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High anticipation for Kacey Musgraves' Hinterland appearance was apparent in the moments before her 8 p.m. set Friday, through undeniable angst.

Musgraves fans — many identifiable by their cowgirl hats — claimed their spots, ready to defend their patch of grass from the unavoidable attempts by latecomers to squeeze into the perfect view of the Grammy Award-winning country star.

Arguments broke out, snide comments were made, but all was worth it for an unforgettable set by Musgraves and her band to a filled-out St. Charles valley with 14,000 in attendance, according to festival organizers, including patrons from 37 states and five continents.

The previous single-day Hinterland attendance record was 11,200 on Aug. 4, 2018, a Saturday headlined by Sturgill Simpson.

After a whirlwind year of growing popularity since releasing her 2018 LP "Golden Hour" — which won the Grammy for Album of the Year — Musgraves has been offering accessible country music for many outside of the Americana scene.

"It means the world to me," Musgraves told the Hinterland audience Friday night about the fan support for her album.  

Despite her growing popularity, Musgraves did not headline the 5-year-old Iowa festival. She instead opened for alt-rock musician Hozier, also known as Andrew John Hozier-Byrne.

Hinterland organizer Sam Summers said Musgraves could easily headline her own day, though that wasn't the case when she was booked. The result: Friday ended with two well-attended, crowd-engaged sets as if two headliners were scheduled.

Like another headliner

Musgraves followed earlier sets from The Killers' guitarist and now solo artist Dave Keuning, British artist Jade Bird, and St. Paul, Minnesota, indie rock group Hippocampus.

The members of Hippocampus are big fans of Musgraves, Summers said, as they opened for her Friday evening.

"Alright Kacey, get out here," Hippocampus member Nathan Stocker said, which was met with gasps for a possible pre-show appearance before Stocker followed with, "just kidding."

Summers said Musgraves would be treated like a headliner, and she was.

Stage production brought her performance up a notch from earlier performers, ending the night with raining confetti. Her performance felt like the end of the festival's first night, but the energy maintained throughout Hozier's performance.

Musgraves plays the (recent) hits

Musgraves didn't stray far from her 2018 album, despite having two earlier albums to draw from. That pleased the audience, who sang along to "Golden Hour" favorites like "Slow Burn," "Butterflies," and "High Horse."

Musgraves may have stuck with mostly her recent work, but that doesn't mean she didn't bring something new to the table. She and her six-piece band, all in matching blue, offered extended intros and news transitions between songs.

Before the song "Mother," the band formed a semi-circle around Musgraves, creating an intimate feel for the performance's more classic country moments, transitioning into "Oh, What A World," and her sophomore album's "Family is Family." 

Those moments were plagued by some loss of audience attention, with some likely waiting for another "Golden Hour" hit, though a group toward the front enthusiastically danced to the "Beauty Pageant" tune. 

Musgraves beautifully transitioned into the last phase of her show with an acoustic version of "Love Is A Wild Thing" that abruptly became a full band effort with lights to match.

The Yeehaw Queen beckons

"I tried something at Coachella. It didn't work out very well," Musgraves told the crowd Friday. 

Those who follow Musgraves in the news knew what to expect next.

"When I say 'Yee,' you say 'Haw,'" Musgraves prompted the audience. 

Attendees were ready to prove their worth to the so-called "Yeehaw Queen," screaming "Haw!" back at her. 

The hills were filled and fans in front of the stage squeezed in tight for Musgraves' performance. The audience ate up every moment of the 30-year-old singer's effort, whether she was dancing to the band or saying something crass and charming.

Immediate excitement met the first recognizable notes of "High Horse" — an audience ready to sing "giddy up, giddy up." The hit also signified that Musgraves' set was nearing the end.

"This is my last second with you, so I want everyone to be present and sing this with me," Musgraves said. "Then, we're gonna (expletive) jump."

The audience did not fail to follow directions and jumped to "High Horse" as confetti fell from above.

Iowa scenery reminds Hozier of home 

Enthusiasm carried through for the "Take Me To Church" singer-songwriter, who was as impressed with the scenery as he was with the lineup that came before him thanks to strong showings from Keuning, Jade Bird, Hippocampus and, of course, Musgraves.

Hozier played a mix of songs from both of his LPs after his 2019 release "Wasteland, Baby!" opened at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Fans yelled the lyrics to the 2015 Grammy-nominated hit "Take Me To Church" before Hozier returned for a "Cherry Wine" encore.

Hozier joked about disappearing "into the woodlands" as he admired the scenery on a beautiful rural St. Charles evening.

"Such a gorgeous part of the world with such gorgeous people," the Irish musician said. "What a gorgeous setting. It kind of reminded me of home."

Kacey Musgraves

  1. Slow Burn
  2. Wonder Woman
  3. Butterflies
  4. Lonely Weekend
  5. High Time
  6. Golden Hour
  7. Mother
  8. Oh, What A World
  9. Family is Family
  10. Love Is A Wild Thing
  11. Velvet Elvis 
  12. Follow Your Arrow  
  13. Rainbow
  14. High Horse

Hozier

  1. Would That I
  2. Dinner & Diatribes
  3. Nina Cried Power 
  4. To Be Alone
  5. Someone New
  6. Nobody
  7. Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene
  8. Talk
  9. From Eden
  10. Work Song
  11. Shrike
  12. No Plan
  13. Jackie and Wilson
  14. Almost (Sweet Music)
  15. Movement 
  16. Take me to Church
  17. Encore: Cherry Wine

See the line-up for the rest of the festival here.

Danielle Gehr is a breaking news reporter at the Des Moines Register. She can be reached by email at dgehr@dmreg.com, by phone at 515-284-8367 or on Twitter at @Dani_Gehr.

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Read or Share this story: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/entertainment/2019/08/03/hinterland-music-festival-kacey-musgraves-golden-hour-grammy-hozier-hippocampus-st-charles-iowa/1908592001/