While festival season may have technically ended two months ago, concert-loving Iowa State students and Ames residents can look forward to the ninth annual KURE Fest on Friday.
Attendees can expect bittersweet lyrics and happy wallets, as the festival will not have an admission fee this year. Doors to the festival will open at 6 p.m. Friday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.
Peach Pit, a Canadian indie pop group, is this year’s headlining act. Their set will be preceded by performances from local acts Elizabeth Moen, Gloom Balloon and Field Division.
Raegan Nervig, the KURE general manager and festival director, said the stars must have aligned when Peach Pit, one of her favorite bands, agreed to headline this year. A Vancouver-based four-piece who describe themselves as “chewed bubblegum pop,” Peach Pit’s teenage-angst-meets-summer-bummer rapport is exactly the kind of thing one would hear on channel 88.5. This makes them a seamless fit for the station’s annual festival, and considering their recent pulse in popularity, an impressive one at that.
KURE’s former partnership with the Student Union Board (SUB) helped the festival grow from featuring exclusively local bands to garnering nationally recognized talent.
“It was definitely a good partnership we had,” Nervig said. “Definitely, partnering with them we were able to get the larger acts.”
With growing prominence and the entrance of popular bands came the need for ticket prices, which is something the festival has always attempted to avoid.
“It is accessible to anyone," Nervig said. "It’s a free show on Central Campus to students and [Ames] community members,”
KURE and SUB have since parted ways, and the festival has returned to being free of charge to maximize accessibility and availability to students.
The importance of music accessibility in student-dominated communities is of enormous importance to KURE, as providing a free, localized festival with a heavy emphasis on local talent gives students the opportunity to explore new music. This, in turn, also helps the lesser-known artists on the bill gain exposure.
Nervig said a huge emphasis is put on pairing local acts with national artists.
“Right next to [accessibility], we also really want the local artists to be able to get their names on a poster with a nationally known act,” Nervig said.
Although most of this year's lineup is local to Iowa, students can expect to enjoy a wide variety of genres. Nervig said Field Division gives off “Fleetwood Mac vibes," while Gloom Balloon has some of the highest energy she’s ever seen.
Elizabeth Moen will bring an indie folk performance full of heart and soul to the table, and to finish off the night, Peach Pit will entail a mix of all of the above. Despite the contrast in styles in the lineup, Nervig teases there are no misfits.
“They all just work together very well,” Nervig said.
This is Nervig’s second year as KURE Fest director and she said she considers herself lucky to play a large part in shaping Ames’ music community.
An interview with Gloom Balloon
Influences on both the management and talent ends of KURE Fest believe very strongly in music accessibility. Returning to KURE Fest this year is Gloom Balloon, an iconic Des Moines-based musical project steered by Patrick Tape Fleming, a former member of the band Poison Control Center.
Also a former long-time Ames resident, Fleming is quite familiar with KURE. Fleming said he was heavily influenced by the radio station when he began making music professionally.
“KURE was super important to me because these college radio DJs had the secret sauce to finding all this music that I had never heard or was unaware of,” Fleming said.
A huge advocate for local music exposure, Fleming has been known to volunteer and promote for organizations such as the Des Moines Music Coalition, whose members dedicate themselves to strengthening the local music scene in the greater Des Moines area and work to garner new music fans.
“The cool thing about KURE Fest, I think, is you probably get people who are only going to go to one or two concerts in a year,” Fleming said.
As a performer, Fleming heavily values KURE Fest’s ability to bring audience members from all walks of life together, whether they are concert junkies or brand new to the music scene.
“To have that dichotomy in the audience is fucking awesome for a performer, I think,” Fleming said.
Previously assumed to be on hiatus after becoming a father, Fleming said he is excited to be working on a new album and will be performing never-before-heard songs during his set. While he spends most of his days reading, working and parenting, he said he can’t seem to quiet the voice in his head imploring him to write.
“All of a sudden I had 15 songs or so that came out of the stratosphere and plopped into my lap," Fleming said. "I was like ‘well, guess I better make a record.’"
Gloom Balloon’s music has been known to cut straight to the emotional core of his listeners, detailing all the trials and tribulations of his life — the good, the bad and the ugly. Fleming said he believes every record somebody makes is like a pocket of their life at the time, and if his discography were a diary, he said the reader would be reading the last 10 years of his life.
The blunt, poetic transparency Fleming exhibits in his studio recordings is bolded, italicized and underlined through his live performances where he displays explosive, emotive energy unlike any other.
Just beneath the somber veneer of Gloom Balloon lies Fleming’s humorous bite. When asked what he hopes the audience can take away from his upcoming performance, he said, “a record for fifteen dollars,” before laughing and explaining the real reason he does what he does is to form any connections he can with the audience.
“I just try to connect,” Fleming said. “Whether it's connecting with the song, connecting with the audience, connecting with myself or connecting with the environment around me.”
As one will quickly come to find, the only opinion Fleming attempts to avoid warranting is non-opinion.
“I try to put on a show that even if you don’t like it, you’ll walk away and be like ‘that was strange,’ or ‘I’ve never seen anything like that’ or ‘that made me feel something' — that’s what I’m going for,” Fleming said. “Music’s a pretty powerful thing. You can connect with the music, you can connect with the melody or the beat or you can just take some drugs and connect with the lights or something.”
Fleming even goes as far as to incorporate photo and video into his performances, in an effort to form a bond with those who have no interest in the music.
Flemming said he meticulously strives to make each and every Gloom Balloon show as idiosyncratic and interactive as he can, aiming to give the entire audience an extraordinary experience they won’t easily forget. KURE Fest will certainly be no exception.
“It will be a multimedia experience,” Flemming said. “Come prepared for props.”
Gloom Balloon will follow Field Division and precede Elizabeth Moen and Peach Pit. The doors for KURE Fest open at 6 p.m. Friday in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union, and the performances will begin at 7 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.