Abbott: 80/35 Concert Review

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Abbott: 80/35 Concert Review

by Karina Abbott (

Having never been to 80/35 prior to last Friday, I didn’t really know what to expect. Personally, when I think of a music festival, a wide open field scattered with vendors’ tents and stages for performers comes to mind; tales of Hinterland, Glastonbury, and Woodstock no doubt clouding my logic as I make my way to the city. A short 43 minutes and I am among the streets of this diamond in the rough, Des Moines, a city surrounded by small towns and corn. Some might call it a “training city”, being much smaller and easier to navigate than Chicago or even Minneapolis, but Des Moines’s charms are no less than any other. The skyscrapers may be fewer and music scene less formidable, but the true measure of a place is the people that reside there; to me, Des Moines has never seemed bigger or more impressive than it did on Friday and Saturday night.

I arrived a little after 6 in the evening on the 6th, and was pleasantly surprised by the ease and availability of parking in the free Nationwide parking ramp at Mulberry and 12th. After making my way in and picking up my pass, I took in the layout of the festival. The shady avenues provided a safe haven for people to enjoy the musical acts, peruse the eccentric clothing and knick-knack tents, as well as eat some delicious food from the impressive array of vendors lining the main street. There was plenty of security, at least one person covering every possible entrance, checking bags and passes to make sure it was a safe and fun time for everyone. Ample food was provided, water was available through spouts set up near the busiest areas, and the free stages provided just as much quality entertainment as the main stage. Technical difficulties were scarce, but no festival of this size comes out completely unscathed; Car Seat Headrest had a bit of trouble with their monitors, but being the incredibly talented musicians that they are, put on a fantastic show regardless.

I made sure to see Remo Drive perform at 6:45 on Friday night, because they’re a band that is near and dear to the heart of KURE. They did a Live session with us over a year ago, before the release of their debut album, ‘Greatest Hits’, and performed at our annual music event, KURE Fest. They went on to amass a great deal of admiration from the local music scene as well as the alternative scene overall. Anthony Fantano, a popular music reviewer on YouTube, gave their first album a rave review, even saying that “for the emo kids out there, this is most likely gonna be your album of the year”. Remo Drive has since been through a lot, having lost their drummer Sam (again), replacing him with two new skilled children, releasing a few new songs on an EP called ‘Pop Music’, and now performing at “the Woodstock” of the Midwest, 80/35. They managed to evoke the first and only mosh pit that I saw during the whole event, and performed with just as much vigor as they did with Hippo Campus at Wooly’s last year and the year before at KURE Fest, even without their energetic drummer to whip up the crowd. Remo Drive were an instant emo classic from the moment they stepped out onto the metaphorical music scene stage, and have proven themselves again and again to be one of the most talented.

The second day of the festival was as well put together as the first, and another great band took the free Kum and Go stage by storm. At 3:45 in the afternoon, Ratboys, a foursome from Chicago, drew an unsuspecting crowd in for a jam session to rival all others. I first had the pleasant surprise of seeing this band in the crowded basement of a little house on the Northside of Ames, called The Record Mill. This provisional music venue has since been shut down due to noise complaints, but it was a ruckus among sheep in it’s day. Julia Steiner, the lead singer, made faces back then too, and spoke to the crowd with the same amount of genuine humor and levity as she did on Saturday. She demonstrates a natural rapport with her band as well as with the audience during her performances, and it’s refreshing to feel like the person singing to you from a stage is just that, a person, rather than some fame-crazed superdouche that’s half falling over from the weight of their own head.

I managed to see a lot of amazing artists (Phantogram, Elizabeth Moen, Poison Control Center, Soccer Mommy, Kesha, Courtney Barnett) while venturing around 80/35 for the two glorious days that it was happening, but my favorite show by far was Car Seat Headrest. Not because it was perfect, but despite the fact that it wasn’t. You like something or someone because of the good things, but you love something or someone despite the bad. I loved this show, because even though it was blistering outside and I didn’t have shade or sunscreen, even though they couldn’t hear themselves due to monitor issues, Car Seat Headrest commanded the crowd and put on one of the best rock performances I’ve ever seen. They improvised, involved their fans, and had everyone singing “Stop eating meat, we love you, and we don’t want the animals to die” at the top of their lungs before changing the lyrics again to prevent global warming. Hands down, never been more fine with getting sunburnt, or singing about “Drunk Drivers” before in my life.

Overall, 80/35 rocked this year.

Yours Truly,

Karina Abbott

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