Another 80/35 has come and gone, and all that's left are the memories we made with other Serious Music People along the way. Just kidding, kind of. Now that we've all showered, packed away our gear and returned to the air conditioning, we asked Studio One Hosts Mark Simmet, Tony Dehner and Sydney Hauer to write about their favorite acts from 80/35 this weekend.
The consensus is that the old favorites put on great shows, and that everybody needs to go check out Chicago based band Sidewalk Chalk. Who were your favorites? Did you see anybody you think we should be playing more of on Studio One? Tweet us @IowaPublicRadio.
Portugal. The Man
With so many great bands at 80/35 this year, it might seem a bit obvious to choose a headliner as my favorite set of the festival, but there’s no doubt it was Portugal. The Man. The Meskwaki dancer, the Beavis and Butt-Head introduction, the excellent use of lights and video screen and the well placed bits of classic rock (Pink Floyd, Beatles, Rolling Stones, T.Rex) all contributed to a stellar show. Portugal. The Man concentrated on their last two records for the songs, and that worked just fine. The pacing of their set never lagged, and as musicians this band can really play.
I also loved Liz Phair’s set. Des Moines was the last stop of the summer leg of her tour, and the band celebrated by holding nothing back in their three guitars plus bass and drums attack. Liz was smiling and relaxed, with a set heavy on “greatest hits.” This was to the delight of both fans in the audience who have been digging her since the ‘90s and others who came to see what the fuss was all about. Liz Phair’s catchy and sometimes provocative songs still hold up. My only complaint was that an hour was just too short!
After Liz Phair, I strolled over to another stage to catch the New Zealand four-piece The Beths. We’ve been playing their latest record “Future Me Hates Me” on Studio One. Sometimes you need to see a band live to really get into what they’re doing. They are something special. Front woman Elizabeth Stokes writes smart hook-filled indie rock songs, ably delivered by her and the other band members who are all longtime friends.
And The Kids
And The Kids out of Northampton, Massachusetts released their third studio album “When This Life is Over” back in February, and we played it regularly on Studio One Tracks. I wandered over to the main stage to catch their set. I was struck by their melodies, and the beautiful voice of lead singer Hannah Mohan. The band has a captivating stage presence that held my attention from start to finish. Luckily, they played a second set on IPR’s stage, so I got to see them twice.
I went into the festival Friday with minimal familiarity with Canadian band Metric and was blown away by their performance. Frontwoman Emily Haines is an excellent performer, and their set inspired me to delve into their discography and listen deeper. They mostly played tracks from their recent record, “Art of Doubt.” I hope I will be able to catch them live again sometime.
Ellisa Sun is an artist from San Francisco currently on a year-long tour with her partner in a 30 foot Winnebago. She played an exclusive set on IPR’s Live Sessions Stage and drove all the way from Chicago to Des Moines to perform. We were so lucky to have her. Her music is soul, pop, and jazz-influenced and was warm and lovely. She was an excellent addition to this years lineup, and I’m glad that we were able to have her join us.
With three hours notice, Des Moines based band The Maytags were enlisted to fill in for Yungblud, who was forced to cancel his Friday appearance after his tour bus broke down. The Maytags came through and kicked off 80/35 with a great set, including songs from their new album, “Meriweather.” It’s the second time they’ve filled in at 80/35 last minute – taking the place of Action Bronson in 2017. I stood about 10 feet from the stage for their set, and they put on a show that only seasoned professionals could given the short notice.
Headliner Elle King is best known for her pop single “Ex’s & Oh’s.” Friday night festivalgoers learned she’s much more than just a Top 40 radio darling. Elle and her band ripped through songs from both of her albums, bringing a dive bar vibe to the main stage with a bluesy, rootsy sound. The main attraction, of course, was Elle King’s edgy and powerful voice.
My favorite new band from the festival was Sidewalk Chalk, a seven-piece act from Chicago that effortlessly combines soul, jazz, funk and hip-hop for a sound that is perfectly tailored for hot summer days. Keyboard grooves, tight drum beats, and horn lines are prevalent, with gorgeous vocals from Maggie Vagle and hard-hitting verses from MC Rico Sisney. Sidewalk Chalk appeared at the IPR Live Sessions stage at 2:15 on Saturday, just 30 minutes following the end of their first set of the day at the Kum & Go Stage.
This year marked two years in a row that the Cedar Falls band Hex Girls performed at 80/35. In 2018, they were one of the IPR exclusive bands at the Live Sessions Stage, and since then they’ve released a full-length record. Having gained a reputation as one of Iowa’s best live bands, Hex Girls played the opening slot on Friday night at the Nationwide free stage. Playing songs from their debut album and some new ones, Hex Girls left everything on stage, despite the overwhelming afternoon heat.