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Must-Attend Summer Concerts in DSM

Summer Concerts and Music in DSM USA

May 22, 2017

Nowadays, it seems like Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a must-stop city for band tours, and artists tout Des Moines as an amazing city to experience. (Read what Lyle Lovett wrote about Hoyt Sherman Place.) As our city continues to grow, our taste for great tunes does as well, and fortunately we don’t have to go far — or even wait long — without catching a great show. The summer of 2017 is sure to be no different. Of all the bands and musicians to see this summer, I’m here to highlight a few favorites I’m sure to check out.

80/35: July 7 - 8

Of course, 80/35 makes the list. 80/35 is one of the highlights of the year, and this year is sure to be no different. It’s a special experience; one where you see the list of bands each year and recognize a few of them, but where the real excitement is falling in love with music you’ve never heard before. This event allows for opportunities to hear music from every imaginable music genre, and it’s all delicious. Headlining this year’s 80/35 is a band called The Shins.

Hinterland Music Festival: August 4 - 5

While not in Des Moines proper, the drive is short to take in even more music at Hinterland. The two-day music festival, set in rural St. Charles, combines Americana, country and folk music with the great outdoors. Concertgoers even have the opportunity to camp overnight during this event, something I’ll be sure to try out this year. Alt-J and Ryan Adams headline this year’s lineup along with favorites of mine Gary Clark Jr., Shakey Graves and many more. This will be the first year I get to experience this festival I’ve heard so much about; I guess I better hurry up and buy a camping tent!

Metro Arts’ Jazz in July

That’s right I said it: Jazz. And, in Des Moines, we are filled to the brim with amazing jazz music and musicians. I grew up in Des Moines going to this concert series and falling in love with the ever-spontaneous solos and rim shots, bass lines and seemingly 15-fingered pianists. Jazz in July takes place throughout the summer, and, at locations across Des Moines. If you don’t have a good lawn chair for one of these shows, that’s just fine, all you need is your dancing shoes.

HomeDitty Concerts

Of all the concerts on my list, I find the most intimate and special moments take place at concerts like those featured in the HomeDitty lineup. Des Moines startup HomeDitty now allows area residents to easily book bands and have them play in their very own living rooms. Thanks to Des Moines music champion Katie Byers, we can now see some of our favorite bands up close and personal. Don’t know anyone who’s putting one of these concerts on in the area? Try it out! Book your jukebox hero yourself, then invite the whole neighborhood to your very own concert.

Plastic Apartment @ Chill on the Hill: June 23

While I enjoy getting out to all of the shows I can throughout the summer, I also do a bit of playing myself. As an avid drummer of 16 years, I’m happy to say my band, Plastic Apartment, has become somewhat of a Des Moines staple. We tout ourselves as “The Midwest’s and everyone else’s favorite cover band,” and get out to play a show around the area about once a month. We play a little something for everybody and you’re sure to have a good time. We’ll be playing in Pleasant Hill at their weekly summer concert series with Copper Creek Lake as the backdrop.

Des Moines Arts Festival: June 23 - 25

I know what you’re thinking: the Des Moines Arts Festival?! For a good concert?! Isn’t this where I go to check out world class artists (while enjoying a nice beverage from the Iowa Craft Beer Tent)? Well, yes. But you can also enjoy getting to know those world-class artists while also enjoying some great tuneage as well, and this year’s lineup of bands for the Arts Fest isn’t going to disappoint. Although it might not seem like the most likely of places to catch an incredible concert  believe you me, it is  it’s something I look forward to each year in Des Moines.


There will be some great music all weekend during the festival on both the Hy-Vee Main Stage as well as the Meredith Acoustic stage. There are some artists I have heard of but not heard live, some unknowns and some great community staples all in the mix this year. I’m really looking forward to hearing Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the headliner on Saturday, for the first time. This is a band I have admired for some time, but have never seen live. It is a long-time touring classic rock band that comes with a bit of nostalgia, as well as some great face-melting guitar solos as well.


There are some great folk/Americana artists that will be performing as well, including The Pines on Friday night and Joe Purdy, who headlines the acoustic state Saturday night. I’m very intrigued by Joe’s ‘troubadour’ way of life and way of writing music.


Along with these great headliners are some talented and diverse set of others in the lineup this year. From SIRES and the James Biehn BandDawg Yawp to GoodcaTGirls Rock! Des Moines to The Dead Line String Band and many more  29 acts in total!


Included in there are some local favorites of mine as well. It’s always a great day when I can get my dancing shoes on with The Maytags, chill out with Rob Lumbard, being able to listen to the insightful and soulful sound of Abbie and Sawyers  and getting to hear Abbie again alongside the great NOLA Jazz Band  see, there’s that mention of great jazz music in Des Moines, again.


All in all, there’s something for anyone and everyone at the Des Moines Arts Festival. And, even though you might be there to see some great art, you can certainly expect to hear some, as well.

This is just a few of the great acts to see this summer in the region. To find more events, check out a list of upcoming festivals. If you’re interested in local music and musicians, download the DSM USA Music Mix.

Cory Sharp

Cory Sharp is past president of the Young Professionals Connection (YPC) and an architect passionate about Greater Des Moines (DSM), music and the great outdoors. He can normally be found playing with his dog Emma, enjoying time with friends at local craft breweries or out networking at various community events.