Mission Creek comes to Iowa City next week

The festival is entering it’s 14th year, and bringing with it a focus on intimacy and accessibility.



Current Joys performs at Gabe’s in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 4, 2018. The show was one of a variety of events during the second day of the Mission Creek festival. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Naomi Hofferber and Adrian Enzastiga

As spring slowly makes its way to Iowa City, so does the annual festival featuring music, literature, and art: Mission Creek. Hosted by the Englert, Mission Creek spans six days and a variety of venues throughout the city, beginning April 2 and ending on the evening of April 7.

This year is the 14th year of the festival, with headliners including Mitski, Jenny Lewis, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and John Moreland and delivers a lineup of diverse genres, artists, poets, and authors.

Andre Perry, the director of Mission Creek, said what sets the festival apart from others is the focus on creating an intimate experience with an artist for the audience.

“It’s so focused on the intimate experience; what it means to see a really awesome writer in a small bookstore, what it means to see an artist in a really small venue, what kind of energy that creates,” he said.

Perry said that this year, the organizers wanted to continue increasing accessibility to the festival, by offering pass options for just Friday and Saturday events, as well as student passes.

“(We’re) just making things way more accessible and easier to jump in and for everyone to have a good time,” he said. “Parallel to that, we continue to make sure that we invest as much as possible to the free programing that we do.”

A significant portion of the programing is free to the public, including free shows at Gabe’s and Big Grove.

University of Iowa junior Savannah Lane, the talent buyer and future general manager of SCOPE who helps host the festival, said the it is carefully curated, and each artist is handpicked, leaving room for a variety of specific genres.

“There’s obviously always going to be headliners for Mission Creek that have some level of mass appeal, like Mitski and Jenny Lewis this year,” Lane said. “But even those artists were really thought through and hand-curated, they weren’t like, ‘Oh, this artist is really big, so we have to get them to headline …’ ”

Along with her SCOPE work, Lane has interned with the Englert since January and worked with the theater in organizing the festival that is interspersed with the city.

As someone who has booked shows throughout Iowa City in the past, Lane said a lot of where artists play depends on the vibe of each venue as well as the capacity it can hold.

Perry said finding the right venue is easier for some artists over others.

“We always try to have a conversation about what will make the most sense— which will be the best performance or reading for the space,” Perry said. “Sometimes, it’s clear that the artist will be in one venue, but we have a bunch where we don’t really know until we have the lineup, and then we have to play the Tetris of getting everyone in the right place.”

Jeremiah Shobe, the venue representative for the Mill for Mission Creek, has overseen in-house productions for the past six years and said the venue is taking on more of a role this year in hosting shows.

“Mission Creek, in the last couple of years, has been a lot more streamlined, well-managed, definitely well-planned. It’s going to be a great festival,” he said. “We’re actually hosting more events than we typically do. In the last four years, we haven’t hosted as many, but we’ve got an event or show every night.”

Shobe described the past shows he’s been involved with as life-changing, insane, and crazy.

“In the past, there have been some really great acts that have come through while I’ve been working,” he said. “We’re accustomed to dealing with sold-out and very busy shows. A for-sure sold-out crowd for five nights a week was insane. It’s a party. It really is lots of fun.”

Bob Braswell, a sound technician for Mission Creek, has seen the festival flourish over the past few years.

“I’ve been doing sound in this town for like, nine years, and I watched [Mission Creek] grow from what it was to what it is now; it was a great experience,” he said. “I wasn’t involved in the show much initially.” It’s organized well. Everybody really cares a lot still. There’s a ton of passion. The people who have been committed from Day 1 and are still involved have got a chance to grow their career.”

Braswell said he had a soft spot in particular for Iowa City and the culture and music scene it has.

“Every genre and every fan of music in the Midwest, they just want to bring where the funk is. It’s not a dead zone I thought it was forever before I moved here,” he said. “I toured all over the place, and I hated touring the Midwest. The industry and the people and the artists out here have so much work to bring. There’s so many cool things happening in the Midwest, they’re making it a reason for large national and international acts to come through here now. I really appreciate that Mission Creek has blown up. I really enjoy it.”

Braswell said that the culture that results from the UI and Iowa City area is impeccable.

“There’s some crazy crazy talent, some diamonds in the rough here,” he said. “It’s really cool to see what Mission Creek has done and also led the way for festivals like Witching Hour and Floodwater Comedy Festival. The community has showed up full force to back it.”

Festival passes are still available for $250 for a premium pass, $150 for a standard full-week pass. A variety of events are offered for free throughout the week.