Ellis Kell in early 2015. Photo by Joshua Ford (Ford-Photo.com).

Ellis Kell died suddenly in December – after an October cancer diagnosis – and he was known to many as a stalwart part of the Quad Cities music scene and a longtime staff member of the River Music Experience. But these remembrances attest that Kell was loved far beyond those roles.

Peace, Love & the Joy of Music, a benefit concert for the Kell family, will be held on Saturday, January 21, from 4 to 11 p.m. at the RiverCenter (136 East Third Street, Davenport). The suggested donation for admission is $10. Scheduled performers include the Ellis Kell Band, The Whoozdads?, The Way Down Wanderers, David G. Smith, The Candymakers, Lojo Russo, The Velies, Rude Punch, The Curtis Hawkins Band with Ernie Peniston & Hal Reed, Quad Cities Blues Mafia, and RME Camp Kids Jam.

La La Land

 

Will La La Land match or exceed the record of 14 Oscar nominations currently shared by All About Eve and Titanic? (Matching, maybe; exceeding, no.) Will this be yet another year of #OscarsSoWhite? (Not by a long shot.) Will Mel Gibson be welcomed back into the open arms of Hollywood’s elite? (As we’ve been frequently reminded this past year, anything’s possible.)

These and other questions will be answered on the morning of Tuesday, January 24. But until then, there’s no harm – except, eventually, to my ego – in predicting nominations for the 89th annual Academy Awards.


Karen Meat’s Arin Eaton

“I want to barf on you,” sings Arin Eaton on “Sad,” the most stripped-down song on the 2016 Karen Meat EP She’s Drunk Like the Rest of Us. “I hate what you’ve put me through.”

While vomit is nowhere near unexpected from a Karen Meat & the Computer track (see puking references in songs such as “I Wrote You a Card” and “Pizza & Beer”), Eaton is coming from a more-personal place on this solo EP.


Lyndon B. Johnson

Let’s talk about fake news stories.

There’s the garden-variety fake news that is not really “news” so much as it is titillating, tabloid-worthy material peddled by anyone with a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and an active imagination. These stories run the gamut from the ridiculous and the obviously click-baity to the satirical and politically manipulative.

Then there’s the more-devious kind of news stories circulated by one of the biggest propagators of fake news: the U.S. government.

One year ago this month, Rolling Stone published the article “13 Things We Learned Hanging Out with Twenty One Pilots” – a getting-to-know-you with the indie-pop/alt-rock duo that included factoids such as “They avoid Twenty One Pilots fan fiction” and “Their mothers used to go to the same hairdresser.” If, however, you’re a fan of Tyler Joseph’s and Josh Dun’s chart-topping album Blurryface but want more rudimentary info prior to January 29’s concert at Moline’s iWireless Center, we humbly present “13 Other Things You Can Learn Without the Benefit of Hanging Out with Twenty One Pilots.”

Andrew Keeler and Samantha Matthews in Ghost: The Musical

Andrew Keeler and Samantha Matthews in Ghost: The Musical

 

Before the lights went down on January 13's opening night of the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's Ghost: The Musical, producer Denny Hitchcock informed the audience of the show's background, telling us that although it was originally produced on Broadway with a cast of 22, this version was scaled down to a cast of 10. But even though this minimized presentation is the story of a ghost, director Jerry Jay Cranford's show is anything but transparent and weightless.

Leslie Munson, Susan Perrin-Sallak, Jaclyn Marta, Chris Sanders-Ring, and Patti Flaherty in Steel Magnolias

Leslie Munson, Susan Perrin-Sallak, Jaclyn Marta, Chris Sanders-Ring, and Patti Flaherty in Steel Magnolias

 

What really goes on in a beauty salon? As someone follicly challenged, I have wondered what happens behind all the glamour posters, hair products, and Hollywood-scandal magazines: Certainly there's more than stereotypical gossip between the customers and their stylists – right? Well, the truth is out. The Playcrafters Barn Theatre production of Steel Magnolias lifts the veil and exposes the beauty-shop mystique, and at least in this particular shop, Southern ladies come to share their fears, secrets, joys, and love with their very best friends – all while getting the perfect shampoos, colorings, and styles.

Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day
Mark Wahlberg in Patriots Day

Rarely do I want movies to be longer. But there’s enough that’s great about Patriots Day – director Peter Berg’s procedural thriller about the Boston Marathon bombings – that suggests how great it might have been if given a more expansive presentation à la FX’s 10-part docu-drama The People v. O.J. Simpson. Heaven knows Berg had the cast to pull it off – with one exception. One major, infuriating, movie-wrecking exception.


Zoe Saldana and Ben Affleck in Live by Night

Zoe Saldana and Ben Affleck in Live by Night

 

I don’t know about you, but I love watching car chases in movies set in the 1920s, because you know that despite sharp editing and camera angles giving the impression of astounding speed, those vehicles were probably scooting around at 40 miles per hour tops. Live by Night, director/writer/star Ben Affleck’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s 2012 novel, is similarly deceptive. Telling of a petty Boston crook who, between the ’20s and ’40s, becomes a Florida-based rum entrepreneur and bona-fide gangster, the film has a breadth and look and quality performers suggesting an epic tale of venality and greed, like The Godfather with fewer Sicilians and heavier humidity. In truth, however, it’s a dawdling, unsatisfying attempt at an epic, and it is slow. Forget 40 miles per hour; this thing doesn’t have a heart rate of even 40 beats per minute.

Kyle Chandler and Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea

 

Looking over my list of favorites from the recently ended movie year, I was trying to find something – anything – that connected them beyond my admittedly eclectic tastes. I mean, seriously: low-budget drama next to Disney animation next to indie horror next to teen comedy next to musical romance next to cops and robbers next to sci-fi next to a woman being transformed into a Shetland pony ... . What the hell kind of cinematic Top 10 is this?

Art in Plain Sight: Neon Signs


The neon sign at Bowlmor. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Downtown Davenport was once bathed in the bright glow of neon signs. In a photo taken from the intersection of Main and Second streets in the 1940s, the Hansen’s Hardware neon sign in the foreground rises several stories over the street below. So does a nearby Kaybee sign. There are, seemingly, a dozen or more smaller neon signs in the block.

Today from the same vantage point, we see U.S. Bank, the Figge Art Museum plaza, and the Charles J. Wright Ground Transportation Center. The prominent Hansen neon sign? Long gone. So are all of the other large neon signs in the photo: Kaybee, The Hub, Three Sisters, Baker’s Shoes. Also gone are the even-more-impressive neon signs rising high above the downtown theatre marquees.

Neon signs from this past era, fortunately, can still be found elsewhere in the Quad Cities.

Sean Moeller Illustration by Dave Leiberg for the Time & The Mystery Podcast

I’m a glutton for these year-end wrap ups. They’re fascinating and ultimately demoralizing because as you’re reading all of them – taking that finger down the rankings – it doesn’t take you very long at all to see a pattern, and you wonder why everyone’s lying. You know damned well that there can be no consensus for this activity – especially across so many publications and outlets. But there is almost always a consensus, and I call BS on it. Don’t fall for these lists. Each one should be startlingly different and ranging. They should be the result of tightening the beautiful shambles that music does to you and your daily life.

QCA Today: January 20, 2017

This feature collects articles published online by the following Quad Cities-area media outlets: Quad-City Times, Rock Island Argus/Moline Dispatch, River Cities’ Reader, KWQC, and WQAD. It also includes items from CapitolFax.com and the state-politics sections of the Des Moines Register and the State Journal-Register.

If you'd like your media outlet included in this list, contact Jeff at jeff@rcreader.com.

Ted Rall: Get Serious

Red Meat: January 19, 2017

Ted Rall: Evidence?

Free Will Astrology: January 18, 2017

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Are you more attracted to honing group dynamics or liberating group dynamics? Do you have more aptitude as a director who organizes people or as a spark-plug who inspires people? Would you rather be a chief executive officer or a chief imagination officer? Questions such as these will be fertile for you to meditate on in the coming weeks. The astrological omens suggest it's time to explore and activate more of your potential as a leader or catalyst.

Crossword Puzzle: January 17, 2017

To download a PDF of the puzzle, click here.

Résistance, American Style

Madigan’s Re-election a Joyless Affair

If I had to choose a word to describe the Democrats’ nominating speeches for House Speaker Michael Madigan’s re-election last week, it would be either “defensive” or “joyless.”

The speeches seemed directly aimed at Madigan’s toughest critics – and there are plenty of those out there. The nominators at times angrily justified their own votes for Madigan and their continued willingness to support him while under siege by a hostile kabillionaire governor and much of the state’s media. They literally cannot go anywhere without being asked about why they continue to back Madigan.

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