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It’s Time for an Encore in DSM

Des Moines Live Music

April 3, 2023

This article includes information provided by the following Wooly’s staff:

Three years ago, Wooly’s alongside many venues worldwide, saw the live event space get flipped upside down. As we enter into 2023, we take a look back at how things have transformed and blossomed back in the evolving music scene of Downtown Des Moines (DSM).

2020 - 2021

2020 was the year of taking things one day at a time. We were staying up to date on guidelines and restrictions for live events that were ever-changing. There was also constant communication with fans over email and social media on the status of shows; the words canceled, postponed and rescheduled embedded in many of our brains. We were caught in the cycle of announcing a show and then postponing or canceling. These constant changes in show status took a toll on everyone mentally since so much of the future hung up in the air.

As the year progressed, we saw more and more virtual experiences like live streams and recorded content with no audiences. And eventually, towards the end of the year, we brought back smaller shows with distanced seating to welcome back fans and artists into the venue. Excitement was brewing again in attendees and staff that we all missed.


Photo Credit: Meredith Hewitt

There was frustration from all parties when artists or touring teams got sick and had to cancel or postpone. We would get a taste of some normalcy only for it to be taken away again. This uncertainty reminded us that things were still very fragile. Thankfully most fans were understanding and genuinely wanted everyone to feel better and return to the Wooly’s stage soon.

Even in 2021, we still found ourselves in the cycle of postponing and rescheduling. There was constant communication surrounding restrictions between us, fans and artists. Instead of day by day, it was now watching things show by show. However, hope crept in as we finally saw shows that were set for the 2020 schedule rolling through our doors.

2022 - Present

Toward the end of 2021 into the present day, there has been new energy around the venue. Fans are seeking out shows to see their favorite artists and make a return to the live music community. Artists are also eager to get back on the road, our packed 2023 calendar is a sign of that.


Photo Credit: Kate Lichter

Wooly’s has been given some love lately in projects that impact the look and quality of fan experience. Our front doors got some touch ups and new tile was laid down in our display windows. Inside, you can browse our merch collection on display and find seasonal decor around the space. The biggest news for audiophiles, attendees and artists, is that in December of last year we installed new sound and lighting systems that were much needed.

While we’ve experienced some updates, we still recognize that there have been some unfortunate changes. With the closing of beloved venues like Vaudeville Mews and the impending closure of Gas Lamp, it’s more important than ever to support local venues as they make up the core web of the music ecosystem.

Sound Board

Photo Credit: Kate Lichter

How To Get Involved

Some of the best ways to keep the Downtown DSM music scene thriving include attending shows, sharing events on social media and in conversation, joining street teams and supporting venue staff. But equally as important, you can seek opportunities to attend music education events and advocate and support legislation that positively impacts musicians here in the region.

Most of all, there is so much music to explore locally and globally. Take a chance on a new artist or check out a smaller venue you haven’t been to before. Your most popular favorites all started off small too, you never know who you might discover. You can check out this local startup to find new artists, too!

Here are some local & national organizations to look into:

Fan of 80/35? Then you’re a fan of Des Moines Music Coalition (DMMC)! DMMC organizes events around the region, including Gross Domestic Product, 80/35 Music Festival and many music education programs. Recently they did a study looking into the state of our music scene that included some significant next steps and areas to focus on as the DSM scene grows. Check out the full report here.

Have someone in your household who’s interested in music but doesn’t know where to start? Take a peek at Girls Rock DSM and School of Rock West Des Moines!

Girls Rock DSM works to create a space that empowers cis-girls, women, gender expansive, nonbinary, trans youth and adults through music and provides various camps, workshops and more, while School of Rock West Des Moines provides lessons, camps and workshops for those as young as preschool all through adulthood.

Read more about and support National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which formed in April 2020 and launched the movement #SaveOurStages and helped the Save Our Stages Act (formally known as the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant Program) be signed into law in December of 2020.

Independent Venue Week brings together independent venues from across the U.S. annually through venue programming and is set to take place July 10 – 16 of this year. Follow their

socials to learn more about other local venues right here in DSM or make a bucket list of venues you’d like to attend a show at across the nation.

We look forward to seeing you at a Wooly’s show soon!

Author Profiles

Kate Lichter

Kate Lichter is a Marketing Manager and Graphic Designer at Wooly’s, First Fleet Concerts and Val Air Ballroom.

Josh Hewitt

Josh Hewitt is the Marketing Director for Wooly’s and First Fleet Concerts, plus a planner and organizer for Hinterland Music Festival. He loves being outdoors with his dog, Marvin, and wife, Meredith.

Grace Ekema

Grace Ekema is the Ticketing Manager at First Fleet Concerts and manages the box office at venues such as Wooly’s, Val Air Ballroom and Water Works Park.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.

Wooly's Staff

Wooly's is a live music venue in the Historic East Village in Downtown Des Moines (DSM).