Maximum Ames Music Festival to welcome creativity and inclusivity


Photo Courtesy of Maximum Ames

The Maximum Ames Music Festival will take place Sept. 5-8 in Downtown Ames.

Maribel Barrera and Trevor Babcock

Back for its ninth year, the Maximum Ames Music Festival will take place Sept. 5-8 in historic Downtown Ames.

“It’s kind of like a smorgasbord of musical styles,” said Bryon Dudley, an organizer for Maximum Ames. “It’s very eclectic.”

The festival will feature an array of artists, both local and from around the country, catering to a wide array of musical tastes.

Some of the festival’s acts will include The Hex Girls, a rock band from Cedar Falls; Iowa native and blues singer-songwriter Matt Woods; and indie-rock band Halfloves, hailing from Iowa City.

“You can walk into some place and listen to the music a little bit and check out the vibe, and if it’s not what you’re into, walk next door and there’s something else,” Dudley said.

Many local businesses in the downtown area will serve as venues for the duration of the festival, including Morning Bell Coffee Roasters, Della Viti, The Angry Irishmen and the Ames United Church of Christ, which will host blues musician Matt Woods.

“Blues in a church — there’s something that just feels special about that,” Dudley said.

In addition to the festival’s ever-changing line-up, popular annual traditions including the Iowa Women of Rock Showcase will return to the scene.

Maximum Ames will coincide with Ames Pridefest, which will take place Saturday in Downtown Ames.

The festival’s organizers have partnered with Ames Pridefest in the past, in part due to incidental overlap between the two events. 

Organizers quickly discovered that the two events share a similar mission — to foster an inclusive and creative space to share and enjoy music, art and a sense of community.

“At that value level, it’s really nice to have everyone on the same page,” Dudley said.

Maximum Ames Music Festival organizer and Ames Pridefest co-chair Mara Spooner spoke to the Daily about the synergy between the co-produced events in March at the Maximum Ames Music Festival date reveal.

“We knew those festivals would both happen in the fall and it just kind of worked really well to work together,” Spooner said. “To have a bigger team of the most people that have the best ideas and the best ability to collaborate with their individual talents to make two concurrent festivals happen in a way that is best for them both.”

Fred Love, who does communications and promotion for Maximum Ames Music Festival, told the Daily at the Maximum Ames Music Festival date reveal that producing the festival in coordination with Ames Pridefest reinforces the Maximum Ames mission.

“We believe that we can improve the Ames community and strengthen the Ames community by bringing creativity and art and music and new opportunities for people in Ames,” Love said. “We think that inclusivity and acceptance are really important for building that vision of what we want Ames to be.”

Since its inception, Maximum Ames has showcased the “Do It Yourself” spirit of Ames, Spooner said. The amount of support given by the artist community in Ames is why Maximum Ames Music Festival gets to happen, according to her.

“When we create an event to showcase our peers who have talent and passion it increases their ability to have passion and further their talents,” Spooner said. “Ames is able to support things like Max Ames and Pridefest because it exists in a place that wants it.”

Ames Pride, the only queer presence in Ames outside of Iowa State University, was founded out of the need for community in response to the 2016 federal election.

“There were a lot of people that had a lot of anxiety, and a lot of stress, and feelings of fear, and resentment and the need to be able to work towards something rather than against something,” said Spooner, who also serves as vice chair to Ames Pride under chair Tara Andrews. Andrews is a fellow co-chair to Ames Pridefest who helped reveal this year’s festival dates alongside Spooner.

This year’s Ames Pridefest will expand beyond Douglas Avenue to Fifth Street, making more room for vendors and making it more accessible.

“That’s what Ames Pride is about, being as accessible as possible to everybody that we possibly can,” Andrews said.

Andrews said Ames is all about the do-it-yourself spirit.

“If you can think it then you can do it in Ames,” Andrews said. 

“We’re both non-profits that started with just a few people who got together and wanted to do something in Ames, which is what Ames is known for and it’s what we love about it.”

Last year, many of Maximum Ames Music Festival’s live venues used did not normally host live music, and some had never hosted live music before, such as arcade bar Time Out, but they wanted to be a part of the festival.

“We’ve got this community of music fans and business owners that want this to be a success,” Love said. “It’s just four days where people can have fun, be themselves, express themselves and hopefully get exposed to music that they wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to. Find something they can really love.”

Maximum Ames typically draws attendees from Ames and the surrounding areas, but organizers are hoping to attract more students to the festival this year.

“Because Campustown and Downtown Ames are so separate, a lot of students don’t ever know what’s happening down here,” said Rachel Dudley, an organizer for the festival.

Organizers are hoping that students take a break from studying and come out to discover all that the Ames DIY music scene has to offer. This year’s dates are strategically selected during Iowa State football’s bye week.

“Inevitably, every time, there’s always a band that you’ve never heard of […] and you’re just blown away. That experience is awesome,” Dudley said.

All-weekend passes for the festival cost $20 and can be purchased at Tickets can also be purchased at Vinyl Grind Cafe, London Underground and The Angry Irishmen any time until the start of the festival.

“If you can’t find something you like, you probably don’t like music,” Bryon Dudley said. 

Last year’s eighth annual Maximum Ames Music Festival brought over 60 local and international music acts to over a dozen music venues across Downtown Ames. The 2018 Ames Pridefest drew over 1,500 people of all identities to Douglas Avenue in support of the LGBTQIA+ community.