Live music is always more fun than a lake

So, what are your plans for the Fourth of July weekend? Something about picnics? Are you one of those “lake” people who considers the mere act of sitting near a small body of water to be the height of the human experience and weekly clog my Facebook feed with lamentations about your lack of proximity to the indefinite article lake?

If you find yourself among the latter why don’t you try staying somewhere dry for once. It’s fun, trust us. We, the dry people, can sit silently and drink cheap beer just as well as the “lake people,” we just try to avoid the prerequisite sun stroke that comes with “lake time.”

If you find yourself among the former (picnic people) the latter (lake people) or the unnamed third group (the ‘Wait, you get the Fourth of July off?’ people) I highly suggest scrapping your original plans and joining the undulating mass of music fans, that is the 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines.

The festival, which takes place in the most Des Moinesiest parts of Des Moines (downtown, around that sculpture park place) is entering it’s sixth year of existence.

The fest has hosted bands from The Flaming Lips to Public Enemy to a guy I went to high school with who turned into a DJ named DJ Diverse; so, kind of an eclectic mix.

With this year’s lineup including New Wave iconoclast/large suit enthusiast David Byrne and shaolin kung fu masters the Wu Tang Clan it’s set to be a memorable experience for all those well practiced in the marathon that is multi-day music festivals.

Oh, sure, you could just get tickets and go see the bands you want to and leave and come back later when it’s not too hot but where is the fun in that?

Full disclosure: That’s exactly what I did last year. But it was an emergency; I needed an emergency medium-rare steak, which I am unable to eat while standing up, thereby requiring a brief departure from the concert venue.

People prep for these kind of festivals as if they were to summit the north face of Everest; power bars, camel backs and strategic meeting locales abound.

Now, in the long long ago of 2008, I, your intrepid columnist, was lucky enough to cover the first 80/35 Music Festival. Sure, I had yet to see my words in glorious print and was confined solely to the “Internet” but bouncing from band to band during that pivotal and arguably most successful first year taught me quite a bit about the unique characteristics of an Iowa music festival.

Case in point: It isn’t a refugee camp.

This might not seem like something one would have to announce, but even in my brief music festival experience from seeing Pantera on Ozzfest to attending Bay Area Phish concerts I can tell you that all too often these festivals can turn into a situation begging for a U.N. relief team.

Scarce water, beleaguered people shuffling about, strange sounds in foreign languages blared over loud speakers … is it a humanitarian crisis or something I paid $115 to attend? Who knows, because I’m about to pass out from dehydration.

80/35? Not so much. Sure, there are masses of people, but very few of them are beleaguered. Water is abundant, shade is readily available and, if your lucky, some pretty red headed girl will give you an Asian-themed cheeseburger for free despite the fact that you don’t know her or remember her name to this day but remain eternally grateful.

Are there other ways the 80/35 Music Festival is different than other multi-day festivals? Sure. Am I going to tell you? No, you’re just going to have to see for yourself.

If there is one chief complaint about life in Iowa among the under 40 set it is the lack of events to attend; the infamous “nothing to do” argument for why you’re staying at home marathon watching “The X-Files” on a Saturday night.

Well, this is something. So why don’t you give “the lake” a break for one weekend and try on a little local/national music?

Also – corn dogs. Did you think there WEREN’T going to be corn dogs there? Music fest or no, this is still Iowa; if you get more than 20 of us in any one location state law demands you have at least one corn dog stand.

Also – I don’t want anyone to think I’m looking down on marathon watching “The X-Files.” I’m a huge fan, it was just an example. The truth is out there.

Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or