On Friday evening TWO weekends back, we made our way south out of Des Moines through covered bridge territory to the 3rd ever Hinterland.
The first year this event was announced, it was due to take place in Water Works which would have been amazing. For us. Because we can walk there. But, it would have also been filled with bug bites and the event planning nightmare of August floods.
So, it was then and has been ever since, at the The Avenue of the Saints near St. Charles, IA. A quick tiny drive from the city and right off the interstate and through a town with a Casey's, there you are. Of course, classic Gilbert's, we got off the interstate early because of construction, found some beautiful backroads, saw an almost terrible motorcycle/husky collision, typed in the wrong address (me), and grew increasingly hangry (Zach). All before Head and the Heart took stage :)
The venue is this giant grass/dirt bowl with one beautiful Joshua tree type of tree. That's not true. But close.
The merch tables and food stands sit on the upper rim, and these steep sidewalks shoot straight to the pit. The pit is actually just a clearing with a giant stage where the up close viewers gather and watch. Not aggressively watch, either. Very tame crowd.
Speaking of the crowd, there is a little of everyone. People that came from a little town nearby for Dwight Yokam and any other country feeling vibes, people that came after their coffee shop shifts to see Head and the Heart, young professionals that came for the Des Moines summer bucket list event, and a lot of everyone else in between.
Zach and I came from somewhere in between. I haven't been to a music festival since Warped Tour in high school. Zach just saw Bon Iver play at an amazing outdoor festival in the Twin Cities last month. I have wanted to come to Hinterland every year, but have just never made the effort to buy tickets, drive, and figure it out. We are thankful to have been gifted the opportunity to go and watch and see and experience and document the 3rd annual festival this year :)
We came in hot to the food trucks. Fair corndogs (Zach haha), a three pack from Moar Tacos, a big scoop of mint ice cream from Outside Scoop, and a cold can of beer to get us acclimated. We saw friends and plopped down on the hill to take it all in. We were actually back in the family/kids zone which was awesome to watch! Parent goals right there.
Head and the Heart took stage and I reminisced about the last time I saw them with good friends in Minneapolis. I was just a wee 20 year old. After a set change and some more hellos, alt-J went on. The sun had set, which provided the perfect back drop for a crazy cool light show. Zach popped up into the photo pit and got some good shots of these bowlcut/bangs (okay we will call it fringe, they are European after all).
We stood up close for a bit and then wandered back to the hill to watch the lights. The stage had really really great sound set up (in my opinion). I don't know any of the technicalities of concert soundboards/speakers, but this was nice.
Speaking of photo pit, Zach brought along his camera, threw some bows in the photo pit (not actually at all) and got really wonderful photos for me! I can pull out my phone and snap a Zach with a corndog photo, but we are both far better off when he brings his camera along! These show a really accurate portrayal of the weekend.
We thought about camping overnight. It's easy enough for us to throw our stuff in the back of the Subaru and we could very happily live off all of the foods and drinks that Hinterland hosted (morning coffee with husband wife folk duo?!) However, we decided to not go through the details and packing. Now that we know the lay of the land a bit more and caught glimpse of the picturesque pond in the camp zone, we are planning on it next time.
We slept in our bed and came back on Saturday with Nathan after a quick stop for coffee.
We came just in time for Max Jury's set. Max is an old friend and it makes me so happy to watch him growing in his sound and his following. His performance was beauuuutifulllll and Des Moines was happy to have him back for an afternoon :)
The rest of the day was a blur of walking, eating, talking, watching, anticipating the next set, and taking naps in our car.
I love love love that Des Moines is small enough to run into my fitness coach, co-workers, good friends, friends from church, Zach's old pals from high school - the gambet.
This is the first festival I have been to with one stage, so with a lot of time to kill, it makes way more sense why people bring blankets and chairs and set up shop on the hill between sets. Next time :)
Bands I had not heard of, but all have incredible vibes and voices: The Cactus Blossoms, JD McPherson, and Nikki Lane.
Shakey Graves was perfect. They have been on rotation for me this summer and I wouldn't have wanted to see them anywhere else.
We only watched a few songs as it was the weird dip in energy part of the afternoon and there were a few rain drops.
We walked to Casey's and got pizza :) Classic midwest.
When we got back, Dwight Yokam was on stage. He was actually a riot - he has a big stage presence and an extremely loud voice. His crew wore hip jeans and bling-y blazers.
The country fans cleared out and the Gary Clark Jr fans went forth.
And it was amazing. I have said for years and years that I am not a guitar solo person. Maybe if it's John Mayer, but even then....
But, now I take it back. A live guitar solo is incredible. And six live guitar solos strung together is even more incredible.
He did minimal talking, small amounts of singing, and a lot of guitar playing.
He also did small amounts of looking. His eyes were almost always pinched closed while he played. The most concentration.
His spotify albums are equal parts studio / live albums. So I knew he had to be real amazing live.
This was by far the best set (IMO) of the weekend. It was seriously a dream to watch both up close and a few steps back.
What was ALSO amazing both up close and a few steps back, was his lead guitarist.....
All talk after the set was just amazement. And satisfaction.
Ryan Adams had pretty strict photo policies, so we chilled back on the hill to round out the weekend. He played a few classics and a few new ones. There was at least 7 minutes of solo instrumentals tucked in there very casually.
The closing scene was beautiful. Everyone looked sleepy but in awe of the weekend and of live music.
Big cheers to the coordinators of Hinterland. It's a wonderful thing to happen far enough away from Downtown Des Moines, but close enough for comfort.
Sign up for next year! And have the best weekends!