515 Alive Music Festival 2016 || Event Review

515 Alive Music Festival 2016
Photo Credit: 515 Alive Festival

The team behind 515 Alive Music Festival continues to provide quality events to the scene in Iowa and this year’s was no exception.

Featuring 2 days of electronic music and hip hop in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, the lineup for 515 Alive Music Festival 2016 included acts such as Zeds DeadTerravita, Bear Grillz and more! While the weather did not exactly cooperate with temperatures reaching 95 degrees, over 16,000 people still attended to experience five stages of music. In its 14th year, the 515 Alive Music Festival seemed to do a lot of things right when it comes to running a festival of its size, but suffered from a few minor design flaws that made this event good instead of great.

The five stages at the festival definitely focused on dubstep and hip hop, but there were several surprises from the smaller stages featuring music genres you won’t generally find in the Midwest scene. Headliners such as Zeds Dead and Machine Gun Kelly brought out the largest crowds of the night to the Main Stage where they were able to play their expertly crafted and designed sets, which proved to be very entertaining. The Kosmos Stage brought out the best in bass music, including acts like jungle terror expert MedusA.

In addition, Iowa was able to showcase its own hip hop scene at the Dipset.net stage. The festival also featured two decks dedicated to a silent disco where you were able to don headphones and change between the two decks with a flick of a switch. Lastly, the biggest surprise of the festival had to be the Climax stage featuring a wide variety of genres including techno, trance, and even hardstyle. 

515 Alive Festival
Photo Credit: 515 Alive Festival

Logistically, the festival did a lot of things right.

The security line to get into the festival was quick and painless with the staff sincerely concerned about people’s safety from weapons and were not out on a witch hunt for narcotics. For being a medium to small festival, the selection of food trucks was plentiful and most accepted both card and cash so you could fill up on energy. The best item on the menu at the food trucks had to be the root bear float, which provided much needed relief in the sweltering heat.

Tickets to the event were still available at the doors to those who did not pre-purchase online and were similarly priced at the $62.50 asking price for a 2-day pass. Lastly, parking went very smoothly even with the event being held downtown – we only had to walk a block to the event and there was no charge to park in the ramps.

Unfortunately, there were several issues that I think need to be addressed before next year’s event.

The first issue we encountered was not being able to find the free water refill stations advertised. Even after asking two staff members who were both unsure, we were unable to find it until we went to the entrance of the festival and finally found them near the exit. A better solution would have been to label them in the map, have signs similar to the massive ATM signs setup throughout the festival, and train the staff on locations to minimize health issues in the heat.

The next issue we encountered at the festival was extreme music bleeding between stages due to the proximity of each of the stages at the festival. Sound levels were increased to uncomfortable levels, even with using protective ear plugs, to try to reduce the sound bleed, but there must be a better solution that the festival can use in the future. Lastly, while the Climax stage provided a great variety of genres, it would have been nice to see that variety displayed at the rest of stages to showcase the scene.

Overall, 515 Alive Music Festival is a lot of entertainment for the price of admission. The crowd was friendly and chill even in the extreme weather conditions that prevailed. A variety of genres were heard throughout the festival with well-known acts and upcoming talent in the scene. Slight changes to the festival will put this event on my go-to list every year. If you are in the Des Moines area, check out the Kosmos Music Festival held by the 515 Alive team this weekend, August 26th and 27th, to experience 2 days of music, art and camping.


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Music is an integral part of Drew’s life, whether it’s listening to trance or house while working or at a festival. He’s always out to discover new and exciting sounds. When video games RollerCoaster Tycoon and Unreal Tournament were the hot new games, one of his friends that he knew through the community forums introduced him to trance on Digitally Imported and he soon fell in love with trance, happy hardcore, hardstyle and other fast BPM (beats per minute) genres.

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