Hinterland’s last day filled with sweet music

Saint Charles fostered a blend of rock, soul, and pop musicians on the final day of the Hinterland Music Festival.


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Singer Maggie Rogers sings at the Hinterland Music Festival on August 4, 2019 in Saint Charlies, Iowa.

Lauren Arzbaecher, Arts Reporter

After two hot yet blissful days of music, St. Charles finally reached the last day of the Hinterland music fest. This year was the first in the festival’s history that the programming extended across three days rather than two.

The final day started with an artist exceedingly familiar to the Iowa City music scene: Elizabeth Moen. University of Iowa senior Elly Hofmaier joined Moen on stage for the set, providing exquisite background vocals. Moen noted that performing in her home state can be both rewarding and stressful at the same time.

“There are so many friends and family who come to our shows when we’re in Iowa,” she said. “We definitely feel supported when we play here. It’s also sometimes more nerve-racking to play in Iowa because so many people I know are here, so when I try out a new song or when I’m feeling extra vulnerable, everyone knows what it’s about.”

Moen closed her set with “Headgear,” a new single that she recently released the music video for. While still touring, Moen said, she has been in a highly creative head space lately and has written around 50 songs in just the past year. Moen hopes to release a few more singles before the year is out, and Iowa City audiences may get to hear some of those new pieces at her upcoming performance at the Englert in September.

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Brandi Carlile and her band performs at Hinterland on Aug. 4 in St. Charlies, Iowa.

Next on the stage was the Nude Party with an energetic rock ’n’ roll set reminiscent of the style illustrious rock bands the Kinks and the Animals. Then came Ruston Kelly, who is married to another one of the festival’s performers, Kacey Musgraves. The Nashville-based artist showed off his roots with a rousing country performance from his recent album Dying Star.

In between performances, music provided by Iowa Public Radio played over the speakers. IPR helped sponsor the festival, providing music as well as interviews with several artists, IPR development specialist Madeleine King said.

“[Hinterland] is definitely showing how much of an economic impact you can have,” King said. “It brings a lot of people to central Iowa, so I imagine it will encourage other festivals and organizations to do something similar.”

RELATED: A soulful second day at Hinterland

The War and Treaty, led by husband and wife Michael and Tanya Trotter, tore up the stage with a showcase of bold soul music. The couple commanded the stage with strong, jazzy vocals and an alluring stage presence. Though the performance was high energy, the two took a moment to calm everyone down and led the crowd in a moment of mourning for the victims of the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

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Fans at Hinterland cheer an artist on Aug. 4 in St. Charles, Iowa.

The night wound to a close with the last two acts of the festival, both female-fronted.

Amid chanting of her name, Maggie Rogers entered the stage in an outfit dripping with fringe, and she hardly stopped moving throughout the hourlong performance, dancing along to every song. Though Rogers had the dynamic stage presence of a seasoned performer, the young singer was humbled by the crowd’s deafening cheers and stepped back from the mic, smiling and mouthing “thank you.”

The clanging of a large onstage bell beckoned three-time Grammy-Award-winning artist Brandi Carlile to the stage for the last performance of the night. Carlile was a tremendous storyteller, telling tales of her past through emphatic guitar and many instances of three-part harmony, which she called “her native tongue.” The warmth of her music quickly washed over the festival grounds, bringing together rock, country, and the crowd.