On the downside, the festival itself was over-ambitious -- there was something like 14(!) stages, including 2 stages sharing the same flatbed truck. There were places downtown where you could hear 5 different sound systems at once.
And I don't know about Des Moines dance music scene. Lord knows they try, and Lord knows Iowa City's dance music scene is moribund by comparison. But Des Moines seems in the thrall of all the sorts of dance music I really hate -- trance of all flavors, hard house, and unfunky, annoying techno.
The crowd was weird. On a positive note, a lot of older people -- as in older than me -- were down and seemed to be having a good time. But the majority of the crowd was frat boys, punks, goths, and goth-punks. Nothing wrong with those people so long as they don't throw up on my shoes, but they don't mix to make a good vibe.
The best stage I was at was in a tiny beer garden, where they had drum & bass with a decent MC. Even if there were only 30 people there, there were 30 people there who were having fun, and the DJ and MC were having fun too.
The place we played in -- 'Java Joe's Game Room' was kind of depressing. It was a room that could hold 150 people, with a high ceiling and a lively echo. The sound system wasn't really sufficient for the space, and no one seemed to know we were there.
Schematic played downtempo IDM-ish stuff which I enjoyed. Of course I was nearly his entire audience most of the time. Mikey (m3ani3) played Mo Wax and G-Stone records type of downtempo stuff mostly which I liked. DJ 3-Face and his crew did a scratch hip hop band performance that would have been cool on a better system, and if it was more of a focused set rather than a jam.
My set -- after 3 Face, was marked by everyone who'd came for the scratch DJs leaving. I was playing most of my set for an empty room, on a system that I had trouble making sound good, on too-slick slipmats that screwed up my cuing. At best, it was a good rehearsal for doing a set somewhere not so hostile to what I was playing.
I liked what I played, and I really think that the best of 70's and 80's disco tracks still work, especially mixed with compatible house music. "Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward got over-exposed on the radio back in the day, but the 12" is as perfect a dance track as you're likely to find. The central part where the vocalists riff on "ring my bell" is full-on soul to me. "I Need Your Love" by Chic is a purely brilliant and romantic pop song that is also a great dance track.
The biggest problem with that stuff is that they used real drummers, and did sloppy tape edits, so you can't really hold a mix more than a few bars. Oh well. I can either A) re-sync it in Ableton live or B) use more quick mixes.
And I have a version of "Chain Of Fools" -- made famouse by Aretha Franklin -- that Steve "Silk" Hurley did as a house track that's wicked. I really want to get as much Steve Hurley tracks as I can lay hands on.
Anyway, I felt pretty crap after playing for an empty room, but I guess I need to get beyond that. It is, after all, just choosing and playing records.