Summer is synonymous with sights like sunny blue skies, or smells like hamburgers cooking on an open grill, or sounds like the crack of a bat striking a baseball. Another sure sign of summer’s impending arrival here is the unveiling of concert lineups boasting a mix of musical styles performed by dozens of local bands.
Whether you are a fan of blues, jazz and R&B, country and rockabilly, or pop, hip-hop and rock, it would seem there is a concert for everyone to enjoy this summer in West Des Moines judging by the diverse lineups recently released by officials who host popular, free outdoor concert series at Jordan Creek Town Center, Historic Valley Junction and West Glen Town Center.
For the last 10 years, Jordan Creek Town Center has become a destination shopping experience for hundreds of thousands of Iowans and visitors from out of state, but it also hosts free, family-friendly concerts each Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. from the end of June through the end of August at its lakeside amphitheater.
This year’s Live at the Creek Summer Concert Series includes a mix of musical styles like the dueling pianos of Pianopalooza, classic and contemporary R&B by Final Mix, and the combination of Latin, rock and R&B by the Tony Valdez Large Band.
“Each year, we try to add a new band to our lineup,” says Angela Jones, marketing manager at Jordan Creek Town Center. “We have a great, well-rounded range of genres for all music lovers.”
Jones says Jordan Creek’s amphitheater provides music lovers a relaxed, scenic setting that is appealing to the eyes and ears.
“This is the best way to wind down the weekend and gear up for a new week,” she says. “Attendees can enjoy the live music from the amphitheater, around the lake or one of the restaurant patios. The view is beautiful. It’s a great way to spend time with friends and family. The weekly concerts have become a tradition for many people in the community.”
Final Mix performs twice this year at Live at the Creek on July 6 and Aug. 24. The R&B band is led by local saxophonist Del “Saxman” Jones. The veteran musician started playing with bands in high school in 1970, and he went on to play with several national artists including Isaac Hayes, Sly & the Family Stone and Buddy Miles. Jones later spent two years touring the world with R&B and funk legend James Brown and another two years with Tina Turner. From 1989 to 1997, he lived and performed in Japan before returning to central Iowa. He formed Final Mix in 1999, and the band has become a staple at concert series like Live at the Creek, where he enjoys performing.
“Jordan Creek has a nice atmosphere by the lake. Lots of our fans can listen to and dance to our show. They bring their family, mates and kids and have a good time on a Sunday. There’s lots of parking, cold beer and soft drinks and we play songs for all ages,” he says.
West Glen Town Center is another popular retail district that hosts free live music each summer with its Fridays at the Fountain concert series. This year’s lineup, which had yet to be finalized by press time, includes Leradee and the Positives, Toaster and Final Mix. Cabaret will host live music by local pop-rock band Decoy, Pie in the Sky and Burnin’ Sensations, and for those who enjoy yoga, fans can stretch their mind, body and soul to the sounds of live music at Yoga at the Glen.
Valley Junction’s Music in the Junction concert series is part of the historic neighborhood’s long running free weekly farmers market that attracts thousands of Iowans to Fifth Street every Thursday from May to October. Jim Miller, executive director of the Historic Valley Junction Foundation, says the concert series started after the flood of 1993. In 2000, the series was expanded to coincide each week with the farmers market.
“When it started, we had a few hundred people show up every week, but then it grew by word of mouth, and on some nights we estimate that we get as many as a 1,000 people in the park just to hear the band,” he says. “For a lot of people, it’s what they do every Thursday night. They come to the market to buy food and enjoy a free concert.”
Miller says the volunteer committee that books bands for Function in the Junction strives to change at least one-fourth of the lineup each year to keep it fresh and exciting.
“We get suggestions all of the time,” he says. “We make an effort to have new bands every year.”
This year, 10 of the 22 bands that will perform in Valley Junction are new to the series.
“This truly is the best lineup we’ve ever had. The mix is really good,” Miller says.
The musicians who play Function in the Junction also appreciate how the series is operated, Miller says.
“The bands like the sound of the band shell, and they like that they can bring their families and their kids to their shows,” he says. “You can’t do that if you’re playing in a bar.”
Miller says the Historic Valley Junction Foundation spends about $50,000 each year on performers for the concert series and its special events like Smokin’ in the Junction, which will include free concerts May 24-25 by bands like Sumpin’ Doo and The Blue Band.
“Musicians need to be paid. Some weeks we make money, some weeks we don’t, but we always pay our bands. All of them are local, and they have a following, and it’s nice to showcase the talented bands that we have here,” he says.
In addition to boasting three of the metro’s more popular outdoor concert series, West Des Moines is home to several venues that host music indoors throughout the year, including bars and restaurants like Angelo’s on 8th, Green Grounds Cafe, The Longest Yard, The Keg Stand and Raul’s Mexican Restaurant, just to name a few.
West Des Moines’ most famous music venue is the legendary Val Air Ballroom. Over the years, generations of fans have witnessed some of the biggest names in popular music perform there, including Cab Calloway, Frank Sinatra, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beach Boys, The Black Crowes, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Wilco, Bob Dylan and Snoop Dogg.
This summer, the Val Air Ballroom will host national touring acts like The Dan Band on May 9 and The Dark Star Orchestra on June 30.
Dan Finnerty, leader of The Dan Band, became well known as the foul-mouthed wedding singer in the hit film “Old School,” performing his now-infamous rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” as well as his other appearances in movies like “Starsky & Hutch” and “The Hangover.”
The Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra selects shows from the Dead’s massive archive of shows and re-creates their set lists. Last summer, when Dark Star Orchestra performed in Des Moines, it played The Grateful Dead’s Nov. 1, 1977, show from Detroit.
Summer music schedule
Live at the Creek Summer Concert Series
Jordan Creek Town Center
Sundays, 5-8 p.m.
June 29 – Decoy and fireworks (5-10 p.m., fireworks start at dusk)
July 6 – Final Mix
July 13 – Pianopalooza
July 20 – Flipside
July 27 – Boomerang
Aug. 3 – Pianopalooza
Aug. 10 – Tony Valdez Large Band
Aug. 17 – Brother Trucker
Aug. 24 – Final Mix
Aug. 31 – Retro Rockets
Music in the Junction
5th Street, Historic Valley Junction
Thursdays, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
May 8 – Bella Soul
May 15 – Gimikk
May 22 – Get Off My Lawn
May 29 – SP3
June 5 – Decoy
June 12 – Abby Normal
June 19 – Brother Trucker
June 26 – All Things King
July 10 – Fahrenheit
July 17 – Final Mix
July 24 – The Blue Band
July 31 – Randy Burk & the Prisoners
Aug. 7 – Burning Down the House
Aug. 14 – Flipside
Aug. 21 – The El Dorados
Aug. 28 – Malcolm Wells & The Two Timers
Sept. 4 – North of Grand
Sept. 11 – Rebyl Road
Sept. 18 – The James Biehn Band
Sept. 25 – Sumpin’ Doo
Oct. 2 – Tony Valdez Large Band
Val Air Ballroom
May 8 – Tech N9ne
May 9 – The Dan Band
May 24 – Future Honest Tour
June 29 – Dark Star Orchestra
West Glen Town Center
5465 Mills Civic Parkway
June 6 – Final Mix, Cabaret’s Summer Concert Series, 7-11 p.m.
June 13 – Leradee and the Positives, Fridays at the Fountain, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
June 20 – Pie in the Sky, Cabaret’s Summer Concert Series, 7-11 p.m.
July 11 – Toaster, Fridays at the Fountain, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
July 25 – Decoy, Cabaret’s Summer Concert Series, 7-11 p.m.
July 26 – Jazz in July Finale
Aug. 1 – Yoga at the Glen, featuring live music, 5:30 p.m.
Aug. 15 – Final Mix, Fridays at the Fountain, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Aug. 22 – Burnin’ Sensations, Cabaret’s End of Summer Bash, 7-11 p.m.
Sept. 12 – Yoga at the Glen, featuring live music, 5:30 p.m.