• 2017 Summer Guide on Stands Now!

    The River Cities’ Reader’s 2017 Summer Guide – featuring more than 1,400 events from June through August – is on stands now. Pick up a copy wherever you find the River Cities’ Reader!

    You can also browse it online or use our online calendar to find everything happening in the Quad Cities this summer!

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    Candid Cameras: Davenport’s Pilot Project for Police Surveillance Raises Questions, but We Know Many of the Answers

    Traffic-enforcement cameras have been a common sight in Davenport for 13 years, but now the city is using new cameras for a different purpose: to help prevent and solve violent and property crimes.

    Davenport in the past month has begun a pilot project with 18 cameras at four intersections on Washington Street south of Locust Street. The city purchased the cameras for nearly $54,000 as part of a larger neighborhood-revitalization program that also includes street and sidewalk improvements.

    The idea is to see to what extent the cameras prevent crime, and how much they assist police in solving crimes that do occur.

    But police surveillance cameras, in general, are not particularly good at deterring crime. They can be effective in certain circumstances, but not in the way Davenport is using them.

  • Spring+Summer 2017 Quad Cities Dining Guide on Stands Now!

    The Spring+Summer 2017 edition of the Quad Cities Dining Guide – featuring more than 800 restaurant listings – is on stands now. Pick one up wherever you find the River Cities’ Reader!

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    Iowa’s War on Government-Worker Unions: Attacking Organized Labor Is Good, Divisive Politics on an Issue That Deserves Better

    The pendulum swung swiftly.

    House File 291 was introduced in the Iowa legislature on February 9, was passed by the House and Senate on February 16, and was signed by Governor Terry Branstad the next day.

    Despite that speed, this was not some emergency measure. Instead, it was part of a pent-up agenda being unleashed, as Republicans enjoyed – really enjoyed – their first unified control of the legislative and executive branches of state government since 1998.

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    Energy Boon or Bailout Bust? Probably Both: The Benefits of Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Bill Come with Consumer Costs

    It’s admittedly difficult to get your head around Illinois’ recently passed Future Energy Jobs Bill – a massive, long-gestating piece of legislation that touches on many aspects of energy policy.

    Yet the legislation is worth exploring. It will be a major change in Illinois energy policy when it takes effect on June 1. And it’s an instructive study of the give-and-take of the legislative process – a case that was absolutely green and utility-friendly, but one that might not be nearly as kind to consumers as has been promised.

  • Governor Finally Manages to Bypass the Media

    Governor Bruce Rauner regularly attempts to “go over the heads” of the news media and talk directly to the public without any journalistic filters. Usually for people in his particular position, that’s just not possible. Governors aren’t presidents, after all. They can’t deliver Oval Office addresses that are carried live by television networks or give stump speeches that cable news networks regularly broadcast. They don’t have millions of Twitter followers or Facebook-video watchers.

    That hasn’t stopped Rauner from trying. He has spent millions on television advertising even in non-election years attempting to frame his issues his own way – mainly to avoid taking any blame for his state grinding to a halt without a budget, and to shift all blame to House Speaker Michael Madigan and the Democrats.

    Aside from those ads, most of his Facebook videos have fewer than 10,000 or so views, a tiny fraction of Illinois’ population. He only has about 20,000 Twitter followers, which is less than I have.

    So last week’s Old State Capitol speech about the need for “unity” was a true rarity.

  • State Governments Are Becoming the Biggest Drug Lords of All

    The so-called “war on drugs” – actually a war on certain people associated in various ways with certain drugs – has served since the Nixon administration as a major profit center for governments at every level. Owing to the ostensible efforts to suppress the possession, use, and commerce in these drugs, governments have been able to justify great increases in their staffs, budgets, and power.

  • Governor Finally Supports a Budget Plan, but Democrats Remain Spooked

    One of the hottest rumors making the rounds among Statehouse types last week was that the governor and/or the Illinois Republican Party will be sending “trackers” to Springfield for the upcoming special legislative session.

    The rumor, which was everywhere, was that the trackers would follow Democrats around to try to get them to say silly things or record them doing stuff that might not look good to the folks back home.

    Nasty rumors thrive in the pea-soup fog of fear and loathing that pervades the Statehouse these days. At one time or another, it seems like everybody has fought everybody and now nobody trusts anybody.

  • Madigan, Rauner Have No Incentives to Compromise

    As we’ve all seen over the past several months, Governor Bruce Rauner is adamantly refusing to provide any help whatsoever to Chicago – which is struggling mightily under the weight of years of fiscal misfeasance – until his Turnaround Agenda demands are met. A long-sought education-funding-reform bill, a 911 emergency-call-center fee, and even a bill to allow the expedited sale of the Thompson Center have been hit with Rauner’s broad (and often false) brush of being a “Chicago bailout.”

    Rauner will never again get another “opportunity” like this one. Democrats have historically protected Chicago, and the city needs more help now than ever before. Going after the city is, by far, Rauner’s “best” leverage to force the Democrats to cut a deal with him.

    Democrats, particularly in the House, won’t budge, partly because their city-based and statewide union allies are demanding all-out war.

  • Governor Could Have Taken a Modest Win, but ...

    House Speaker Michael Madigan was his usual self during the final week of the General Assembly’s spring session, passing bills to make one point or another without actually accomplishing anything.

    Bills are routinely moved in the House for the sole purpose of creating TV ads or direct-mail pieces or newspaper headlines. Madigan’s only real ideology is maintaining his majority, and he doesn’t consider that to be a bad thing. And maintaining that majority has been inextricably tied for two long years with stopping Governor Bruce Rauner at every turn, despite Madigan’s repeated claims that he’s cooperating and that Rauner should just accept a win and move on.

    Whatever else you can say about Madigan, he’s not wrong about that last part.

  • Doppel-giggler: “The Comedy of Errors,” at Lincoln Park through July 2

    “Welcome to theatre in the park!” announced Genesius Guild Executive Director Doug Tschopp at the June 24 presentation of The Comedy of Errors. Tschopp didn’t, however, say this during his customary greeting and introductory remarks. He said it during an unplanned break roughly 20 minutes into the Shakespeare comedy while he, director Bryan Woods, and a stagehand used makeshift mops to soak up the accumulating rain that had been causing performers to slip.

  • Amphibians Rainbow: "A Year with Frog & Toad," at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse through July 1

    I’ve been taking my nine-year-old granddaughter Ava to the theatre since she was three, and on June 15 she accompanied me to the matinée performance of A Year with Frog & Toad, where we agreed that children’s shows don’t always have to be high-energy to be fun. This Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse production is a gentle story of friendship, and under the direction of Kim Kurtenbach it has a nicely old-fashioned vibe.

  • Fateful Photos: "Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook," at the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse through July 8

    The concept of taking songs from an artist’s catalog and piecing them together to create a narrative doesn’t always work. But I must say that the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's current Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook is one of the genre's best, culling the music of Broadway composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz to tell the tale of a couple whose relationship is at a turning point. Its 26 numbers are from albums and familiar musicals such as Wicked, Godspell, and Pippin, and although some of the lyrics have been altered to match new characters and situations, this wasn't a distraction for me, and I was able to enjoy them as fresh and fitting for the storyline.

  • High Seas, High "C"s: "The Little Mermaid," at the Prospect Park Auditorium through June 18

    Let me begin by stating, honestly, that I am a huge Disney fan, and have a major bias toward anything Disney-related. So when seeing The Little Mermaid come to life during Quad City Music Guild's June 8 preview, the show would've had to be a catastrophe for me to not enjoy myself. Thankfully, it wasn't one.

  • Tree-Lined Triptych: “Selections from Menotti,” at Lincoln Park through June 18

    When my editor was doling out reviewing assignments for the month, I more or less said, “Please – anything but opera!” Then, due to availability issues, I ended up being assigned to review Opera @ Augustana's and Genesius Guild's Selections from Menotti.

  • Just a Road Map: The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, June 30 at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival

    A casual listen to The Front Porch Sessions, the new album from The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, will likely prompt some confusion.

    There’s that deceptive name, which purposefully disguises the Indiana-based trio as something larger. And there’s the fact that the guitarist/singer/songwriter Reverend (born Josh) is augmented ever so lightly on the record by his bandmates – wife Breezy on washboard and Maxwell Senteney on drums. The Big Damn Band sounds downright small.

    And then there’s the laid-back-country-blues style, which masks the difficulty of the Rev’s playing. If you didn’t know that Peyton simultaneously plays both the bass and lead lines on his guitar, you’d swear there was at least one more member of the Big Damn Band. It doesn’t seem possible, for example, that there isn’t an upright-bass player on “Cornbread & Butterbeans.”

  • Freeing “Freedom”: Chicano Batman, June 30 at Daytrotter

    Lurking underneath the unfettered joy of Chicano Batman’s version of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” is a tension. The performance and enthusiasm could not be more infectious, but ... it was created for a whiskey commercial (for Johnnie Walker) that aired during this year’s Grammys. And it was released two days before the inauguration of President Donald Trump and implicitly exposes the song’s political roots.

    And therein lies the track’s magic. It’s so fully convincing that it doesn’t feel like selling out. And you won’t catch a whiff of protest from it, because the unwavering brightness is the protest.

  • Crossover Appeal: Jazz Meets Classical with Mike Conrad’s All Angles Orchestra, July 2 at the Village Theatre

    Bettendorf native Mike Conrad is an acclaimed jazz trombonist, composer, bandleader, and educator who’s currently completing his doctorate in jazz studies at the University of Northern Colorado. But in tracing his musical gifts and professional success back to their grade-school beginnings, the 29-year-old actually has another doctor to thank – one with the surname Seuss.

  • Back in Stride: Leftover Salmon, July 3 at the Redstone Room

    It was 2007 when I last spoke to Vince Herman, and he was promoting a show with Great American Taxi. I asked him about some festival dates that Leftover Salmon – the long-running, self-described “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass” jam band that he co-founded – had played that summer.

    Herman was clear that, in his view, Leftover Salmon – which went on hiatus in 2005 after soldiering on for three years following the death of bandmate Mark Vann – didn’t have much of a future without its founding banjo player. “As a business entity and as a musical entity, it just didn’t have its old boogie-woogie to it,” he told me. “We did it as long as we could before it was too much.”

    That obituary turned out to be premature, as Leftover Salmon over the past seven years has had a remarkably active second act.

  • The Stories Behind “Sunshine Superman” ... and More: Donovan, June 10 at the Adler Theatre

    Donovan helped initiate the ’60s psychedelic revolution with his number-one hit “Sunshine Superman.” To commemorate its 50th anniversary, the Scottish singer, songwriter, and guitarist is touring America – including a June 10 stop at the Adler Theatre.

    The backing musicians on the single (and the album that shares its name) included Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones shortly before they formed Led Zeppelin. Donovan discussed these matters as well as his friendship and interactions with the Beatles in a recent e-mail interview.

  • Transformers: The Last Knight
    Camelot? Camelot. I Know. It Sounds a Bit Bizarre: “Transformers: The Last Knight”

    It can’t be easy directing solely with your middle finger, but somehow Bay has pulled it off; in one fell swoop here, he’s turned his humans into robots, his robots into pests, and his worldwide audiences into saps whose goodwill, patience, and money he appears all too willing to waste.

  • Lightning Strikes Thrice: “Cars 3” and “Rough Night”

    If asked to list Pixar features I felt more deserving of a second sequel than 2006’s Cars, I’d offer a simple “all of ’em except The Good Dinosaur.” So maybe it was low expectations that allowed me to find Cars 3 the best of its bunch, and by a considerable margin, to boot.

  • A Bum Rap: “All Eyez on Me” and “47 Meters Down”

    Why do bad bio-pics happen to good people?

  • E-gypped: “The Mummy,” “It Comes at Night,” and “Megan Leavey”

    Director Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy aims to be an action blockbuster, a supernatural freak-out, a tongue-in-cheek comedy, a tentpole-starter, and the ultimate Tom Cruise vehicle all at once, and I have to give it a weird kind of credit, because I never imagined a film could fail so spectacularly on quite so many levels.

  • Breastplate Armor and Cotton Briefs: "Wonder Woman" and "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie"

    Obviously, the summer months – by which I mean Hollywood’s May through August – bring with them superhero movies. On some weekends, they bring with them only superhero movies. But I can honestly say I never planned on a superhero two-fer quite as delightful, unexpected, and satisfying as this past weekend’s debuts of Wonder Woman and Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Despite their shared release date and origin-story setups, you wouldn’t think that much would connect director Patty Jenkins’ live-action blockbuster and director David Soren’s featherweight animated comedy. In truth, though, the works are nearly identical in basic yet crucial ways that too many costumed-crime-fighter sagas aren’t: They’re blessedly unpretentious, they’re (mostly) angst-free, and they’re entertaining as hell.

Art

  • Enter Our 2017 Photo Contest – June 27 Deadline

    The River Cities’ Reader’s photo contest has returned, with four new categories for your submissions: “Urban,” “Rural,” “Uniquely Quad Cities,” and “Reflection.”

    The deadline for entries is June 27. We plan to publish the winners in the July 6 issue of the River Cities’ Reader.

  • Featured Image from the Quad Cities Photography Club

    Quad Cities Photography Club member Joe Maciejko, who often photographs Ballet Quad Cities events, writes: “The Quad Cities are blessed with many scenic photo opportunities to delight photographers. But our community is alive with other events and venues that are unique in our great land. Among them is Ballet Quad Cities, which is a performance-art treasure in our community. The ballet company, together with Orchestra Iowa, in April staged the production Wild Wild West. This included two ballets, Rodeo and Billy the Kid, performed to the music of Aaron Copland. This picture is from Rodeo, choreographed by Margaret King. It represents a delightful glimpse into the raucous cowboy life in a saloon in the Old West brought to life in a contemporary ballet. I was privileged to be able to photograph this production, which was a crowning jewel in the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Ballet Quad Cities in our community.”

  • Art in Plain Sight: Modern Woodmen Park’s Brick Diamond

    Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” – Yogi Berra

    Yogi’s words are illogical. But brilliant.

    It is equally illogical to inlay a full-sized baseball diamond – made of brick and stone! – in the pavement west of Modern Woodmen Park, not far from the “real” one inside.

  • Colored Entranced: The Figge’s “Jefferson Pinder: Ghost Light” Explores Race Through Different Lenses

    Hovering high above the heads of visitors to the Figge Art Museum, a neon sign that reads “Colored Entranced” points the way into the third-floor gallery. Anchored to the wall, the sign sits at an angle so visitors who enter from either the elevator or the stairs see it almost immediately. Bright tubes of clean red-orange light form words that contrast with and illuminate the corroded tin support from which they extend. The glow of the neon affects the surrounding space by casting light in shades of pink and violet on the white walls. A ghostly reflected image with deep red and cobalt-blue hues can be seen on the polished gray floor.

    Colored Entranced is visually appealing, but the symbolic history it represents is abhorrent. Seeing it for the first time, non-black visitors may feel an unexpected pang of empathy for those who were subjected to that kind of direct segregation.

  • Adding Poetry to Platforms: Jefferson Pinder on “Ghost Light”

    If you visit the Figge Art Museum to see Jefferson Pinder’s exhibit Ghost Light (see our review here), the artist will be satisfied if you leave enlightened. Or thoughtful. Or angry. Or confused.

    He’ll also be okay if you see the neon sign reading “Colored Entranced” and choose not to enter the gallery.