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Sound Circuit

Damon Dotson

9/1/2021

Okoboji native plays concert on floating barge to thousands.

Based in Des Moines, Damon Dotson is a full-time musician.

As a musician, Damon Dotson’s gigs have taken him to neighborhood bars, wineries, county fairs, outdoor festivals and even a barge in the middle of a lake.

In fact, Okoboji was where he performed some of his first concerts. He credits Okoboji’s vacation visitors for sharing the word of his musical talents.

“I’d play local places in Okoboji, and the visitors would go back to their towns and spread the news about my music,” he says. 

He originally played the drums in high school with an Okoboji jazz band. He learned guitar in college and began writing and singing original music. He’s a full-time musician based in Des Moines with his own band, and he also performs solo. 

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He’s written and recorded four albums. At concerts he plays a mix of originals and covers. 

“I love playing my original music as much as possible,” he says. “When we play covers, it doesn’t sound like the original as we put our own spin on it.”

If he plays with his band, he says it feels complete if there’s a saxophone. 

“Because of my jazz background, I love the horns and usually always have a sax,” he says. 

However, the music he plays isn’t jazz; it’s a pop/rock mix. 

“My big influences are Jason Miraz, Dave Matthews and Zac Brown, but it’s not quite country,” he explains.

Dotson once opened for Willie Nelson at a venue in Minnesota, where it was an exciting, yet disappointing, evening. 

“I never got to meet him because I had to go to another show,” he laments. “Right as I was pulling away, I heard the crowd roar, and he started singing ‘Whiskey River.’ I’ll never forget I missed seeing him.”

Fourteen years ago, Dotson hosted a concert called Lake Affect on a floating barge in Okoboji. It was so popular that he’s performed the concert annually ever since then. 

“The first time, there were 10 boats. Now there’s 3,000-4,000 people on boats, or they swim up to the barge or pile in off shore,” he says. “It’s a unique concert experience.”

The biggest challenge for Dotson is to balance home and work with him often performing nights and weekends. With two kids younger than age 4, it’s hard to be away from home. 

“My wife is a champ. She’s amazing,” he says.

When the music is flowing, he feels the energy from his fans. 

“I’m grateful for the connection when I see a table or group into my music. It’s exciting to feel the musical energy that’s happening. It’s like a high,” he says. “I have an overall appreciation for people supporting live music. I’m grateful to be able to play so much. It’s a dream.”

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