since it started in between two Fourth Street bars in 2003.

The move to Water Works means 515 Alive can finally host on-site camping, providing more options for late-night partiers and/or relief for downtown residents.

Lineup: Excision, Griz, Gucci Mane, Hopsin, Mija, Nghtmre, Pouya, AFK, Blu J, Bleep Bloop, Boogie. T, Brasstracks, Dabin, Defunk, Dubloadz, Eprom, Figure B2B Midnight Tyrannosaurus, Koan Sound, Kai Wachi, Late Night Radio, Luzcid, Moody Good, Proko, Sodown, Said the Sky, Squnto, Um…, Virtual Riot, 2FAC3D, Cram, Hodj, Kill Og, Kong Speaks, Megan Hamilton, Mielo, 2DOP3, A/One, Abood Seven, Adam Tell, Adotk, Align, Amru, Apollo Spacey, B. Well, B^2, Bassraja, Brad Goldman, Bruuuce, Button Mashers, C-Dubbz, Chris Coffey, Confluence, D. Carlone, D-Nuts, Damn Juhl, DJ Apollo, DJ DMS, DJ Fito, DJ Lizz, Germanation, Jade Reed, Jesse Jamz, Jeana Calvert, Jimmy Jim, Johnny Rage, Kage, Kazmeer, Kinky Kyro, Mahl-Z, Matej B, Matt Rissi, Mazoo, Mindblur, Mollie G!t Down, Nathaniel Daniel, Nicky Rage, Nucci Mane, Nxbel Price, Ono, Pat Blin, Phantom Flex, Pig Grunt, Quickstrip, Rvger, Soulless, Soundtrooper, Soundwave, Strap Back, Tha Fut, The Million Dollar Hippys, Tobias Cross, Tripp Brothers, Trulane, Tyler Holst, V/ III, Wade Thompson, Witness, Yo Tim!


Where: Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater, St. Charles

When: Sept. 1-4

Cost: Ticket prices vary depending on camping, age and duration of visit


The representation of Iowa acts at Iowa festivals ranges from “nonexistent” to “pretty good.” The new Iowa stock is looking to turn that on its ear with a four-day festival featuring more than 75 Iowa bands.

Will it work? There’s a little something for everyone from all corners of the state. Whether or not that will entice people to stay for four days will be interesting to see. If you support Iowa bands, this could be the put-up or shut up moment.

Lineup: Greg Brown, Christopher the Conquered, Kevin B.F. Burt, Diva & The Deacons featuring Tina Haase Findlay, Max Wellman Quintet, Joe & Vicki Price, Nola Jazz Band, Craig Erickson Expedition, Sons of Gladys Kravitz, Royce Johns, Isaac James featuring Joel Ekman, Final Mix, Randy Burk & The Prisoners, Damon Dotson, Abby Normal, Richard Arndt and The Brew, Gabriel Espinosa, Heath Alan Band, Bob Dorr & The Blue Band, Tyler Richton & The High Banks Boys, The Fez, Pie in the Sky, Sam Salamone & Friends, Nate Nelson, Crooked Mile, Sara Routh, Des Moines Big Band, Chrash, Grand Avenue Ruckus, Charleston Trio, Alchemist, McMurrin and Johnson, After Shock, Dave Zollo, The Sheet, Juliana & a Soul Purpose, P.O.W., Sue Oatts Band, Devil’s Deck, Tim Stop, Dick Danger, Dave Moore, Pianopalooza, Mariachi Azteca, Rocky Raccoon, Fat Tuesday, Turner Jazz Orchestra, Chad Elliott, Voodoo 3, D’Monet & Dev Boyd, Josh Sinclair, Jason Reed & Glovebox Whiskey, Soul Searchers, Damani Phillips, Luke Fox, Vinyl Vagabonds, Drive 35, “Taz” Brian Grant, Trio Aceto, J. Jeffrey Messerole, Infuzion, Scott Smith Trio, Banner Flats, The Half Moons, Riddle Me This, Bob Pace & The Dangerous Band, Community Jazz Orchestra, The Cardinal Sound, Ducharme-Jones, Steve. E. George Blues Band, World Port, Suede, Ctr’l C, Rivera’s, Java Jews, Other Brothers

Other notable outdoor concerts

Metallica with Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat

Where: Iowa Speedway, Newton

When: June 9

Cost: $59-$303


Iowa State Fair Grandstand Acts

Where: Iowa State Fairgrounds


Aug. 10: for King and Country, Matt Mahar; $30-$45

Aug. 11: Nickelback; $52-$72

Aug. 12: I Love the 90s with Vanilla Ice, Salt n’ Pepa, Color Me Badd, Tone Loc, Coolio, Young MC; $27-$45

Aug. 13: Pentatonix; SOLD OUT

Aug. 14: Paramore, X-Ambassadors; $40-$60

Aug. 15: Flo Rida; $27-$45

Aug. 17: Alabama, The Charlie Daniels Band; $42-$57

Aug. 18: Little Big Town, Seth Ennis; $32-$52

Aug. 19: John Mellencamp, Carlene Carter; $50-$85

Aug. 20: Kid Rock; $62-$90

Nitefall on the River

Where: Simon Estes Amphitheater and Brenton Plaza


June 1: Gavin DeGraw, Hope Country; Brenton, $25-$30

June 2: Rodney Atkins; Brenton, $25

June 3: Euforquestra, The Maytags, Mr. Baber’s Neighbors; Simon Estes Amp. $15-$20

June 8: Cody Jinks, Ward Davis; Simon Estes Amp. $21.25-$125

June 9: Turnpike Troubadours, Charley Crockett; Simon Estes Amp. $20-$25

June 10: The Nadas, Tom Fuller Band; Simon Estes Amp. $20-$25

June 14: Drive-By Truckers, Pokey Lafarge; Simon Estes Amp. $25

July 3: Reel Big Fish, The Expendables, The Queers, Tunnel Vision; Simon Estes Amp. $25-$30

July 7: The Band Perry; Simon Estes Amp. $35

July 22: Aaron Watson; Brenton, $20-$25

July 22: Nathan Phillips, Marc Scibilia; Simon Estes Amp. $29.50-$35

Aug. 17: Gov’t Mule, Galactic; Brenton, $38-$42

Aug. 20: Michael Franti; Simon Estes Amp. $30-$35

Aug. 21: Gregory Alan Isakov, Blind Pilot; Simon Estes Amp. $25-$30

Aug. 26: Blue October, Bonne Finken; Simon Estes Amp. $30-$35









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