In the weeks since Daytrotter left its Brady Street digs in Davenport for a new space in Atlanta, media within and around the community seem to expect a wringing of hands and a gnashing of teeth among the local entertainment industry, asking: “What’s going to happen to the Quad Cities music scene now?!”
Jason Parris, who has been booking shows at Rock Island Brewing Company for over a decade answers: “It’s just going to keep getting better … Daytrotter was just the beginning.”
Locals in the music industry refer to Parris as “our metal guy.” He’s also the co-owner/founder of Wake Brewing — where all the brews are riff infused — which is where I catch him with my cassette recorder. He’s usually at the bar, sitting across from a framed oil painting of Lemmy that looks like it should have a candle-lit shrine beneath it.
“Sean [Moeller, Daytrotter founder] opened the flood gates,” Parris says. “Now that people know what the Quad Cities is — this midway point between multiple major tour hubs — we’re not going anywhere.”
Parris and Moeller are longtime friends. He’s watched it all unfold — Daytrotter’s 2006 launch to the rise of the its web site to its 2016 purchase, when it moved from Rock Island to Davenport — from a unique perspective that is both intimate and removed. He’s a reliable source of information, so I’m not at all surprised to hear his opinion echoed elsewhere.
Bob Herington, for example, has a similar outlook from across the Mississippi at his shop, Ragged Records. People like Parris and Herington –- that is, people “in the know,” so to speak –- seem unconcerned by the disappearance of the studio that’s long been credited with building mass awareness of the Quad Cities as a relevant force in contemporary music.
“This area is the strongest musically that it’s ever been,” Herington says of the area. “There’s so much going on. There’s shows every night of the week! I remember in the early ’80s it was like, ‘Cool, this band’s coming in three weeks.’”
Along with both Ragged Records locations, Herington owns label Cartouche Records. And as if he weren’t busy enough, he’s helped organize All Senses Festival –- one of the biggest psychedelic rock fests between Portugal and the Nevada desert –- for the last three years. In short, Herington knows what he’s talking about.
He’s eating lunch as I chat with him and his fellow vinyl merchant Andrew Stuart Cline. Cline is also a musician, performing under the name Aqualife. If a venue exists within a 50-mile radius, Cline’s been to a show there.
I asked him if we should be concerned about the loss of Daytrotter. He shrugs and seems mildly amused, saying: “There are more venues cropping up … you shut down a venue, people move to another one. You shut down that one, we’ll just move to the next one. Like hermit crabs.”
It sounds like audiences and performers alike have already moved on. Daytrotter’s founders have, as well. Audio engineer Pat Stolley, who gave the Horseshack its first home and was its earliest supporter, is considered one of the best producers in the Midwest. Recording artists travel hundreds of miles for a session with him at Future Appletree Studio Too in Rock Island. In fact, I’m going to risk a stoning and say that, between it and Daytrotter’s Davenport space, it’s the superior studio.
Johnnie Cluney, who developed the iconic style of Daytrotter artist illustrations and branding, is highly sought after for advertising and logo designs. On top of that, he recently had a gallery exhibition showcasing his abstract artworks.
As for Moeller, he continues to work closely with local venues of all sizes through his entertainment brand and booking agency, Moeller Nights. He’s still the guy to talk to if you want to get a concert together –- like Flood Fest: A Benefit Concert, at the River Center on June 7.
Moeller said his goodbyes to Daytrotter long ago — right around the time Atlanta-based Paste Music purchased the brand –- and has nothing more to say on the matter now. Instead he, like his partners and friends, chooses to focus on what the area still has: a town full of motivated doers on a mission.
The brand’s former social media and booking specialist Paige Underwood founded YellowUFO, a booking and promotions company. She works primarily with DIY and emerging artists with the goal to help them reach the next stages of their careers.
One of Underwood’s favorite venues is Rozz-Tox, a gallery and café-bar known for attracting national and international performers who return again and again, some even claiming the Quad Cities as a second home. It’s one of a dozen-or-so venues that books innovative, admirable artists so consistently that it’s become a sounder for many of the region’s venue operators, bookers and fans looking for their next favorite performer.
I asked Rozz-Tox owner Ben Fawks for a room’s perspective on the significance of Daytrotter’s exit, to which he replied: “That venue hasn’t existed in so long that it really doesn’t matter. And they operated under the radar for a long time before that. A huge number of Quad Citians had no idea it was even there.” [Note: with just 10 shows in 2018, Froggy Fresh and Art Haus Eviction Notice were the last ever performers in the Daytrotter lobby in June of that year.]
He seemed more eager to talk about upcoming performances by visiting artists, at his own space as well as others around town: Bier Stube, RIBCo, Triple Crown Whiskey Bar and Raccoon Motel, the Rust Belt, Redstone Room, the River Music Experience and Great River Brewery patios (summer’s almost here!), Broken Saddle, Bent River Brewing Co, etc. Each has its loyal fanbase of hometown regulars and performers that return again and again.
Back at Wake, Fawks is one of the (many) names Parris drops when he praises people who continue to feed the thriving local music industry. He’s talking about the people who found recording and promotion companies, organize shows and festivals, and spend their hard-earned dollars to support the arts.
These are the people who made Daytrotter special in the first place. It’s because of them that a band will subsist on gas station burritos and coast into town on fumes all for the chance to be part of this community, even if they can only stay a few hours.