Organizers revealed the lineup for the 2017 edition of Hinterland Music Festival, scheduled to take place Aug. 4 and 5 at the Avenue of the Saints Ampitheater in St. Charles, Ia. Wochit
ST. CHARLES, Ia. — The hills of southern Iowa jumped to life again Friday evening as guitar chords rumbled through the countryside, kicking off year three of the anticipated Hinterland Music Festival.
Taking place at the Avenue of the Saints Amphitheater in rural Madison County, an estimated 9,000 festival-goers and campers flooded the hillside grounds to catch acts the likes of Des Moines’ Annalibera, Los Angeles nontet Foxygen, Seattle folk act The Head and the Heart and headlining indie act alt-J at the festival's opening evening. Kicking off with Annalibera just after 5 p.m., audience members dove head-first into sunny, mild temperatures from Mother Nature — unlike what fans experienced at Chicago’s Lollapalooza Thursday night — and strong-spirited performances from each of the night’s acts.
Here are three must-see highlights from the first night of Hinterland’s third year.
Lights on lights on lights
The evening’s headliner, weirdo British indie act alt-J, brought a lights show so big that Hinterland had to build an entire new stage to host the band this year. An investment that paid off, as the band brought with it a head-turning visual spectacle.
The three-piece outfit — guitarist and vocalist Joe Newman, keyboardist and vocalist Gus Unger-Hamilton and drummer Thom Sonny Green — was surrounded on the Hinterland main stage with pulsing lights and screens during the duration of the performance. Each strand of light and inch of screen moved and throbbed with alt-J, adding another layer of sensation to the aural oddities often delivered by the group.
Each track was preformed during the group's 19-song, 75-minute headlining show with a new visual for the crowd to absorb. Set closer and fan favorite “Breezeblocks” was met with an orange and yellow display surrounded by numerous spotlights; 2014 number “Nara” offered spirals of red lights; and penultimate track “Left Hand Free” relied heavily on a pink, purple and white look.
The experimental band marked this Iowa tour stop, alt-J’s first, in support of its third studio album,” Relaxer,” which dropped earlier this summer.
“It’s our first time tonight playing in Iowa and it’s really … awesome to have you guys out here watching us,” Unger-Hamilton said before the close of the set. “I’m sorry it took so long.”
Soaking in the (mild) sun
Festival-goers were greeted with mild, sunny weather that peaked with a high temperature around 80 degrees and a low in the upper 50s. The lower-than-usual early August temperatures proved delightful for main stage onlookers, including Kelly Flinn and John Duignan.
Traveling from Iowa City, Friday marked the third year for Flinn and Duignan to attend Hinterland.
“We’re happy they kept it here,” Duignan said. “Best thing they ever did was bring (Hinterland) out here … fantastic. Every festival’s had good weather. There hasn’t been a bad day.”
A mother and daughter, Karen Hyatt and Annie Smith, traveled together from Des Moines. Hyatt shows excitement at catching songwriter Ryan Adams headline Saturday’s show, while Smith leans more towards alt-J.
“I like (alt-J's) music; you don’t have to think about it,” Smith said.
The Head and the Heart … and the shorts
Following the night’s opening set from Annalibera and second-slated act Foxygen, Seattle’s own The Head and the Heart took to the Hinterland stage for an hour-long set. The group pulled from multiple releases during the performance, delivering tracks such as “Rhythm & Blues,” “City of Angels” and “Let’s Be Still.”
The lively group returned to Iowa a day after performing at the storied Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. And, apparently, singer and guitarist Jonathan Russell forgot to set his clock back and the band’s set time snuck up on him. He said he thought it was approaching 7 p.m. when, in actuality, it was approaching 8 p.m. and the band’s set time.
He appeared on stage, to the jokes of his bandmates, wearing a pair of high-cut jean shorts … a product of the time change error, Russell explained early in the show. Still, he led the group through a collection of passionate and resonating numbers, including “Lost In My Mind” and show closer “River and Roads.”
The six-piece band continues its tour through the fall, with plans to play Lollapalooza on Saturday.
“Beautiful, Iowa … thank you so much,” Russell said at the end of the set. “I hope you had as much fun as we did.”
Hinterland resumes Saturday with headliner Ryan Adams, blues player Gary Clark Jr. and more. Music kicks off at 12:45 p.m. with Des Moines-raised songwriter Max Jury.
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