DJ Espina searches through vinyl records at Record Collector on S. Linn St. on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. Espina is one of the featured DJs performing in Middle of Nowhere Music Festival during Labor Day weekend this year. The event hosts local talent within the Iowa City electronic music scene in select venues throughout downtown. (Ben Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Electronic music fest to come to IC


A new festival to showcase electric dance music is coming to Iowa City in September. The Middle of Nowhere Festival will take place in venues across town, featuring local DJs as well as names from around the nation.

By Grace Pateras

Electronic music fans of all ages: The Middle of Nowhere Festival was created with you in mind.

Today, organizers of a new festival coming to Iowa City announced the lineup of artists — both local and out-of-state.

The festival, which will take place Sept. 1-2, focuses on electronic music — a new genre for the Iowa City festival scene. The event will feature house, techno, and experimental artists, and it will also have visual art and other lighting productions.

“To really be familiar with Iowa City, to really be familiar with some of the talent here, is to really appreciate and recognize there’s a lot of creativity, a lot of great bands and musicians, a lot of great art,” festival organizer Simeon Talley said.

The festival was created by Talley and Phil Rix. SCOPE, the University of Iowa’s student entertainment programming organization, is a partner, and it will help market and volunteer for the event, giving the 50-person student organization a taste of putting on a big production.

SCOPE General Manager Alex Tang said student officials often try to expand Iowa City’s musical horizons by bringing diverse acts to town. Partnering in a new music festival is an opportunity to test students’ interests.

“[We’ll be] able to consider … and notice how popular this would be, and see if EDM [electronic dance music] is really a genre of music in Iowa City that can develop into, like create more of a fan-base almost,” Tang said.

“That would be interesting to see how the public responds to it as well as the potential for it in the future and if it’s something SCOPE should continue to pursue and bring to Iowa City.”

One way Middle of Nowhere will prove its “mature” audience is holding the events at central Iowa City venues, such as Gabe’s, the Mill, Trumpet Blossom Café, RADinc, and Blue Moose.

Electronic music festivals, Talley said, often have a negative connotation. Popular culture and outdoor festivals can be to blame for that.

“The culture around the venues, it’s not about drug use,” Talley said. “We’re very intentional with saying, ‘This is an electronic music festival’ and not an ‘EDM festival.’ EDM festivals or events have a certain kind of connotation … where electronic music and saying this more mature, and taking electronic music back to its roots [eliminates the negativity].”

Aside from fans coming together, event coordinators hope local artists will bond because of the event as well.

Iowa City-based DJ Natalia Espina (formerly known as Lady Espina and currently DJ Espina) said electronic artists in the area haven’t had a chance to overlap.

Arts-focused events and organizations that highlight local talent — such as SCOPE, Mission Creek, Witching Hour, Summer of the Arts, and Jazz Fest, as Espina pointed out — might have one electronic artist in the lineup, but the genre as a whole isn’t typically highlighted.

Espina is on the Middle of Nowhere’s lineup. She also performed at the Flyover Fashion Fest, an Iowa City fashion event Talley is involved in, which brings state talent to Iowa City for a weekend.

Her style is largely based on her Chilean and Latin background. She said she has grown as an artist from world beats, international, Latin, and tribal inspirations. Also, she likes drums, chanting, Detroit- and German-inspired old electro, and funky house. She said she likes pure rich female vocals that project words and messages of positivity.

As an active DJ for more than 15 years, she likes to call her work “collage art.” DJ’ing is reinterpreting what has already been made in a new type of way, she said.

“I think it’s time for the different groups to be talking. Sometimes we get a little siloed but not intentionally,” Espina said. “… Somebody has to take the initiative to put us all together. So I think that’s really what this will show, is that we can all come together and bring new people in, and see what it brings for the future.”


Middle of Nowhere Festival

An electronic music festival

When: Sept. 1-2

Where: Varying venues downtown Iowa City

Cost: Early bird passes: $25


Electronic dance music, otherwise known as EDM, is becoming more popular and integrated in today’s music scene. EDM is generally understood as dance music with a repetitive beating track. Though, as with any music genre, there are many varying influences and subgenres that play a role in the overarching umbrella.


At almost three decades old, house is one of the more popular styles of EDM. It started in Chicago as part of the aftermath of disco, and the style is often heard on the radio today. Popular house artists include David Guetta and Zedd.


Often misunderstood as an umbrella term for “EDM,” techno is one of the oldest versions of the genre. This style is rooted in Detroit, where artists wanted to infuse soul to the digital sound. The style grew popular for European artists.


This is what you think of when you hear “rave.” Trance is known for repetitiously building up and breaking down huge melodies. Picture: an outdoor music festival with light shows and colorful outfits for the concert-goers. Notable artist: Tiësto.


What started as an experimental in London in the 1990s today is much more popular and has since broadened. Many EDM fans consider Dubstep to be the subgenre of choice. Notable artists: Skrillex and Bassnectar.


Garage came from house music but relied heavily on more time-shifting in the beats, as well as much more emphasis on vocal samples (grabbing phrases from lyrics as opposed to using an entire verse). Notable artist: Disclosure.


One of the newest categories of the bunch, Trap is largely associated with dance music. Southern inspiration from hip-hop and rap artists such as T.I., Waka Flocka, and Rick Ross are to thank for the popularity and acceptance.

Source: “An Idiot’s Guide to EDM Genres,”


Lineup for Middle of Nowhere Festival:


Location: Los Angeles

Style: Electronic/Romantic

Also known as Alfred Darlington, the Los Angeles producer has more than two dozen releases on a variety of labels and collaborates with musicians in many worlds: electronic, jazz, hip-hop, etc. His music runs the gamut of emotion, alternately intense and mellow, exuberant and melancholy, danceable and introspective. (Source: SoundCloud)


Location: Seattle

Style: Psychedelic Electronic Soul

“Vibes. It’s all about the energy I share, the energy we share with one another. Whether in public or in private, in romance or otherwise. I think about the deepest times in my life and how I dealt with them through music with a bounce, catchy melodies, and poetry sentiments.

“I’ve always wanted to write & compose a R&B record, but the fear of ultimate vulnerability & judgment haunted me. Would my Queer Black girl feelings be acceptable? With that said, this is a very intent album. Probably the most intentional record I have composed yet.” — SassyBlack on her newest album, New Black Swing (Source: Bandcamp)


Location: Denver (originally from Iowa City)

Style: Progressive/Techno/House

Ben Mealhow is a fresh face to the Denver techno/house scene, but no stranger to the music. Hailing from Iowa [City] and its famous underground electronic scene, his love for the music stretches over a decade, with seven years of experience behind the decks. His mixing style is a direct reflection of the three essential DJ-ing principles he uses when constructing/playing out sets, making it impossible for his style to be limited to a single genre. The three principles are groove, emotion, and progression.” (Source: Facebook)

Matt Rissi

Location: Cedar Rapids

Style: Techno/House/Minimal Techno

Techno & house music without compromise … this guy understands what it’s all about. One of Iowa’s cornerstone techno promoters, producers, & DJs. For more than 16 years, Matt has been rocking the system both on the road & at home in Iowa. He’s at the forefront of a local movement, leading with torch in hand. (Source: Biography)


Location: Chicago

Style: Techno/ house/disco dubstep

Brendan Hanks

Location: Iowa City

Style: Electronic/Techno, “forward-thinking” techno

Brendan Lee Spengler

Location: Iowa City

Sounds like: Weirdo electronic pop and instrumental, meditational beatitudes for all minds. Born in Garden Grove, California. Raised in Memphis. Resides in Iowa City. Group, session and solo work on more than 50 records. (Source: Bandcamp)


Location: Iowa City

Style: Deep house


DJ Espina

Location: Iowa City

Her style is based on her Chilean and Latin background. She likes world beats, international, Latin, and tribal inspirations. Also, she likes drums, chanting, Detroit- and German-inspired old electro, and funky house. She likes pure rich female vocals that project words and messages of positivity.

DJ Wolf Mixer

Kevin Callison


Style: Detroit techno

Taking a strong influence from Detroit techno, Sier2 brings an old sound new-found life. Tying in organic textures & moving bass lines, the attitude remains deep and hard hitting. (Source: Facebook)


Location: Iowa City

Style: Electronic, indie, retrowave

Seth Nichols

Location: Denver

Style: Techno/House/Tech-House/Progressive

Seth has DJ’d since 1999, when he acquired his first set of turntables. Behind the decks, Nichols aims to ride the line of teasing and pleasing. The focus is on the contrasting elements in the music, tight seamless mixing, and a sound story. To Nichols, DJ’ing is a form of communication and soul sharing aimed to not only make people dance but also to create an uplifted and transcending vibe. (Source: SoundCloud)


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