STORY BY NATALIE LARIMER
Deep within the East Village of Des Moines, the newest addition to the city’s collection of concert venues thrives.
Wooly’s, established in 2012, is a popular place to see live music for a fair price.
The bands that play there range from local start-up bands to big-name artists like Christina Perri.
With a capacity of about 700 people, Wooly’s is the perfect place for a small-show setting with a big-name artist.
“It’s not the biggest venue, but it makes for some pretty intimate concerts,” first-year Gillian Kolotsane-Wren said. “I never feel like I’m really far from the performer. When I saw Watsky, it was pretty neat because he was so close and I got some cool pictures.”
The venue is famous for the variation in acts they bring in.
“It honestly boils down to good acts coming through the door, and also new acts that no one’s ever heard of,” said Josh Hewitt, Wooly’s marketer. “Once they come here and experience it, it’s a great way to learn about new artists.”
Several local bands have performed at Wooly’s, including 515, an indie band from Johnston.
515 usually plays at Vaudeville Mews, another venue downtown that holds 230 people.
“It’s definitely the coolest venue to play at in Des Moines,” 515 lead singer Spencer Jenkins said. “I’ve seen so many good bands play there and to have been able to play there was awesome.”
The tickets range from free to $40, but some of the better-known acts host VIP sessions before the show, which usually cost around $100. The price varies depending on the popularity of the band and how many tickets they expect to sell.
Each show is specified as all-ages, 18+ or 21+.
“All-ages shows have to be done by 11:30 here,” Hewitt said. “It’s treated like a bar so 21+ shows can go until 2. The downside to that is you lose the minors in ticket sales. The majority of our shows are all-ages.”
Occasionally a band will request an age limit on the shows, but it’s rare for that to happen since they don’t like to cut down on ticket sales.
With its popularity among college students and wider population in Des Moines, Wooly’s has now become an East Village icon in the Des Moines social scene.
“It definitely brought the East Village up,” Hewitt said. “I personally never came to the East Village before Wooly’s was here.” Other iconic places in East Village are Up/Down (an arcade bar), Zombie Burger and Raygun.
Another way that Wooly’s sets themselves apart from the crowd is how they treat the bands that play there. They provide showers and laundry services, which is unusual for venues to have.
“It was a lot cleaner, more open, and they had great sound equipment,” Jenkins said. “The sound was absolutely amazing.”
Tickets to shows are available online at woolysdsm.com and also sold at the box office inside the venue itself.
“It’s a good place to come down and grab a show, even if you don’t know the artist,” Hewitt said. “It’s a great spot to explore music.”