Iowa City may not be a coastal city known for its DJs and dance parties, but its connections to the electronic music scene run deep.
That’s the message organizers of the new Middle of Nowhere electronic music festival hope to highlight this weekend. The festival runs Friday and Saturday at venues around downtown Iowa City.
“We wanted to pursue an electronic music festival that was an homage to the roots,” festival co-founder Simeon Talley said.
Those roots go back decades; the University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios were founded in 1964, after James Cessna built the first digital synthesizer ever created, under the supervision of physicist James Van Allen. The studios are still in operation today, part of the UI School of Music.
That history will be the focus of a panel discussion Friday, which will kick off a weekend of live shows.
Staying true to that background, organizers Phil Ricks and Talley said their festival will focus more on old-school types of electronic music than on the currently popular EDM (electronic dance music).
“We were really intentional about picking sounds that are not standard at the massive EDM fests. We’re focusing on a few styles that are sort of older, but that have also evolved — techno and house, some of the earliest dance music styles,” Ricks said. “We want to show the younger generation the roots and also the fruits.”
A graduate student in philosophy and a volunteer DJ at KRUI, he said the festival is about more than just the music.
When he moved to Iowa City five years ago, he wasn’t familiar with electronic music. But as he dived into the local music scene, he started going to shows and fell in love with the sound — and the community around it.
“I got to know the scene a little bit more, and I was awe-struck by how welcoming they all were,” Ricks said. “To me, the festival is about paying it forward; Iowa City is a transitional town, and I want to introduce people to the same things I was introduced to.”
The festival also celebrates the details that go into shows, like lighting and aesthetics, Ricks said. Several shows will feature special light-art accompaniment, which Ricks described as just another way of using waves — whether sound or light waves — to create a sensory experience.
“I’m just fascinated by the way the world is manipulated by our fingertips and how we manipulate space. It’s all about manipulations of our environment,” he said.
Talley is also co-founder of Flyover Fashion Fest and of RADinc. He said he still is learning about electronic music, and has been impressed by how deep and wide the genre goes.
“As you sort of dig deeper into the genre, you learn about sub genres. It’s so vast, and there are so many different types of styles, so many artists doing really amazing things.”
The festival will feature emerging local and regional acts and headliners Daedelus and SassyBlack.
“We also see it as a community building event,” Talley said.
Festival pass: $35, available at Littlevillagetickets.com. Performer and show information: Facebook.com/MiddleofNowhereMusicFest
Ticket prices listed below are for individual shows; all show prices are included in festival pass.
Topic: University of Iowa, Iowa City and History of Electronic music: 3:30 p.m. Friday (9/1), Gabe’s, 330 E. Washington St., Iowa City, free
Sier2, Brendan Hanks, Caleb Conditt and My Name is L: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday (9/1), Gabe’s patio, 330 E. Washington St., Iowa City, free
Kevin Callison, Seth Nichols, Carnap, and bTsumani: 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday (9/1), Gabe’s upstairs, 330 E. Washington St., Iowa City, $10 advance, $15 at door
House and R&B
DJ Wolf mixer, DJ Lady Espina, Conoley Ospovat and SassyBlack: 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday (9/1), The Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., Iowa City. $12 advance, $15 at door
IowaTechno Showcase, Kinesis Showcase and Hippusher: 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday (9/2), Gabe’s patio, 330 E. Washington St., Iowa City, free
A Portrait of Keiichi Tanaami
18 animated short films with a live score by Brendan Lee Spengler: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday (9/2), RADinc., 123 E. Washington St., Iowa City, $5
Collidescope, phosphenes, Brett Naucke, Purca$e: 8 to 11:50 p.m. Saturday (9/2), Trumpet Blossom Cafe, 310 E. Prentiss St., Iowa City, $8 advance, $12 at door
Dan Toomey, Z340, Daedelus: 9:45 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday (9/2), Blue Moose Tap House, 211 Iowa Ave., Iowa City, $15 advance, $20 at door
Matt Rissi and friends: 2 a.m. Sunday (9/3), RADinc., 123 E. Washington St., Iowa City, $5