“For Kids Who Think It Still Exists” is a semi-regular column by Casey Erixon, an Iowa native who likes Gilmore Girls and Edith Wharton and thinks Nicki Minaj’s verse on “Monster” is the high watermark of MBDTF. He is proudly, defiantly, one of the kids who thinks it still exists.
The summer is over. It was great and glorious. We rolled down hills and collected wild flowers and climbed great big trees. We stayed up late and woke up early. We ran and we jumped and we sat and we danced. Oh boy did we dance. We danced in dimly lit bars and on brightly lit street corners and in the comfort of our own living rooms.
After we danced, when the time came for the sun to set, we gathered close to our friends and let the dying campfire illuminate our sunburned faces while the chilly evening air cooled our backs. And then we danced under the stars.
But that fire is dead now and the stars are hiding behind clouds, and as we piss on the smoldering ashes we are faced with the dubious prospect of elbowing our way through another long, dark Iowa winter.
But fear not, weary traveler. Just as the summer of 2015 has laid down to take one final nap on the hillside while the winds blow and the sun beams, another summer, the summer of 2016, has begun to gestate. It may seem tiny and theoretical right now, but soon it will grow and it will have fingernails and a scant handful of months from now it will be everything we know and it will stretch out forever in every direction as far as we can see and it will be full to the brim with all of our favorite things and we will rejoice and be glad.
One of those wondrous, magical things that we will consider ourselves lucky to stumble upon when the summer of 2016 unfolds before us will be the 9th annual 80/35 Music Festival. When the time comes, we will all descend onto Western Gateway Park with flower crowns and camera phones and good intentions and we will dance.
But who will we dance to?
I am, first and foremost, an amateur, and so I have little to no expertise to offer in the way of booking shows or festivals, and given the ridiculous amount of success enjoyed by the dedicated group of volunteers who make 80/35 possible, it is clear that they need no expertise, they have it in spades.
Still and all, I have chosen to spend this chapter of my life arranging pixels on the screen into the shape of commentaries about our local music scene, and as such, I feel compelled to say my piece.
The headlining acts that have graced the Main Stage at 80/35 could be put in a textbook as an example of how to curate a stylistically diverse music festival experience. From the southern psychedelia of Wayne Coyne and his Flaming Lips to the 90’s alt-rock nostalgia of Rivers Cuomo and Weezer. Or the upbeat roots music of The Avett Brothers to The actual fucking legendary Roots. We’ve had singer-songwriters like Ben Howard and Conor Oberst and we’ve had seminal, ground-breaking hip-hop groups like Public Enemy and The Wu Tang Clan.
And one lucky year, if you can believe it, we even had singer and multi-instrumentalist, Annie Clark a.k.a. St. Vincent, perform, albeit only as a co-headliner.
Yes, we’ve had quite the spread, but like my father always says (when I imagine him expressing cliched truisms that would fit nicely into whatever column I’m working on at the moment), “If you don’t have room to improve, you’ve only got room to fail.”
What follows is a incomplete and random list of notable music acts that could, potentially, conceivably, maybe, be convinced to grace the 80/35 Music Festival Main Stage. It is random. There is no agenda…
She toured this past year with a series of small, acoustic concerts but more recently she joined Taylor Swift on stage in LA to sing “You Oughta Know” so maybe she’ll be in the mood for bigger crowds by next summer.
This electro-pop three-piece from Scotland took the world by storm a few years back with their incredible debut, The Bones of What You Believe, and this year’s follow-up Every Open Eye more than exceeded the ridiculously high expectations.
I had a chance to see these folks at some small venue in Chicago a couple years ago but I couldn’t afford the bus ticket to go. However, if they played 80/35, I could just use my long-expired Drake student ID to ride the bus for free down to Western Gateway Park and all would be right and good in this cold and unfeeling universe.
It took me longer than I’d like to admit to get on board this train but now that I’m on and it’s chuggin’ along, I’m holding on and looking out the window and I’m seeing the wild and wonderful sweep of America in all it’s rapturous monstrosity.
If I so choose, I can turn my gaze inward and look around at my fellow passengers and see all that is good and great and beautiful and terrible and I can see myself and everything that I’m not. I can feel alive and I can feel the air in my beard as I stick my head out the window and the train keeps chugging along.
Grimes is insane. Like, as in she’s insanely talented as both a producer and vocalist and songwriter and artist and also insane as in she seems like one of the few people who have noticed that we are already living in a dystopian future hellscape so we might as well look and act the part.
She burst onto the scene with Visions in 2012 and seems poised to finally break out in 2016 with a new album and a headlining tour for this fall already announced.
Her scattered output since 2012 includes a collaboration with Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, a song she released which had originally been written for Rihanna, an outtake from a (possibly) scrapped album that was inspired by her tours in Asia, and whatever the fuck this is.
The highlight of my week has often been listening to his elevator pitch for whatever crazy movie he’s currently planning on making because they’re always different and unique and they never make any sense at all. If he ever does get around to filming something, I made him promise to put me in it.
We get in arguments about Kanye West nearly every day and the only modern artist he claims to like is Janelle Monae. I’ve never really gotten what she’s doing, but I trust him.
First Aid Kit
Their haunting take on Folk and Americana is made all the more compelling by the fact that it is in no way ephemeral, it’s gritty and concrete and weary. Emotionally transcendent yes, but wholly terrestrial. They sing with both of their feet so firmly planted on the ground that it’s a miracle that they can ever get up and walk away.
Haim is another band of sisters from LA. They do a celestial kind of pop-rock that is so bright and shiny-faced it sounds as if all the light from all those distant stars had gathered itself together and concentrated enough to grow fingers and toes and then taught itself how to play the bass and the synthesizer.
Their 2013 album, Days Are Gone, drew comparisons to the likes of Fleetwood Mac and En Vogue, and even landed them an opening slot on a few shows on Taylor Swift’s “The 1989 World Tour.”
Impossibly unrealistic and impractical and inadvisable. But if you’re not going to use those legs to run head first into brick walls you should just give them to somebody else who’ll do something worthwhile with them.