The Top Five Acts to See at 80/35
It has arrived. The ninth annual 80/35 music festival starts tonight and continues an annual tradition of excellence with the biggest and best event of its kind in the state. Here are the top five artists I’d recommend on this year’s lineup of 40-plus acts on three stages:
Nas: 80/35 has a nice history of booking some of the most legendary acts in hip-hop history, like former headliners Public Enemy and Wu Tang Clan. This year, rap titan Nas tops the festival lineup and with good reason: In 2014 he celebrated the 20th anniversary of his all-time classic record Illmatic (universally recognized as one of the top 10 hip hop records ever) with a series of worldwide performances and he’s leveraged the attention into a bit of a career resurgence. Expect him to gloss over some of his career sidetracks and personas (probably won’t hear a lot from his Nastradamus years) and to focus instead on the forever golden — and still highly relevant — master storytelling of his Illmatic prime. He headlines the Main Stage on Friday night.
Lizzo: The fest nailed the timing for this artist who is just turning a corner into nationwide visibility this year after taking over the Minneapolis hip-hop scene and gaining speed with an opening slot on Sleater-Kinney’s reunion tour. Her massive presence on stage projects both joy and musical mastery as her rapid flow plays against a sauntering R&B vibe for an unforgettable live experience. She headlines the Kum & Go Stage on Saturday night.
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down: Thao is one of the most ferocious and enjoyable singers in indie rock and her band keeps pace with a seamless live show that manages to throw a considerable helping of beauty into the beastly sound. They play the Main Stage on Saturday.
Green Death: Green Death has taken the throne as the leading metal act of the moment in Central Iowa and they earn the good reputation with a blistering live show that is long on musicianship: Their guitarist absolutely rips through blazing solos and their drummer is one of the fastest and tightest in the area. A recent string of good fortune and label success has bolstered the buzz around them. They headline the Nationwide Stage on Saturday night.
Lucky Chops: This fun-loving brass band is one of those wild card acts that catches people off guard every year at 80/35 and they are one of my top priorities to check out for that very reason. They put their stamp on standards and not-so-standards and throw in some genial choreography to encourage a party feeling that is sure to already be rampant by the time they play the Kum & Go Stage on Saturday evening.
Lyndsay & the Love Club at Prairie Moon Winery
After all the 80/35 music overflow, cool down with a chill afternoon of local acoustic bands at Prairie Moon as their Live at the Crib series continues on Sunday afternoon with performances from the Iowa-prairie-repping folk group Lyndsay & the Love Club and the lo-fi pop quartet The Pretzel Heads.
Spence at DG’s
These guys win your heart about one second into their show when you realize that if this is an emo band the emotion is unabashed pleasure in the conventions of pop-punk. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever heard their songs or not, if you can say “whoa” you can sing along. They are at DG’s on Tuesday with the Kansas City rockers Razorwire Halo.