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With the Mississippi River to the east and the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers to the west, Iowa is an agricultural haven of the Great Plains. In other words, the state is as Midwest as they come. Do not be dissuaded by its modest appeal. Iowa has a surprising art community, hosting some of the nation’s most famous and reputable writing programs. The state’s music should not be neglected. Learn about Iowa’s winsome music environment, from artists to albums to culture—by reading below.

Iowan arts are not boring

Because it holds the eighth oldest population in the nation and the third highest marriage rate, Iowa was listed as one of the nation’s most boring states by Area Vibes. However, in response to this criticism, the Iowan art scene protests. Khak—a new country radio station—came to Iowa’s defense. Khak argues that its urban areas are stacked with entertainment options, including music venues; with relatively little traffic and lower population density, getting in and out of performances spaces is convenient. Des Moines University also contributed to the conversation, highlighting summer music festivals like the 80/35, which draws crowds exceeding thirty thousand. Even entertainment bloggers in Iowa have piped in with their insights. Iowaves Music Blog writer Dave Murphy created an entire tagline under the name “Des Moines Is Not Boring.” Here, he reviews albums released by local artists and spotlights his picks in live music.

Up and comers in Iowan music echo the idea that Iowa is not so boring, despite its reputation and population demographics. In Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Ames, and Waterloo, Iowan artists are creating cool sounds. Annalibera has three albums with sounds burrowed in the range of alternative and indie. Simultaneously floating and foreboding, Annalibera weaves a uniquely Iowan experience into their lyrics. Christopher The Conquered is another exciting artist making their mark in Iowa and beyond; Paste Magazine compares lead singer Christopher Ford’s vocals to that of American singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley. Land of Blood and Sunshine makes their mark with psychedelic, lo-fi, spell-binding songs. At times, they sound like something out of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. The River Monks liven their folk-indie-Americana sounds with sprinkles of pop, rock, and eclectic instrumental embellishments. The state does not seem so boring now, does it? Listeners will appreciate Iowa’s proud, engaging, and subtle music atmosphere.

Iowa’s music scene has room for newcomers

Although Iowa has a building art community, it is not overly imbued with people. This means that people who are interested in exploring the music space in Iowa are able to do so in a variety of roles. Novice photographers venturing into concert photography will snatch passes and spots in the photographers’ sections without hassle. Writers who want to venture into music journalism will find various papers and magazines willing to share their content, such as Little Village Magazine. Musicians who crave performance experience will find opportunities to do so at the humbler venues in state. In fact, locals entangled Iowa’s music are passionate about getting other involved. Concert photographer Mike Weber is one of those community members, urging people to be active participants. He believes if there is more diversity in perspectives at live shows, Iowan arts will be represented with greater accuracy and richness. For people interested in immersing in various aspects of a music scene, Iowa has opportunities for newcomers to join in on the fun and contribute to Iowa’s artistic voice. Concerts are the epicenter that hosts these amazing opportunities for creatives.

Iowa is open to the album

At an increasing rate, casual listeners have abandoned the stunning history and beauty of the album. With instantaneous downloads more pervasive than ever, consumers are able to hand-select songs instead of supporting whole albums. Though this customizable listening has its perks, something is lost when the full story of an album is not absorbed. An unusual twist on this trend, Iowan papers, websites, magazines, blogs, zines, and beyond engage with albums, and readers are receptive to this coverage. Maybe the slow pace of rural life gives people time to listen. Maybe Iowans are just interested in hearing the full story. Regardless of why, publications are meeting this interest. What does this mean for live music? Listeners do not need to settle for the same overdone covers and top 40 playlists. Concerts often feature artists' original creations.

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