Looking for Live Music? A Guide to Iowa's Summer Music Festivals

Jul 1, 2016

Music lovers of Iowa unite! Iowa has a growing summer music festival scene. To get a handle on the happenings, we've compiled this handy guide. If you see something missing, tweet us @IPRStudioOne. TO learn more about these festivals, and to hear interviews with many of the organizers, check out The B-Side, IPR's music blog. 

Prairie Land Music Fest - June 24-26

About: The first annual folk/Celtic music festival and camp out will be held at the Johnson County Fairgrounds in Iowa City. You’ll hear folk music, Celtic tunes and Native American flute music at this event. Attendees will also be able to visit a henna artist, get a caricature drawn, participate in a drum circle or try their hand at old time axe throwing.

Tickets: $27.50 in advance (includes camping), $32.50 day of festival

Location: Johnson County Fairgrounds

Two Rivers Music Festival - June 24-26

About: A new bluegrass and Americana festival organized by Blake Daly, a member of the Iowa City based “Flash in a Pan,” is happening 40 minutes south of Iowa City in Conesville. In addition to wine tasting, food vending and live art, attendees can camp on the 70 acre event grounds and visit Possum’s Lodge or One Eye’d Jack’s, two bars built by a land owner who spends some of his free time welding art.

Tickets: $35 in advance (includes camping), $20 for a day pass   

Location: Conesville Event Grounds

Mississippi Valley Blues Festival - July 1-2

About: After a one-year hiatus, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival returns to Davenport’s LeClaire Park as a two-day festival - it had previously spanned three days. This is one of the top blues festivals in the country, and it once again boasts a terrific lineup that represents a wide variety of blues styles.

Tickets: $20 for a two-day pass (single-day also available)

Location: Davenport

80/35 Music Festival - July 8-9

About: Located in downtown Des Moines, and now in its 9th year, 80/35 has attracted national attention for presenting a variety of genres: indie rock, bluegrass, hip-hop, jam bands, and more. 80/35 also features a large number of Iowa-based artists every year. In addition to the main stage, located at Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park, there are two smaller free stages, as well as the Generation Z stage and Iowa Public Radio’s own stage, where select festival artists will perform brief sets. About 30,000 people have attended 80/35 each year since 2008. Hear what organizer Amedeo Rossi has to say about this year's line-up; he spoke with Studio One's Tony Dehner. 

Tickets: $80 for a two-day pass, $45 for a single day (only necessary for the main stage area)

Location: Western Gateway Park, Des Moines

Camp Euforia - July 14-16

About: Camp Euforia started in 2004 as a fan appreciation party for the then Iowa City based band Euforquestra. Over the last decade, the festival has grown to include camping, two stages hosting more than 25 artists, and a bar. Outside of Camp Euforia, the event grounds are a working farm. Camping is set up around Jerry Hotz’s home, who owns the land. Camp Euforia features rock, funk and Americana artists, and of course, Euforquestra.

Tickets: $110 for 3-day general admission (includes camping), $300 for a VIP ticket

Location: Lone Tree

515 Alive Music Festival - July 22-23

About: This year marks the 14th year of 515 Alive in Des Moines and is expected to draw around 15,000 attendees this year. 515 Alive is a mostly electronic and hip hop festival boasting more than 100 acts this year. Attendees will also be able to watch a live graffiti demo and explore booths full of art from local artists. This is a city festival, so tickets don’t include camping. Alcohol and food vending will be available on site. 515 Alive is Iowa’s longest running festival.

Tickets: $62.50 for a two day pass, $99.50 for a two day VIP pass

Location: Western Gateway Park, Des Moines

Hinterland Music Festival - August 5-6

About: Hinterland is a two-day festival held at the Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater in St. Charles (20 miles south of Des Moines). It’s just the second year for Hinterland, but it’s already attracted several top-tier artists, and this year will feature Willie Nelson and Ray LaMontagne as headliners. Camping is available right next to the festival grounds, and a free shuttle service will be offered from Southridge Mall in Des Moines.

Tickets: $95 for a two-day pass, $259 for VIP (single-day available, camping & parking are extra: kids under 12 are free with a paying adult)

Location: Avenue of the Saints Ampitheater, St. Charles

Fresh Fest - August 19-20
MarKaus performing on stage in the Basement at the Des Moines Social Club
Credit Tony Dehner

About: Des Moines based hip-hop artist MarKaus is organizing a hip-hop festival to be hosted at the Des Moines Social Club. Enjoy two days of live hip-hop and an urban fashion show on two stages. Media Fresh Records is sponsoring the festival which is billed as a celebration of culture and diversity through hip hop. The festival has grown out of monthly hip-hop jams at the social club.

Tickets: $20 for a 1 day pass, $25 for a 2 day pass

Location: Des Moines Social Club, Des Moines

Kosmos Music Festival - August 26-27

About: Kosmos is an electronic music festival that will feature house music, techno, drum and bass and much more. It’s being put on by some of the same minds that organized 515 Alive (see above). Kosmos bills itself as a “unique experience that invokes self-exploration, radical self-expression and appreciation for different styles of music and art.” Live fire performance, flow art and yoga will be a part of this event. There’s a pre-party for the festival taking place at the Des Moines Social Club on August 13.

Tickets: $49.50 (includes camping), $79.50 for VIP (includes camping)

Location: St. Charles, Avenue of the Saints Ampitheater

River Roots Live - August 26-27

About: River Roots Live is held every year in Davenport’s LeClaire Park. As the name indicates, the performers are more likely to fit into the Americana/roots-rock mold, but the festival also includes some blues, country & bluegrass acts, and several Iowa bands & artists. River Roots partners with Ribfest, so there will be some incredible food available. The event also features a Junior Jam on the festival grounds for younger musicians, as well as local art installations and other family activities.

Tickets: $25 for a two-day pass (VIP available: single-day passes will be available at the gate)

Location: Davenport

Fairfest - September 2-4

About: Fairfest is a three day festival in Fairfield over Labor Day weekend. The festival hosts concerts and live performances in bars, restaurants and coffee shops around town, in addition to a few outdoor stages. This year, Buddy Guy is headlining the festival, which is hosting several Grammy award winning musicians. Fairfest features blues, bluegrass and Americana acts.

Tickets: $39 for a 3-day pass, $250 for VIP pass

Location: Fairfield

Bowlful Of Blues - September 4

About: This single-day blues festival is held at Maytag Park in Newton by the South Skunk Blues Society. Bowlful of Blues always features several Iowa blues musicians in addition to nationally-touring performers. There will also be performers in between the main sets, and Iowa Public Radio will be on hand to record the performances, which will eventually be heard on IPR’s Blue Avenue.

Tickets: $20 in advance, $25 at the gate (15 & under free with an adult)

Location: Newton


GARP - September 9-10

About: GARP will be the inaugural music festival at Codfish Hollow, a magical implement barn turned music venue in rural Maquoketa. There will be more than 30 bands with only 700 tickets for sale, which go on sale Friday, July 1 at noon. The festival is named after the late "furry duke" of the Hollow, owner Tiffany Biehl's late dog. Hear Biehl's conversation with Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe about how the venue became one of the most popular stopovers for bands in the Midwest completely by accident. 

Tickets: $125, includes camping

Location: Maquoketa

Maximum Ames Music Festival - September 15-18

About: ​This is the sixth year of this festival, which is organized by the Iowa-based Maximum Ames record label. Over 100 acts will perform at several downtown Ames venues, including a large number of Iowa artists.  The festival is also known for various showcases, including the Ames Intergenerational Song Circle, the Ames Women Of Rock Showcase and the Varietease showcase.

Tickets: ​$39.95 for an all-festival pass: tickets also available for individual events (some venues are 21+)

Location: Downtown Ames