Late in 2019, Iowa City's ZUUL dragged a large pile of small amps into a warehouse in Washington, Iowa. Even with a half-dozen amplifiers, an organ, drums, and sundry recording equipment, the three-piece barely took up more than a corner. The intention: to capture the minimalist intensity of their howling noise rock in a cavernous empty space, with microphones placed at intervals near and far to catch it all.

A recap of 2020 is unnecessary for this article. We all know what kind of year it was. Its upside was the incredible amount of good music that made its way to the ears of a world that needed to hear it - perhaps more than at any other time in recent history.

With the holidays looming and entertainment options limited, a Quad Cities music promoter has put together a special, free streaming event featuring 11 acts and 11 businesses. With the intention of "celebrating the beautiful originality and talent of the Quad Cities music scene," The Festivus Show is a "two-day holiday extravaganza," set to run on December 26 and 27 and billed as “a fun and immersive journey.”

2020's best local release is an apocalyptic album for an apocalyptic year. Condor & Jaybird have distilled their end-time vision in a sweeping, prog-tinged psych-rock masterpiece, coating a heavy pill with pop hooks, dancing guitars, and infectious rhythms. The Glory is an aptly-named document of Condor & Jaybird's maturation as musicians and songwriters, and the closing third of a trilogy begun by The Power and The Kingdom.

Sorrow struck the Quad Cities and the metal world on November 21 with the news of the passing of John Hopkins. A native of Oquawka, Illinois, a small town about an hour from the QC, Hopkins rose from the soundboard at Gabe's in Iowa City to become a highly sought-after sound engineer, front-of-house man, and tour manager for such doom metal and heavy rock giants as Sleep, the Melvins, Corrosion of Conformity, Neurosis, Weedeater, Boris, and Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats.

New Standards Men are a pair of "lapsed Iowans" based in Denver. Their album I Was a Starship finds ex-Dubuquers Drew Bissell (bass, electronics) and Jeremy Brashaw (guitar) joined by Michigander Ike Turner (drums) and two more un-lapsed Iowans: the venerable Bob Bucko Jr. of Dubuque on sax and synths; and Lee County's Luke Tweedy, who added synthesizer in addition to recording and engineering the album at his own Flat Black Studios in Iowa City. The three extended tracks are a wholly Midwestern creation but sound unearthly in origin, like a fading transmission from space, a slow and lonely echo that rises to a rumble and dies out.

COVID cases have risen once again in Illinois, and Phase 3 mitigations are in place. It's not exactly a safe time to be doing business, but Ragged, which has kept its best interests in mind as well as those of their patrons, has decided to go ahead with its Black Friday Record Store Day sale. "We had thought about canceling it," says staff member Jon Burns, "but our customers go wild for Record Store Day, so we figured we'd give the people what they want."

A modified Record Store Day sale is set to take place this Saturday at Ragged Records and Music in downtown Rock Island, with social-distancing measures in place. Vinyl hounds can slake their thirst for limited-edition wax releases and snag some choice discount records in the courtyard; the indoor selection is available for browsing as well, though with only a limited number of customers allowed inside at one time.

COVID-19 concerns, venue closings, and a near-total wipeout of legitimate live music has forced most bands to adjust their plans and change their approach in 2020. But even before the music world was thrown into disarray, Davenport's Giallows were already changing, arranging, and adjusting, seemingly at random but ultimately by design.

Davenport's LoPiez is celebrating the completion of its first full year in business. The self-described "Rock & Roll New York style" by-the-slice pizza joint has decided to celebrate its anniversary in style, with a socially-distanced three-band outdoor bash in the parking lot across the street from its Third Street location. It's a joint venture with Rock Island's Wake Brewing, and will serve as the Rock Island "riff-infused" brewery's Iowa debut, with its signature metal-inspired beers being made available across the river for the first time.

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