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Pokey’s Fest 2 Preview

The second annual Pokey’s Fest takes place this weekend in Iowa City. The DIY music festival is organized by the local record label of the same name. It takes place over three days this weekend from June 7th to June 9th featuring plenty of punk, hardcore, metal, and whatever other weird heavy music that people are creating. Those performing are coming in from cities all around the Midwest, along with many local Iowa City and Eastern Iowa bands. 

Last year, the first Pokey’s Fest was a wonderful success with an immense communal energy that came from the blossoming punk scene, along with travelers from elsewhere. The entire weekend oscillated between moments in loud, hectic mosh pits, and people chilling with each other in spaces like backyards and sidewalks. The connections between people, along with the constant string of crazy sets made bringing the festival back an obvious choice, just now it only has more. Much of the same scene will be on display this time around. 

Along with a plethora of hardcore bands, Pokey’s Fest this year will also feature many local vendors selling and trading things like zines, food and jewelry. The festival this year is all-encompassing, and perfectly placed for the time of year when the days are longest. Below is a somewhat comprehensive guide to many of the bands playing at the festival, all put together by some of the KRUI staffers. At the bottom of the article is also a schedule with what bands are playing when. Festival tickets will be available to be bought in person. 


Image via Riverfront Times

The Mall

Music for punks who dance. From St. Louis, Missouri, The Mall produces tracks shocked with Earth crumbling bass hits and sawing synthlines slicing through the room. It’s entrancing industrial EBM all packaged into an aggressive punk like presentation. Mark Plant screams out vocals as they turn dials and press buttons, all while writhing in front of a dizzying array of lights beaming across the dark room. The whole display drenches everyone into a deep sense of euphoria. Somehow it depicts images of the end of the world, which for us will likely look like a cluttered wreckage of needless, cheap luxury and consumerist waste. Rather than be swept away and disparaged by it, The Mall encourages a celebration of bliss and life before the end of it all in whatever manmade rapture topples onto us. 

-John Glab


Hailing from Lake County, Illinois, Payasa is relatively new on the scene, though their style of hardcore punk certainly isn’t. Harrowing poetic lyrics and their upbeat throbbing tempos create a unrivaled auditory experience that will leave the unprepared in the dust, as evidenced by their short but sweet 2022 release, The Haze Begins… One can only wonder if it will emerge once again at Pokey’s Fest.

-Evan Raefield


The clichéd idea around hardcore shows, and I guess a hardcore festival, is that they’re dangerous, and that at any moment you could get clocked by someone throwing around flying spin kicks. Most of the time it is not like that. While still very wild and passionate, it’s a very respectful controlled chaos here in Iowa City. Out of every show I’ve been to in this city though, at no point did I think I was going to die more in a pit than when Prevention played at a Valentine’s Day show earlier this year. Something about the Springfield, Illinois band elicits a hidden message, sleeper cell type reaction from people. This will likely be one of the most tumultuous sets of the entire festival. 

-John Glab

Nature Boys

Veteran Kansas City punk outfit Nature Boys have worked to establish themselves in the larger scene of Eastern Iowa, as their profile has steadily grown along with their mosh pits. After working with Dead Broke Records to release their 4th album in 2021, they have introduced the world at large, and World City at large as of Friday, to their down and dirty Southern brand of punk rock.

-Evan Raefield

Image via Sweat FM

Sweat FM

Broadcasting on the wavelengths of Chicago’s Sweat FM is the ‘80s style power pop you would come to expect from things like home workout videos. It’s something that you would do that one Mannrobics dance from TF2 to. Even though this music to many people today is seen as gaudy, there’s a distinct energy that comes from that era’s sound that makes it kind of cunty. Dom Rabalais distills that pure essence into their new album you and i, we were born to cry. Among the pristine, suspended synth sounds and glam rock guitars is an infectious catchiness. It’s easy to shout along with these songs as you carry out your electric exercise routine in a would be mosh pit surrounded by everyone else. 

-John Glab

Jack and the Slammers

An exciting new three-slammer, one-Jack act from the depths of Des Moines, Iowa, Jack and the Slammers offer a particularly speedy strain of hardcore, with most songs not quite hitting the two minute mark. In addition, they have a song titled “GOON SQUAD” so you already know the crowd will be slammin’.

-Evan Raefield

Curt Oren

A bit of a change of pace, Curt Oren is an experimental electroacoustic artist and VLC projectionist incorporating genre bending elements such as saxophone to build gargantuan, larger than life compositions. Oren has worked in everything from lo-fi beats to transcendental long form soundscapes. So, one can only wonder what they’ll bring to the table this time around.

-Evan Raefield

God’s Hand

God’s Hand is a surfy punk band from Iowa City. They specialize in fast paced rock music that’s perfect for moshing. All their members are some of the most talented people in the scene and together bring an energy that can’t be replicated. None of their music is online for streaming, so if you want to experience them, you better be here in person. For now though, you can check out some of their previous sets on the Death in the Midwest YouTube channel. God’s Hand will be playing during the first set of the entire festival at Hell on Friday at 5:30 PM. 



Fresh off a 7” EP release and brief tour of the American South, Bootcamp, a hardcore punk rock four-piece and Iowa City scene staple, are back in town and ready to rock it Midwest style for Pokey’s Fest 2. Bootcamp is composed of guitarist Dolly, lead vocalist Juliette, bassist Molly, and drummer Oliver. They bring it fast and hard with killer riffs and belting vocals that demand your attention. Their songs explore ideas ranging from gender identity to corrupted former U.S. politicians, all with a spirit of liberation in mind. I <3 BOOTCAMP! See them perform at Purgatory on Friday at 8:30 PM!

-Lily Graham

Thought Wrong

We dive back into core Pokey’s Records with Thought Wrong, an Iowa City through and through hardcore group that brings a rougher edge to the scene. Thought Wrong will have you chasing the waves of their distinctive guitar sound, now at the hands of recently added guitarist Diego. This, however, is not to write off the impact of the rest of the band, with drummer August, bassist Cooper, and vocalist Marc, who bring equally weighty performances that will surely have your heads banging. The group seeks to carry on the Iowa hardcore tradition and does so with flying colors. See them bring the house down for Pokey’s Fest.

-Lily Graham


Image via Revolver Magazine

Plack Blague

Hailing from Lincoln, Nebraska, Plack Blague spews out metallic, lustful “LEATHER INDUCED ELECTRONIC BODY MUSIC.” If you like assaulting yours ears with acidic bass and harsh keyboards, this band is sure to leave you foaming at the mouth from pure excitement. If that’s not enough for you, the unhinged erotic performance of vocalist Ross Schlesinger (a.k.a. Raws) is sure to satisfy your needs. You don’t have to spend your Saturday bored out of your mind. Embrace the pull of flashing lights, strange noise, and exciting company.    

-Casper Bakker


A relative newcomer to the scene, St. Louis based four piece Mindclot has already begun to build a reputation as a one of a kind act in their mere not quite two years of rocking. Bringing a hybrid between blackened crust and d-beat, their unique rhythms will shake up expectations for the fest. Check out their 2023 album Profit Over People to prepare yourself.

-Evan Raefield

Pat and the Pissers

They’re one of the most far flung visitors for Pokey’s, coming all the way from Indianapolis! Pat and aforementioned Pissers have had a busy flurry of years, having released an album in both 2022 and 2023 with no signs of letting up. They are fresh off a spring tour across the nation, as well as separate dates bookending their Iowa City appearance. Audiences can expect a tight, fuzzy, and artsy performance from the four when they take the stage.

-Evan Raefield


The hardcore of Chicago’s Snuffed is vicious. Words snarled from vocalist Karly feel absolutely rabid. Riffs are constantly dropping down into the Earth, sending shockwaves across the surface. The natural rotting decay featured in much of the band’s imagery gives into the sonic presentation. It’s hardcore to devolve into, returning to some sort of animal urge, forgetting any of the artificial hardships that plague everyday human existence. None of these problems will really matter when eventually we all will return to the dirt where we came from.

-John Glab

Image via True Commando

True Commando

Breakcore is one of the most intense and energetic forms of music out there, with its high BPM and blistering fast rhythms. Now imagine making it even more intense and demented. That’s what Iowa City based artist True Commando does with his “hellish jungle” tracks. Amid the already frantic pace of breakcore compositions, he makes it even more caustic with blown out samples, along with scathing screams that tangle themselves within the bombardment of noise. Through all the cacophony is an intense, infectious shuffle perfect for running through the causeways of some flaming city. An immense amount of harsh energy is brought to each one of the sets, leaving a little bit of his soul strung out among the wires coiled on the ground.

-John Glab

Frontal Assault

A shining star of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa metal scene and a longtime regular in higher profile Iowa City shows, the seasoned band Frontal Assault brings a high adrenaline shred based approach to speedy metal tempos, sure to send audiences into a frenzy. They’re coming off of their most recent project, 10 Beer Plan, a split with fellow headliners Ill Omen (more on them in a moment) released in April of this year. They will have necks hurting before Saturday is half over.

-Evan Raefield

Ill Omen

The other Gemini of the Cedar Rapids metal scene, it makes sense that Ill Omen released a split with Frontal Assault, as they too embody a high octane thrash metal experience, with piercing vocals and even more piercing licks. Fresh off of their 2023 album as well as the aforementioned split, Ill Omen will bring a verifiable technical wizardry to Saturday’s lineup. I can already hear the tremolos in the distance.

-Evan Raefield


Kl!ng to some degree is Penny Peach reincarnate. Kl!ng consists of all the members of the other band, but instead the song writing responsibilities have been divided equally among the three of them. Sonically, it is very similar. The band still has the same indie rock fusion between the fluidity of garage psych akin to Ty Segall, and a much more chaotic approach to grunge. Each one of their songs twists and turns into unpredictable directions, and the personalities of all three are given plenty of room in any of their sets. It’s all a very welcoming presence.

-John Glab


Harry Manaligod, the artist behind the YXNG RASKAL project, produces scathing rap songs with abrasive, murky, hyper pop like beats. Many of her songs, like “prairielands” on her recent album SPLIT/TING are protest anthems made to rage at the systems of oppression that people face in Iowa City on a daily basis. All while doing this though, she still does it in a jovial way, like on the track “LiNDSEY GRAHAM” where she shows no matter how much those in power try to knock people down, we can still rise and enjoy the time we have in our lives. Along with this, as Manaligod puts it, it’s bad bitch music that’s not bitch made.

-John Glab


Despite being a newer band in the Iowa City punk scene, Burger does not need an explanation. Yet, I guess here I am trying to give one. Filling in the city’s empty niche of Oi! Punk, the band still exudes a level of aggression, but makes it extremely palpable by providing a generally chirpy atmosphere. Each Burger set is extremely fun and joyous. It feels like it’d be perfect to play in some chapter’s union hall. Another niche in the Iowa City area which should be packed even more. 

-John Glab


Image via River Cities’ Reader


Aseethe is viscous. Their sound of doom metal is all-encompassing. When listening to their sets, the sludginess of their riffs seems to turn the air of whatever venue they’re playing into a solid mass. They achieve this effect by emphasizing drones in their music. Along with blending the regular elements of hardcore, they introduce synths into their sonic array, never letting up for a moment of brevity. All the different voices bend and bleed into each other. Within their dense, metallic performance, it permeates into a mesmerizing, hypnotic rumble. 

-John Glab

Death Kill Overdrive

Death Kill Overdrive is a bombastic pop punk freakazoid band hailing from Iowa City. With the delightfully pissed off vocal stylings of Cain and Oliver, and unmatched instrumentation, you’ll have no choice but to cheer and jump around for this home grown four piece! They released their most recent album Juicin’ late last year. With songs about everything from the joy of being in love, to the absolute horror of working in a grocery store, to how fucking cute the bassist Molly’s rabbit is, there’s no excuse for not showing up to what is sure to be a fantastic performance. Catch Death Kill Overdrive on the flip side, and at Pokey’s Fest.

-Casper Bakker


All lowercase, no spaces, MySpacecore band name? No thanks. Sure they’re relatively new, but this band like sucks. They’re fucking trash. We don’t need a cringe-ass screamo “skramz” or whatever the fuck band in Iowa City. I hate every member of this band, especially that dumb fuck twink of a bassist. Go see them or whatever.

Pest Heaven

Two piece bands consisting of just a vocalist on guitar and drums aren’t very common to come by. This is often because with having just the three possible voices, it’s hard to flesh out a full sound, unless you exude extreme talent. Two pieces like Washer, Gnarwhal, or to some degree The White Stripes do this exceptionally well, being able to create captivating songs with the barebones tools. Pest Heaven also falls into this category. Between guitarist Adelina and drummer Cauline, no space feels left empty. Some intricate fill or drum pattern is always being played, while the guitar riffs feel incredibly lush, and move from one killer idea to the next. All of this comes along with the duo’s fiery, heartfelt delivery. 

-John Glab


Iowa City, Pokey’s Records, and the festival that they are putting on is home to plenty of weird and convention-pushing art. Tucked into this is a thriving experimental noise music scene. Haunter is one of many of these artists. During their sets, typically lit by just a single candle, they generate dark, barren, windswept landscapes. They feel inhospitable to be in, like it’s some sort of mistake that you find yourself standing in the middle of the long-decayed carnage. It’s an overbearing sensory experience that can make a person grapple with their own swirling being.  

-John Glab

Pokey’s Fest Schedule