Mission Creek Festival returns to rock Iowa City

The Mission Creek Festival returned to Iowa City on April 7-9. Bringing in-person music and literature events to the community, the festival featured headliners such as Beach Bunny, Squirrel Flower, and Soccer Mommy among others, for an unforgettable event.


Gabby Drees

Beach Bunny’s Lili Trifilio sings at the Englert Theatre as part of the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City on Friday, April 8, 2022.

Ariana Lessard, Arts Reporter

The lights dim, and for a moment, everyone holds their breath in anticipation. A guitar riff pierces the silence, and the Mission Creek Festival commences. 

The Mission Creek Festival, spanning three days from April 7-9, is a community-oriented jewel of Iowa City entertainment. Events were held at the Englert Theatre, Riverside Theatre, Gabe’s, Filmscene, Public Space One, Prairie Lights, The Tuesday Agency, Big Grove Brewery, Trumpet Blossom Cafe, and more. 

Brian Johannesen, the senior programming manager at the Englert, discussed how the city setting allows the Mission Creek Festival to be more community-oriented than something set up out in a field.

“The idea is to bring these artists into town in a way that they can really participate in the community,” Johannesen explained. “A lot of festivals are out in fields in the middle of nowhere, and this one is right in the heart of Iowa City.” 

Community is at the heart of this event, according to its tagline on the Mission Creek website, which boasts music, literature, and community. One act, Tempers is a New York City power duo consisting of Jasmine Golestaneh and Eddie Cooper. They specialize in synth-pop with poetic lyrics. 

“Tempers is in town the whole weekend,” Johannesen said. “I ran into Jasmine from Tempers at Trumpet Blossom today… It’s about you know, just kind of introducing our town to artists that are on the road and coming through.”

Good Morning Midnight kicked off the festival’s second night with a performance at the Englert Theatre. With a sound reminiscent of a 70s garage band, the group was polished and prepped to perform on stage. The musical style took on a folk-punk-rock energy — the guitarist had long curly hair not unlike the iconic hair of Led Zepplin. 

Charlie Cacciatore, the band’s lead singer, created a good banter with the audience, at one point announcing a BOGO deal on their CDs. A member of the audience yelled, “Still too expensive!” at the offer, causing the band to roar with laughter. 

RELATED: Photos: Mission Creek Festival Day Two

Son Lux followed Good Morning Midnight, their unique psychedelic sound captivating the audience. Several attendees nodded in time with the tempo, enamored with the music — their lineup paired phenomenally with the stage lighting, which highlighted different members of the band at different points. At one point, the lighting gave a halo effect to their drummer, who was dead center and so clearly consumed by the act of drumming that it was impossible to look away. 

Son Lux’s lead singer, Ryan Lott, said that for him, creating music is as natural as breathing. 

“I’m not sure I have a choice,” Lott said. 

Beach Bunny brought one of their staple pop-punk concerts to Iowa City on April 8. Yelling playfully to the audience and encouraging their participation at every step along the way, lead singer Lili Triflio inspired the audience to form an impromptu mosh pit of multi-colored hair at the front of the theatre.

When her fingers began to bleed from playing her guitar, Triflio laughed like it was nothing, got a cotton swab, and continued to play on. The energy in the room was tangible — even ten minutes in, everyone was out of their seats, singing, jumping, and dancing. 

On April 9, a literary reading by Sarah Gerard and Kaveh Akbar had the audience on the edge of their seats at Prairie Lights. The following conversation between the authors went over the time alotted, as the audience could not seem to get enough of the charismatic duo. 

Furthering the literary lineup of events, the Small Press and Literary Magazine Book Fair took place at The Chauncey on Saturday afternoon. They showcased many local literary magazines and presses, including the local City High School literary magazine. 

On the festival’s final night, the Englert opened with red lights backlighting Arooj Aftab, dressed in all black. Aftab’s voice was immediately ominous, haunting, and beautiful.

After Aftab’s opening, Indie darling Soccer Mommy brought Nashville grunge rock to Iowa City. With four guitars, a keyboard, a drum set, and of course their lead singer Sophie Allison’s voice, you could feel music moving through your body. Allison introduced the band to the audience, then continued to make subtle jokes using her dry wit throughout the performance. 

Other noteworthy performances included Nashville lyrical genius Squirrel Flower, New York City jazz musician Kassa Overall, and 23-year old up-and-coming activist and rapper Rick Wilson. 

The 2022 Mission Creek Festival ultimately united the community of Iowa City with music and literature. After its tumultuous history due to COVID-19 restrictions and cancellations, the three-day celebration of the arts has become a cultural staple of Iowa City.