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The Decemberists, The Black Lips and an estimated 28,000 people bring the 80/35 music festival to a close in downtown Des Moines.

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Pat yourself on the back, Iowans. You've had a remarkable year in live music.

Des Moines saw two groundbreaking concerts with Drake, the biggest rap show in Wells Fargo Arena history, and Garth Brooks, the first artist to sell out six consecutive arena shows. The state saw the launch of new festivals like Daytrotter Downs in Davenport and GARP Fest at Codfish Hollow in rural Maquoketa. 80/35 took over downtown Des Moines for the ninth straight year while Hinterland and 515 Alive saw more people come through the doors. From one end of the state to the next, there seemed to be a little something for every music lover in 2016.

Before you get out the pitchforks and light fire to the comments section because I forgot your favorite artists, keep in mind I wasn’t able to go to every single show across the state this year. As much as I’d like to try to accomplish such a goal, it’s probably not physically possible.

And now, my favorite shows in 2016 were …

10. Steven Tyler at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand (Aug. 20)  

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Some feared Steven Tyler at the Iowa State Fair would be too much of his “new country stuff.” Spoiler: It wasn’t. The rock icon held little back, giving fans a full dose of Aerosmith classics. Plus, there’s something romantically American in hearing “Dream On” while watching the Ferris Wheel spin in the background.

9. Holy White Hounds at 80/35 (July 8)

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Des Moines’ fast-growing rock band delivered a holy white homecoming for onlookers of the 80/35 free stage. Full of energy, the group brought a standout, clever set at the downtown music fest.

8. The Front Bottoms at Wooly’s (May 4)

The New Jersey alternative punk outfit sold out Des Moines’ East Village music club Wooly’s on their first visit to the venue. Helped along by a rambunctious group of crowd-surfing fans, the group hammed through a headlining set of non-stop sing-alongs. Maybe not some people’s version of a sanctuary, but pretty close for me.

7. Carrie Underwood at Wells Fargo Arena (Oct. 7)

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This country star’s stage setup was unlike anything else at Wells Fargo Arena all year. Coined the “Storyteller” tour, her stage sat in the middle of the arena tour, giving fans a 360-degree view of Carrie Underwood and her full band. And, while her songs leave no lasting personal impression, her vocal delivery was undeniably moving.

6. Garth Brooks at Wells Fargo Arena (April 29)

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The one thing no one told me going into my first Garth Brooks concert: A Garth Brooks concert is basically a big party and Brooks is the jolly host. Exceeding my expectations, Brooks and his faithful followers were warm and welcoming during the country megastar’s two-or-so hours on stage. It’s almost unimaginable that he would repeat the amount of running and shouting from stage for five more shows that week.

5. Sturgill Simpson at Hoyt Sherman Place (Nov. 2)

Prior to his head-turning Grammy Award nomination for 2017 Album of the Year, country singer-songwriter Sturgill Simpson nailed a sold out show in Des Moines’ Sherman Hill neighborhood. Simpson, with the help of his booming voice, blends blues, rock ‘n’ roll and country-western almost seamlessly and his live show translates each genre into a dose of soulful energy.

4. William Elliott Whitmore at Hinterland (Aug. 5)

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It takes something special for the second artist on a jam-packed festival lineup to get calls for an encore but, after Whitmore’s early afternoon set at the second day of Hinterland Music Festival, the Iowa songwriter was hearing chants of “One more song!” Watching Whitmore deliver lines like “This Iowa dirt is mighty cold and God will never rest my soul” while nestled between the rolling hills of Madison County made for summertime catharsis.

3. Frank Turner at Codfish Hollow (Sept. 29)

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Frank Turner was the soundtrack to my year. The folk-meets-punk Brit’s 2015 album “Positive Song for Negative People” pounded through my earbuds with every changing season. His live shows are poignant and authentic, with crowd participation, dancing, clapping and the occasional stranger-hugging waiting for you around every corner. His show at Codfish Hollow proved just that with an added dash of magic courtesy of the rural eastern Iowa barn.

2. Drake at Wells Fargo Arena (Oct. 4)

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Drake is every bit of a remarkable performer as the hype portrays. Thoughtful and energetic, he worked the crowd like a hypnotist, using the music as a pendulum. If his in-show declaration of ““I’m not doing a tour unless we’re coming to Des Moines, Iowa for two nights” holds true, I’ll gladly hop in line for tickets to both shows. Organizers called it the biggest rap show in arena history … and it was well worth the wait.

1. Slipknot at Wells Fargo Arena (Aug.4)

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Slipknot brought it … period. The band’s first hometown show in nearly eight years was a monstrous 17-track showing of the best Des Moines’ most famed offers: There were brutal moments (like the hyper-paced delivery of “The Negative One”), somber moments (like the “Duality” encore) and completely breathtaking moments (like show closer “Spit It Out). The energy was irreplicable, the showmanship was world-class and the passion of Slipknot fans was unmatched by any in 2016.

Wait, there’s more…

Show I wish I would’ve seen but didn’t: Elvis Costello at Hoyt Sherman Place, Paul Simon at the Civic Center, The Weepies at the Englert Theater in Iowa City, Danny Brown at Wooly’s, Dolly Parton at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, the second day of 515 Alive Music Festival, Beach Slang at Codfish Hollow and Kacey Musgraves at Saturday in the Park in Sioux City.

Honorable mention gigs from 2016: Fall Out Boy at Wells Fargo Arena, Lucky Chops at 80/35, Grace Potter at Hinterland, Every Time I Die at Vaudeville Mews, RADKEY at Lefty’s, Meghan Trainor at the Iowa State Fair, Weezer and Panic! At The Disco at Stir Cove, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes at Codfish Hollow.

Matthew Leimkuehler reports on music for The Des Moines Register, Datebook and Juice. He avoids ranking things 11 months out the year. You can reach him at mleimkuehler@dmreg.com, via Twitter @mattleimkuehler or by phone at 515-284-8358. 

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