KURE Fest brings big names with help of new partnership

Smallpools opened for X Ambassadors when they performed at Iowa State in 2015. 

Tanner Owens

A new partnership with the Student Union Board (SUB) has allowed KURE 88.5’s KURE Fest to land some big names for this year’s music festival.

Indie pop darling Smallpools and Brooklyn-based alternative group Wet will headline the ninth annual KURE Fest on Sunday at the Memorial Union. Smallpools previously played at Iowa State’s Maintenance Shop in 2015 with X Ambassadors. Returning local acts The Fuss and Annalibera will also be joining the action.

This year’s festival marks the first time that SUB has been part of the planning process for the festival, allowing for an enhanced concert experience. The relationship has also led to some changes in the festival, such as a switch from being free in past years to costing $20 for the public and $12 for students.

Smallpools burst into the indie pop scene in 2013 with their single “Dreaming” that peaked at No. 23 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. The single was also certified gold by the RIAA.

Smallpools has since released one full-length album and two EPs. The debut album “LOVETAP!” spawned the singles “Karaoke” and “Killer Whales.” The EP “The Science of Letting Go” featured the endlessly enjoyable single “Million Bucks” that paints a picture of finding something meaningful in a place where everything and everyone seems disingenuous.

The single is inspired by lead singer Sean Scanlon’s experience moving to Los Angeles. The band plays a style of indie pop that fuses infectious dance rhythms with meaningful, relatable lyrics.

“We like to bring a fun energy and put on a good show but also have a human aspect to where it’s not too theatrical and crazy,” said Sean Scanlon, lead singer.

However, the band doesn’t neglect adding some flavor to their shows. Inflatable killer whales are often sent flying into the crowd.

“That is a classic thing. We throw out some big ones depending on the room. That is a token thing to our show,” Scanlon said.

The band also teased a new EP called “So Social” on Thursday via Instagram.

Co-headliner, Wet, combines dreamy soundscapes of synth and guitar with lead singer, Kelly Zutrau’s, crooning vocals to create a sound that could be compared to Vallis Alps and Sylvan Esso. The singer bases her melancholy lyrics off of past relationships. Combined with producer Joe Valle’s subtle instrumentals on their new album “Still Run,” the band has departed from the quiet crawl of “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” to a more upbeat sound.

“We’re really excited to play these new songs,” Zutrau said. “They’re the documentation of really intense times for the band and the world and we’re excited to play them live and see how the audience connects with them.”

The collaboration with SUB yielded a few changes to this year’s festival. The board’s experience with landing big names like Fetty Wap and lovelytheband led to a big change for the festival. 

“It gave us an opportunity to get more nationally recognized talent and with that a ticket price comes along with it,” said Cory Bock, KURE Fest co-planner.

The festival has had a variety of different acts in the past. Electronic artists Neon Indian and Com Truise performed at KURE Fest in 2016, while rapper Kreayshawn performed in 2011.

The concerts have also been split between the Maintenance Shop and the Great Hall in the past. This year, all four bands will be on the Great Hall stage. The last time the concerts were split between two days was in 2016.

Local bands have not been eliminated from the show despite the acquisition of nationally known artists.

Rock band The Fuss started as a solo project for lead singer Joey Lyons, a Des Moines native. The band has since added Matt Nelson, Ben Waldschmitt and Dave Palmer to create a contemporary live band. As a solo artist, Lyons released one EP titled “One.” With the help of his bandmates they have since put out two full-length albums and another EP. The band last visited Iowa State’s campus at last year’s KURE Fest, and are ready to take on the festival once again.

“We especially look forward to KURE fest, as a couple of the guys had religiously listened to KURE throughout their stints at ISU, so it’s surreal for us being back to perform at the festival years later – and we’re honored to have been asked to play a second time,” Nelson said.

Alternative pop group Annalibera will also join this year’s festival to perform her eclectic style of music. Annalibera, like The Fuss, are a returning act, as the group took a spot in the 2014 lineup. The Nebraska native has released two albums titled “Opia” and “Nevermind I Love You.” The artist also has two EP’s under her belt in the form of “Loveil” and “Love in a Recession.” The artist’s songs are stripped down to only a few instruments at a time, but with Anna Gebhardt’s vocals, they carry a ton of emotion.

“I enjoy making music and often I am trying to express, share or transmute my own experiences and emotions,” Gebhardt said. “It’s exciting to hear what thoughts and feelings my listeners had as a result of what I played. It often adds to my own understanding of what came out of me since my process is more intuitive than deliberately conceptual (usually).”

KURE Fest will take place in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the concert is set to begin at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event can be purchased at Midwestix.com. An ISU ID is required at the door for those who purchase the student ticket online.