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IPR's 80/35 stage hits the spot for the Serious Music Person

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Bitter Canyon plays live on Iowa Public Radio from 80/35 in Des Moines.

To start, I’d like to admit to you a little secret: not so long ago, I worked for IPR. I’ve moved on, but I find myself today in the enviable position of going on adventures where I take photos, run cameras, write articles and hang out with old and new friends alike around the Iowa music scene. (You can too, through Studio One’s B-Side Blog. I want to note here that if you haven’t been paying attention, Studio One has always been cool. But recently, it’s become even moreso.)

Now that I’ve set the stage for myself, and you know that I have the eyes of someone who used to be very much on the inside and chose to man a video camera this weekend, I want to talk about the IPR Stage at 80/35.

It's about local, original music

When you understand what this stage is doing at the festival, you’ll realize how remarkable it is. The mission of showcasing and celebrating local musicians is central to 80/35’s ethos, and I can’t think of a better example of that than what IPR was doing last weekend.

In addition to presenting local bands, the IPR stage was capturing a multitrack recording of everything for airplay statewide on Iowa Public Radio and for posting to YouTube. That’s part of what Studio One has done at musical events in our state for years, even though few recognize what's been happening. I pity the Serious Music Person who didn’t stop by to take it in. Securing the rights to do this is no small feat, and from my point of view, the independent, original music being recorded is invaluable. This is 80/35's history. This is our state's history — in sound.

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Madeleine C King
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Mark Simmet, Cece Mitchell and Tony Dehner huddle before a live broadcast from 80/35 in Des Moines.

New this year, Studio One Tracks and All Access hosts Mark, CeCe and Tony were stage left, emceeing two of the acts IPR presented Saturday straight to air. This set-up is one of the cooler additions to the IPR Stage and, I think, one of the coolest things happening at the festival. There aren’t many radio stations that go live from music festivals. The number of radio stations presenting live music from an actual stage at a festival is even smaller. We should not take it for granted that this happened in Des Moines. After all, scheduled radio broadcasts might be the original music festival in a way — it was the first medium that allowed us to listen together.  In a pandemic era where not everyone can come, the mission to make the music accessible probably matters now more than ever.

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Madeleine C King
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Fans chant "encore" after Juliano Dock's set at 80/35.

I overheard several attendees asking about the technical challenges of being live on air from a festival event and how neat they thought it was to see hosts that they’ve heard for years doing a live show right in front of them. I don’t blame them, I worked at IPR and I never got tired of watching live shows from behind the scenes.

That's a wrap

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, or at least my time at IPR’s stage had to. It was an experience coming back as an outsider, and definitely was a highlight of my 80/35. I got to capture amazing local music and see Serious Music Fans enjoy some of the best music at the coolest place at the festival. But it was also a lot, and I respect the IPR crew for keeping the work going and building something better than before the pandemic. As I wrapped my day, I felt fulfilled, and a little guilty.

“Good luck to whoever is editing this,” I remembered thinking to myself as I attempted to zoom in on a bird in a nearby tree as the final echoes of Anthony Worden’s set evaporated into the space between the nearby buildings. When I got done with my freelance gig at the IPR Stage, I set down my camera and I walked back into the hot sun with my eye toward the festival mainstage. I whispered to myself: “this festival is really fucking cool.”

Dallas Tuttle