Meet the headliners of the fifth annual Maximum Ames Music Festival

Evan Campbell performs at the Maximum Ames Music Festival burrito sampler event Sep. 2 in Campustown.

Charlie Coffey

Thursday marks the start of the fifth annual Maximum Ames Music Festival, also known as MAMF, a four-day festival centralized in a three-block radius of Downtown Ames. 

From The Depaysement to Annalibera and Charlie Parr, the MAMF lineup this year is promising to say the least, but the headliners are where the list really shines.

The Sept. 10-13 festival features a variety of headliners including The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle (solo), Grandmaster Flash, Ex Hex, Mikal Cronin and Jon Wayne and The Pain.

The Mountain Goats is a folk rock group with 15 full-length albums under its belt. Darnielle, poet and lead singer of The Mountain Goats, has performed solo under the band’s name in the past. Darnielle lived in Ames while writing one of the band’s most famous albums, “All Hail West Texas.”

The Mountain Goat’s most recent work is the album “Beat the Champ,” which was released in April 2015. The songs on “Beat the Champ” are inspired by aspects of professional wrestling, including titles such as “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” and “The Ballad of Bull Ramos.”

Chris Lyng, co-founder of MAMF and Maximum Ames, introduced the Mountain Goats in a press release last May.

“The Mountain Goats is one of the best and most widely known artists to have ever lived in Ames and he was also the headliner of MAMF’s first year,” Lyng said. “His connection to the community combined with his phenomenal growth as an artist since MAMF 1 make him a local legend without equal.”

Darnielle performs at 7 p.m. Saturday with Kate Kennedy as an opener at the First United Methodist Church.

Joseph Saddler, also known as Grandmaster Flash, is a legend in the hip-hop world, pioneering disk jockey techniques such as the backspin and punch phrasing. Saddler was born in the West Indies in 1957 and grew up in South Bronx, N.Y.

The role of the DJ before the 1970s was to change records at a party after each album finished.

Grandmaster Flash was one of the first to spin a record backward while playing it on a turntable, which results in a scratching noise that Flash learned to manipulate musically.His father collected records throughout his childhood, which inspired him to experiment with them and eventually led him to becoming Grandmaster Flash.

Flash pioneered many other techniques, which are laid out in the May MAMF press release by Chris Lyng.

“At a time when many DJs let the records play themselves, Grandmaster Flash marked up his vinyl with crayon, fluorescent pens and grease pencil to create an innovative sound,” the release said. 

Flash also began playing shows with rappers who acted as emcees vocalizing over Flash’s music. This eventually led to the creation of the group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The group became the first-ever hip-hop group to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Grandmaster Flash will perform at 9 p.m. Thursday at DG’s Tap House. The Iowa School of Burlesque’s VARIETEASE showcase will perform before Grandmaster Flash.

Headliner Ex Hex is a trio of punk rocker ladies who are traveling from Washington D.C. to make an appearance at MAMF. Ex Hex’s first album, “Rips,” came out in October 2014.

Although Ex Hex is a somewhat new band, it has appeared on KEXP Radio, at Pitchfork Music Festival and on tours across the U.K. and U.S. The three members of Ex Hex each have previous band experience, but a shared vision brought the members together.

“We just want to make a record that you can put on a jukebox, press play, and then it makes you want to dance,” said Mary Timony, the frontwoman of Ex Hex, during a KEXP Radio interview.

She said the band’s sound was unexpected.

“I don’t know it just kind of happened that way,” Timony said. “I feel like you just have a lot of phases in life, and right now this band just wants to rock.”

Ex Hex will perform at 9 p.m. Friday at Deano’s alongside The Depaysement, Annalibera and Foxholes.

Charlie Vestal, a MAMF musician better known as Flavor Basket, vocalized his excitement for Ex Hex at the MAMF Burrito Sampler, sponsored by The Fighting Burrito, on Sept. 2.

The Burrito Sampler was an event that gave the public a chance to see some of the talent from MAMF before the festival. The sampler allowed anyone who took a photo with a styrofoam burrito and posted it to social media during the sampler to be entered to win MAMF tickets.

“It’s going to be a great experience sharing all the vibes at the show,” Vestal said while talking about Ex Hex. 

Flavor Basket will perform at noon Saturday at the Vinyl Cafe with Dear Rabbit, Lesbian Poetry, Loaf and Kila.

Headliner Mikal Cronin is an alt-rocker who has collaborated with Ty Segall and plays in four separate bands — The Epsilons, Charlie and The Moonhearts, Party Fowl and Okie Dokie.

Cronin is a product of California in the 1990s, creating pop music that has a slight tone of rock to it. He has released three solo albums and has collaborated with Ty Segall multiple times. Cronin has a formal education in music, with a bachelor of fine arts from the California Institute of Arts.

Mikal Cronin peforms alongside The Cairo Gang & Twins at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Ames Elk Lodge.

Finally, Headliner Jon Wayne and The Pain is a group of reggae rockers from Minneapolis. Jon Wayne and The Pain will perform alongside Dead Larry at 9 p.m. Friday at DG’s Tap House.

Jon Wayne and The Pain is known for blending the unique sounds of psychedelic rock and reggae music to create something entirely new. The band introduces electronic noises to its acoustic guitar, heavy bass and steady drums in a powerful display of what the band calls Reggae-Tronic Dub.

The group has been playing shows actively for four years now with an average of 20 shows per month. The band’s website explains how its live shows differ from studio performance.

With such a wide variety of performers, Evan Campbell, an Ames local musician, appreciates the community involvement that goes into MAMF. Campbell played at the MAMF Burrito Sampler show a week before the festival.

“[I’m most excited for] all of the local energy and local creative minds get to do what they love and everyone in Ames gets together,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s words speak to what Maximum Ames and the festival is all about, bringing local Iowa and Ames musicians together to promote diversity, community enjoyment of music and to share their passion.

For more information about the Maximum Ames Music Festival and a full lineup of performances, visit the Maximum Ames’ website. For tickets, visit Midwestix’s Maximum Ames Music Festival page.

For more MAMF coverage, visit the Iowa State Daily’s website for photos and concert reviews.