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Sound Circuit

80/35 Music Festival moves to Water Works Park


10 Watt Robot band members from left: Doug Hansen, Jeff Morgan, Lee Bissmeyer and Mike Sangster.

The 80/35 Music Festival returns for its 15th year, sponsored by the Des Moines Music Coalition (DMMC). One significant change (besides offering new musicians) is the location. This year, the 80/35 event takes place July 12-13 at Water Works Park. Previously, it was held downtown Des Moines close to the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.

Organizers say the old location had its limitations.

“We were restricted to cement and closed streets,” Diana Wright, board member of the DMMC said. “We’re trying out a new space of Des Moines’ hidden gem.”

The hidden gem includes 1,500 acres of open green spaces. The DMMC is partnering with the Des Moines Water Works Foundation to put on the festival. 

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The Lauridsen Amphitheater serves as the main stage for headlining acts. Other free stages are located within the grounds. A unique highlight for this year includes a silent live stage, similar to a silent disco, where the crowd members wear headphones and live music is played with a whole set. 

“We’re not sure it’s been done before. It’s exciting to offer this music experience,” Wright said.

In addition to music, the festival includes family-friendly events, kids activities and yoga, along with food and drink vendors and various artist booths. Camping is offered onsite. 

“We are excited to offer camping as a whole new element that we couldn’t offer before,” Wright said.

Headlining bands include OK Go, a nostalgia band whose popular YouTube video portrays the musicians on treadmills. Killer Mike, a three-time Grammy winner, will also perform, along with local and national up-and-coming musicians. 

“80/35 is all about discovering new talent and helping concert goers discover a whole different gamut of music from rock, hip hop, alternative and country. We have a history of catching bands on the way up. Lizzo played on the free stage one year,” Wright said.

The festival is affordable with one of the lowest costs to attend in the Midwest. The DMMC goal is to keep costs low to attract more concert-goers. Some festival costs are offset through corporate and business sponsorships. Proceeds go back into the community to support music efforts in the Des Moines area.

Wright said Des Moines is maturing with its new music venues. 

“Live music has really exploded. We used to be a fly-over with regards to live music,” she said. “The best way to support live music is to give it a try. Show up and fall in love with new bands.”


10 Watt Robot

With 19 bands at 80/35, organizers promote various genres of music. 10 Watt Robot, a Des Moines-based alternative rock band, is excited to showcase its original music.

10 Watt Robot was established in 2019 on a whim. Founder Mike Sangster played in numerous bands but took a break to raise a family. One day, a friend’s band on tour called Sangster, looking for an opener for the gig.

After making a few quick phone calls, Sangster threw together a band for a one-time performance. With only two weeks to practice, the nightly rehearsals resulted in a 12-song set list. 

The one-time concert was a success, but the band was ready to call it quits. However, after the concert, people contacted 10 Watt Robot to play again.

The band is known for its original music, as Sangster has a “disdain” for cover songs.

“Covers are like touching a hot stove. Those Rembrandts are cool, but I’m not going to paint a Rembrandt,” he said. 

Sangster recorded an album with his previous band, Head Candy, based in Iowa City. 

“It was cool,” he said. “Some of our songs appeared in movies.” 

Today, the band is working on a new album to be released this year. It is being recorded at Pachyderm Studios in Minnesota, where Nirvana recorded its final studio album. 

“The room and space where they recorded is still the same. It’s a wonderful experience,” Sangster said.

The band plays limited gigs in central Iowa, as band members are busy with jobs and families. It’s his goal to get venues to feature bands with original music. 

“Being an original artist in Des Moines is rough,” he said. “But it’s a lot more supportive scene now with multiple venues.”

The band members are pumped to play 80/35, which features a variety of musicians. 

“It’s a great showcase for bands,” Sangster said. “I hope the crowd is receptive and looking for new material.”

For more information about 80/35 tickets and bands, visit ♦

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