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Music and Entertainment

Downtown Des Moines (DSM) has a vibrant live music scene full of passionate community support. Local artists and regional stars perform at venues like the Vaudeville Mews, Gas Lamp and Wooly’s, while national touring acts ranging from Ed Sheeran to Drake to Garth Brooks hit the stage at Wells Fargo Arena. In recent years, Downtown DSM has seen music legends, including Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney, put their talents on display.

Annual Events

The Greater Des Moines Music Coalition (DMMC) puts on several annual festivals that feature a rich mix of global stars and local standouts, including Gross Domestic Product (April), the 80/35 Music Festival (July), Little Big Fest (November) and Backstage Ball (February).

The 80/35 Music Festival, an annual two-day progressive indie and jam music festival, and the largest DMMC event, hosts as many as 50 national, regional and local bands that perform on multiple stages. A combination of free and paid stages, as well as collaboration with local businesses, nonprofits and other community builders, makes the event a source of excellent value for Downtown DSM’s economy and culture.

Little Big Fest has utilized several local venues in recent years, with the most recent event held at the Des Moines Social Club. This inclusive event aims to grow the number of women and non-binary artists playing music in Iowa.

If you’re interested in celebrating who is building up Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) music scene, you’ll want to attend the Backstage Ball. This event recognizes those who have contributed to, and propelled, the region’s awesome music scene to the next level.

Gross Domestic Product takes place at Vaudeville Mews & 4th Street Theatre in Downtown DSM, with pop-up shows in the Historic East Village. This music festival is an opportunity to see influential Iowa acts each spring.

By summer, music events abound in Downtown DSM. While 80/35 offers music-goers a weekend of back-to-back concerts. Nitefall on the River, presented by Veridian Credit Union, brings national musical acts to either the picturesque Simon Estes Amphitheater or Brenton Skating Plaza’s canopy stage weekly all summer long. See artists like Slightly Stoopid, Yonder Mountain String Band, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and more as they take the stage for thousands of music fans.

515 Alive, which has grown into one of Des Moines’ largest festivals, brings thousands of EDM and hip-hop fans to Downtown DSM where they put their hands in the air for some of the biggest acts in the business. In 2017, rapper Gucci Mane put on a show to remember. Lights and sound came together in an explosion of hip-hop music.

The Des Moines Arts Festival® is Iowa’s largest and most prestigious arts and cultural event, drawing more than 200,000 people annually to Downtown DSM. For many years, this free three-day festival has provided a celebration of the arts and has been crowned by its peers as one of the best festivals in the world, including as the three-time award winner of the International Festival and Events Association Grand Gold Pinnacle Award. More than 25+ acts perform on various stages at the event.


Musical Venues

Nestled on the eastern edge of the historic Sherman Hill district, Hoyt Sherman Place boasts one of DSM's most magnificent entertainment theaters. National touring artists, speakers and musicians come here to connect with the spirit of Des Moines and share their craft with fans.

Just a few years ago, Wells Fargo Arena underwent more than $2.5 million of enhancements, ensuring a world-class venue for artists like Garth Brooks, the Foo Fighters, Katy Perry, Miranda Lambert, Lorde, Shania Twain and more. Most recently, Ed Sheeran, who played at Wells Fargo Arena in June 2017, even called Des Moines one of his favorite cities. 

Shows by the Des Moines Symphony take place at the Des Moines Civic Center, while Broadway shows and other musical acts find their way to one of the four Des Moines Performing Arts venues: Cowles Commons, Des Moines Civic Center, the Stoner Theater and the Temple Theater. For those looking for a night out, Downtown DSM has a wide variety of hot spots. From elegant rooftop drinks in the Historic East Village to patio happy hours in the Historic Court Avenue District, it’s easy to have fun in Downtown DSM.

For those looking for a night out, Downtown DSM has a wide variety of hot spots. From elegant rooftop drinks in the Historic East Village to patio happy hours in the Historic Court Avenue District, it’s easy to have fun in Downtown DSM. Check out the Western Gateway Park district for family dining options or date nights!