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Moeller’s Moves: Daytrotter’s Founder Brings His Savvy and Connections to River Roots Live, the Ballpark (Maybe), a New Venue (Probably), and ... PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 20 August 2015 05:42

Sean Moeller

In June, Codfish Hollow Barn in Maquoketa hosted a show with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. The concert didn’t have Sean Moeller’s or Daytrotter’s name on it, but the link was clear enough.

“I made that show happen,” Moeller said earlier this month.

Moeller founded Daytrotter.com in 2006 as a source for exclusive live-in-the-studio recordings, and the vast majority of its thousands of sessions over the past nine years have been recorded in the Quad Cities. But even though concerts are not Daytrotter’s product, they are an increasingly common and visible fringe benefit for the Quad Cities, and the Oberst performance illustrates the reciprocal relationship between the internationally known Web site and local shows.

Moeller said he’d been trying to get Oberst in for a session since Daytrotter began – but it only happened because of Codfish Hollow.

“I got a Daytrotter session out of Conor Oberst,” Moeller said. “That’s why I did it. ... I’m not going to not do that. ... I’m going to help make that happen so that I can get something for Daytrotter from Conor Oberst.”

Over the past decade, much of the impact Daytrotter has had on the Quad Cities has been easily discerned – although it’s infrequently been explicit, and often it’s indirect. Rozz-Tox’s lineup is littered with Daytrotter bands. Codfish Hollow concerts typically feature some of Moeller’s favorite bands.

More and more, however, Moeller is putting his name on his work. For nearly a year, he’s booked and hosted Moeller Mondays shows at Rozz-Tox. Last year he began shows at Davenport’s Renwick Mansion under the same banner, and this year he started doing concerts at the Village Theatre in Davenport.

“It’s a promoter thing,” he explained about the decision to create a Moeller brand. “It’s like a [prestigious] record label. People do believe in certain promoters. ...

“I think I tried to stay behind the name Daytrotter for the longest time. I’d go to places and I’d just be introduced as Daytrotter. ‘This is Daytrotter.’”

Of course, the Web site is more than just Moeller. He has a business partner and several engineers, and he said the work of illustrator Johnnie Cluney is essential to the identity. And because Daytrotter is a media company and not a concert organizer and promoter, the name doesn’t naturally fit with shows that Moeller books or otherwise helps with.

So he said he wondered: “Why the hell am I not building up my own name a little bit? ... I’m just trying to be a facilitator. I’m putting my name out there because why shouldn’t I? There has to be something I put it under. I want to be associated with the good things that I’m bringing to town, not for an ego situation. There has to be somebody to validate something that’s coming to town. ... You still need somebody to put a stamp on it.”

Daytrotter itself plans to get back into the business of one-time local shows with the opening (likely this fall) of its new recording studio and live-music venue in downtown Davenport – although that’s no guarantee given the history of the renovation project.

So Moeller’s behind-the-scenes work continues. He booked artists for the September 6 East Fest at Davenport’s BREW in the Village.

He and Quad Cities River Bandits Managing Partner Dave Heller are planning to present concerts at Modern Woodmen Park, possibly starting this fall.

And Moeller said he booked three of the four headliners for this year’s River Roots Live festival: rising country star Kacey Musgraves, legendary R&B singer Mavis Staples, and the indie-pop outfit Hellogoodbye. “If you look at this year’s lineup, there’s a lot of my fingerprints all over it,” he said.

That’s not modest, but the man has no reason to be. For all that he’s done with Daytrotter, Sean Moeller has also reshaped the local music scene when it comes to touring artists.

 
Distilled Pleasures: Rude Punch, “Lovers Rock”; August 21 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Monday, 17 August 2015 07:45

Rude Punch. Photo by Zion Design Photography.

Six years ago, I wrote a less-than-glowing review of the Quad Cities band Rude Punch’s Killin’ It, highlighting the strength of one song as a contrast to the remainder. Overall, I faulted the album for “a lack of imagination.”

With an opening like that, you can probably guess what’s coming next. The rock-y reggae outfit is back with a new record – Lovers Rock – and it represents a major leap forward, with levels of polish, arrangement detail, and nuance that make it easy to look past its generic trappings.

The phrase “lack of imagination” still applies in some senses. Two songs from Killin’ It – albeit the best tracks, “Rock for Me” and “Payment” – have been re-recorded for Lovers Rock. That album title references a romantic subgenre of reggae, which is an accurate enough description but is way too on the nose for a record name.

And despite hints on Lovers Rock that Rude Punch – guitarist/songwriter/singer Brady Jager, drummer/singer Adam Tucker, former bassist Al Sweet, and current bassist/singer Jack Hill – could be an expansive rockers-without-borders trio, the new record still feels overly rutted in reggae. It works as a stylistic base, yet it’s constraining for the band’s talents – a too-comfortable default.

Those complaints are minor, though. All of Lovers Rock’s eight tracks are compelling, and clocking in at less than 33 minutes, the album breezes past with plentiful pleasures – with impeccable grooves, playfulness in the production, smart sequencing, and just enough detours from reggae.

 
Groove’s Not Shallow: Jessica Lee Wilkes, August 11 at RIBCO PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 30 July 2015 08:58

Jessica Lee Wilkes. Photo by Joshua Black Wilkins.

Lone Wolf, Jessica Lee Wilkes’ debut recording as a solo artist, offers not the slightest hint of doubt. Its five tracks are a 12-minute blast of full-throated, deep-groove 1950s-style rock, with the bassist/singer/songwriter belting in an unvarnished, brassy voice that sounds wholly natural.

Listening to the new EP, it’s hard to believe that Wilkes – who will perform at RIBCO on August 11 – questioned herself a lot. She spent the past half-decade playing and singing in J.D. Wilkes & the Dirt Daubers, but – unlike her music-biz-vet husband (the leader of the aforementioned band) – she’s relatively new to performing and recording.

Making her introduction to the world in such an abbreviated form, she said in a recent phone interview, was partly a function of money, but it was also an acknowledgment of inexperience. She had plenty of songs for a longer recording, but she didn’t want to get in over her head.

“I wanted to see if I could do it at all,” she said. “This was sort of like my first little test run ... , a way to get my feet wet and try to see what I’m capable of as an independent artist.”

 
Photos from Camp Euforia 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Lars Rehnberg   
Wednesday, 22 July 2015 12:25

Photos by Lars Rehnberg (Flickr.com/larsanders) from the Camp Euforia festival, held July 16 through 18 in Lone Tree, Iowa.

Jeff Austin Band

 
“Resistance” Transforms Potential Into Maturity: Lewis Knudsen, “The Way of Most Resistance”; July 23 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Saturday, 18 July 2015 12:42

Lewis Knudsen. Photo by Mike Aubrey.

Lewis Knudsen kicks off his album The Way of Most Resistance with a track titled “Death & Cats,” featuring the slightly ominous lyric “Death and cats are taking over / You better look over your shoulder.”

It’s not the most musically arresting track on the record, but in addition to its great title and chorus, it has a gently infectious (and not at all ominous) slink in both verse and chorus. It’s a low-key charmer announcing that Knudsen’s artistic potential has quickly become confident maturity.

I liked much of what the singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist and his band were up to on last year’s Joy, Pain, Love, Songs – although its mishmash nature made it hard to divine how its disparate threads could or would be woven into a coherent artistic vision.

While Knudsen admitted that his 2014 album was a collection of unrelated songs, he said via e-mail that he conceived The Way of Most Resistance as an “alt-funk/neo-soul” album. That description is a bit of a stretch given the restraint in tempo and dynamic range – and how well Knudsen’s voice and his band fit within them.

The sax, keys, and bass on “Fire Inside Me” fit that funk/soul description, but the vibe on Resistance seems more rooted in the carefully orchestrated pop of Badly Drawn Boy. (Remember him?) Knudsen’s palette isn’t quite so broad, but his arrangements (as on his previous album) make smart use of saxophone, violin, and vocal textures, while his heartfelt singing and the wit in his songwriting complete the package.

 
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