Best of the Quad Cities 2005: Arts, Culture, & Leisure Print
News/Features - Feature Stories
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Tuesday, 07 February 2006 18:00
Local theatre organization 1. Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse 2. ComedySportz 3. Playcrafters Barn Theatre Local blues band 1. Ellis Kell Band 2. John Resch & the Detroit Blues (tie) 2. Mercury Brothers (tie)

Best local blues band - Ellis Kell Band

“The first time I heard the blues,” recalls local blues performer Ellis Kell, “was when I was 10 years old.” At that time, Kell says, he didn’t even know the names of the black quartets and gospel groups he was admiring, but the heartfelt sounds “just struck a chord. I said, ‘Wow!’” For more than 15 years, local audiences have also been saying “Wow!” The Ellis Kell Band has, yet again, been chosen as tops in the local blues-music scene, and Kell attributes his continued success to the fact that “I work with good musicians” who “fit like an old, comfortable shoe.” The Ellis Kell Band currently performs between 15 and 20 gigs a year, and, this past December, opened for the legendary B.B. King at the Davenport RiverCenter. Ellis lists King as a great influence on his music, along with Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker – “he’s one of the most soulful singers on the planet,” Kell says – and the late Albert Collins, whom Kell calls “just amazing.” But Kell, who has never toured with his band, has no regrets about not taking his act on the road. “I always kind of shied away from it,” he says. “I liked coming home at the end of the day.” We like that he does, too.

Mike Schulz

Local country band

1. Jim the Mule
2. Dani Lynn Howe Band
3. Fifth of Country

Local jazz band
1. Josh Duffee & His Orchestra
2. Manny Lopez Trio
3. Metrolites (tie)
3. Terry Hansen Ensemble (tie)

Local rock band
1. Jim the Mule
2. Wicked Liz & the Bellyswirls
3. Metrolites (tie)
3. Spatterdash (tie)

Local metal/alternative band
1. Spatterdash
2. Metrolites
3. Post Mortems (tie)
3. Wicked Liz & the Bellyswirls (tie)

Local folk/acoustic performer
1. Wicked Liz
2. Fry Daddies
3. Catseye (tie)
3. Jim Ryan (tie)

New local band
1. Parish Festival
2. Minus 6
3. Money Shot

Best new local band - Parish Festival

“Original” and “incomparable” are two adjectives some fans use to describe Parish Festival. One reason is that the band’s ever-evolving style fuses disparate influences into a mix of indie rock, folk, and jazz. Guitarist, banjoist, and vocalist Jamey Cummins feels the use of banjo on half of the band’s music is the “most distinctive thing” about its sound – in part because he doesn’t play the instrument conventionally. “It creates its own thing,” Cummins said. While most banjo players pick the instrument, Cummins approaches it as he would a regular guitar, which gives the band a unique sound. Drummer Ryan Neubauer and bassist Andy Rappel make up the rest of Parish Festival, named after a yearly event at Cummins’ Catholic grade school. For being together a little less than a year, Parish Festival has built quite a loyal fan base and looks to “stay the track we’re on” in terms of incorporating new genres into its sound, Cummins said. You can next see Parish Festival on February 11 at Hunter’s Club in Rock Island. For more information or to hear Parish Festival, check out (http://www.myspace.com/parishfestival).

Jesse Virgil

Annual family event/festival

1. Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival
2. Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
3. Mississippi Valley Fair

Place to view or buy art
1. Figge Art Museum
2. Bucktown Center for the Arts
3. Quad City Arts

Best place to view or buy art - Figge Art Museum

I’m sure some readers will be disappointed to learn that while you can view fine works by Grant Wood or Andy Warhol at the Figge Art Museum, you won’t be able to buy them. Yes, the museum – which opened in August – won in our reader poll as the “best place to view or buy art,” but your purchases will have to be relegated to the gift shop.

Even with that strike against it, the Figge has proved the importance of context in viewing art. The institution formerly known as the Davenport Museum of Art had nearly all of its permanent collection – all but about 80 works – locked away at its Museum Hill site, and the art that was displayed was lit poorly. The Figge, with its full-spectrum light, has given new life to many works of art. As Figge Executive Director Linda Downs said about one painting at the time of the museum’s grand opening, “This was a revelation to me.”

The new building has another major benefit: space. The permanent-collection area has allowed the museum to triple the number of works on display, and it has two floors dedicated to changing exhibitions. To date, it has hosted two major shows: The Great American Thing and the current Edouard Duval-Carrié retrospective. And through December, more than 32,000 people visited the new museum.

Jeff Ignatius

Museum

1. Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre
2. Figge Art Museum
3. River Music Experience

2005 concert
1. Green Day
2. River Roots Live
3. B.B. King

Place to dance
1. Kai’s
2. Chaps Dance Hall & Saloon
3. The Carriage Haus

Bar to watch sporting events
1. Rookies Sports Bar
2. Sports Fans Pizza
3. Kelly’s Irish Pub & Eatery

Best bar to watch sporting events – Rookies

Rookies Sports Bar
, at 2818 North Brady Street in Davenport, is where many college students spend their Thursdays on $5 all-you-can-drink night. But for the rest of the Quad Cities, it’s a place to watch the Bears dominate opposing offenses, the Cubs close it out in the ninth, the Hawks play in consecutive bowl games, or the Illini in the NCAA basketball championship game on one of the 19 TVs Rookies has. “It’s just a good place to go to,” Manager Mike “Biscuit” Marinan said. “There’s a nice view of the TVs. We always have a special, and the food’s really good.” Rookies has a happy hour from 2 to 6 p. m. on Saturdays for Iowa games, $4.25 pitchers on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 75-cent well draws after 9 p. m. on Wednesdays, and $2 well drinks, among other specials. But the “key thing” to the bar’s success is customer service, Marinan said. Rookies doesn’t offer special sports packages – such as NFL Sunday Ticket – so fans of out-of-area teams should consult their TV schedules before heading out to enjoy a game.

Jesse Virgil

Happy hour

1. Centro Restaurant
2. Mac’s Tavern
3. Old Chicago

Mixed drinks
1. Copia Martini & Wine Bar
2. Mac’s Tavern
3. Crave Bar, Grill, & Fondue Room

Bartender
1. Janos Horvath, Rock Island Brewing Company
2. Russ , Carlos O’Kelley’s Mexican Café, Davenport
3. Dave, Copia Martini & Wine Bar

Gay/lesbian hangout
1. Club Fusion
2. Mary’s on 2nd
3. Club Liquid

Place to take visitors
1. River Music Experience
2. John Deere Commons
3. Bix Beiderbecke home (tie)
3. Figge Art Museum (tie)

Local get-away (within a half-hour drive)
1. LeClaire
2. Geneseo
3. Scott County Park

Best local get-away – LeClaire

This historic river town is well on its way to becoming a small-scale Galena, with its growing mix of eclectic shopping, an energized city government, and, as one business operator told the Reader last year, the mother of all allures: “Location, location, location.” Right on the Mississippi River and at the junction of Interstate 80 and Highway 67, LeClaire is just a short drive from the Quad Cities, and our readers named it their favorite local get-away.

The city mixes the quaint with the modern, capitalizing on its history without being bound by it. Special events include Tugfest but also some less raucous events, from the eagle watch to market days. The dining ranges from the casual (Sneaky Pete’s) to the elegant (Faithful Pilot and Steventon’s), and the shopping runs a gamut from antiques to contemporary home accessories. You can see contemporary art at the welcome-center art gallery, tour the Buffalo Bill Cody museum, and take a cruise on the river. And that body of water is LeClaire’s biggest asset, as many businesses on Cody Road overlook the mighty river.

Jeff Ignatius

Weekend get-away (within a three-hour drive)

1. Chicago
2. Galena
3. Dubuque

Park or playground
1. Vander Veer
2. Rocket Park (tie)
2. Scott County Park (tie)

Best park or playground - Vander Veer Botanical Park

Vander Veer Botanical Park
in Davenport celebrated its 120th birthday last year, so it’s fitting that our readers named it the best park or playground in the Quad Cities. Although the park is compact – 33 acres nestled between Harrison and Brady streets north of Locust – it’s the epitome of an urban oasis, offering myriad opportunities for recreation and relaxation. It has gardens (including an accredited rose garden), an indoor conservatory (with year-round floral shows), a stone fountain, a hosta glade, a lagoon for seasonal fishing and ice skating, a children’s sculpture garden, and wide sidewalks for running or walking. One reason the park is so treasured is that many people are looking out for it; although Vander Veer is city-owned, Friends of Vander Veer for the past 15 years has spearheaded many projects, from a tree guide to the restoration or addition of many elements.

Jeff Ignatius

Place to play golf

1. Emeis Golf Course
2. Duck Creek Golf Course
3. Palmer Hills Golf Course (tie)
3. Saukee Golf Course (tie)

Place to walk or hike
1. Bike path
2. Ben Butterworth Parkway
3. Black Hawk State Park (tie)
3. Mississippi riverfront (tie)

Open-mic night
1. Mojo’s
2. Bent River Brewing Company
3. Penguin’s Comedy & Sports Club (tie)
3. Theo’s Java Club (tie)

Public pool/waterpark
1. Wacky Waters Adventure Park
2. Whitewater Junction
3. Splash Landing Family Aquatics Center

Place to take kids on a rainy day
1. Family Museum of Arts & Science
2. Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre
3. Showcase Cinemas 53

Neighborhood pub
1. Kelly’s Irish Pub & Eatery
2. Bier Stube (tie)
2. Sports Fans Pizza (tie)

Place to meet someone new
1. Church
2. Mac’s Tavern
3. District of Rock Island (tie)
3. Theo’s Java Club (tie)