School has begun, and fall is in the air. But we’re not done with music festival season. Maximum Ames is happening September 5-8. It lists dozens of sets, some of whom will make even the most Serious of Music People stop and say “wait, what?”
For starters, Des Moines based blues artist Matt Woods is playing a show at the United Church of Christ.
Ben Schrag, who works with the church’s building relationships committee, reached out to Maximum Ames organizers to ask if they could be a part of this year’s event.
“We like that Maximum Ames values inclusivity, the vulnerability and humanity of the artistic expression,” says Schrag.
Following an incident in June in which the church's LGBT pride flag was ripped down and burned, Schrag says the church wants to seize the opportunity to celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of downtown.
“One of the things we say is that ‘whoever you are, wherever you are, you’re welcome here,'” he says. “The thing that I get the most kick out of is that we’re going to be inviting the broader community in underneath our replaced rainbow flag that says ‘God Is Love.’”
Bryon Dudley, who handled booking for most of the festival and works with London Underground and Nova Labs recording, says he’s looking forward to having the church involved as a venue for the festival, especially considering this is the second year Maximum Ames is partnering with Ames Pridefest.
“They’ve been a leader in the community in terms of progressive outlooks,” says Dudley about the United Church of Christ. “We have this really cool show happening in a really significant spot.”
Most of the artists on the lineup are from Iowa. A handful are from the Twin Cities and Lincoln, Nebraska. Dudley says it’s important that the lineup have a variety of music, although this year’s schedule is heavy on indie-rock acts.
“I kind of view it as kind of a hodge podge of genres. There’s almost like this ‘indie rock vs. Americana thing,’” Dudley chuckled. “Why can’t they co-exist?”
The Iowa Women of Rock Showcase will continue this year in the auditorium of Ames Public Library on Sunday afternoon. Lizzy Poppyseed, Evelyn Davis, Levitation, and Terri Underhill will all be performing, each taking a turn playing one song each. Over the years, the showcase has become a favorite event of festival organizers.
“Inevitably the women start having a conversation of sorts, commenting on the songs that were played before them, and about each other’s songwriting styles. You end up learning more about them and about songwriting in general,” says Mara Spooner, co-chair of Ames Pridefest. “The vibe of women coming together who often don't even know each other and getting to witness it is something really special.”
The Flavor Basket Pizza Party is also returning to the lineup of events, in honor of Ames singer-songwriter Charlie Vestal.
Vestal performed under the name Flavor Basket before he passed away in January of 2017 and both Spooner and Dudley describe him as a “local hero.” Vestal loved cheese, so a pizza party seemed an obvious way to honor his memory. It’s happening on Sunday, September 8th at 2:00 p.m. at KHOI Community Radio. Attendees can enjoy local musicians playing his music.
All Pridefest events are located on Douglas Avenue and 5th Street, with many of the events held at Ames Public Library. There will be educational events and discussion panels, as well as free HIV testing.
Spooner says the partnership between Maximum Ames and Pridefest feels like a natural fit.
“Ames is a special place that allows for things like this to exist,” says Spooner. “It’s wildly humbling to see just how many people believe in the work that’s being done, and enjoy everything that goes into planning such events.”
All Pridefest events are free to attend. Tickets for individual Maximum Ames events can be purchased through the host venues, and all-weekend passes are available for $20.