Gumbo Ya Ya
The District of Rock Island
Friday, June 6, and Saturday, June 7
As anyone who's attended the District of Rock Island's annual Gumbo Ya Ya festival can tell you, this celebration of Cajun and Creole culture features vendors serving a bevy of culinary treats, and the Southern cuisine this year includes such mouth-watering options as bourbon chicken, shrimp Creole, crawfish étoufée, Cajun sausage, jambalaya, hot-and-spicy gumbo, red beans & ... .
Hey! Watch it! You're getting drool all over your keyboard! Sheesh. No more menu items for you.
Of course, this much-anticipated Quad Cities event - taking place on June 6 and 7 - is about far more than food. With the District transformed into its own French Quarter, there will be merchants on hand with clothing, accessories, jewelry, and novelty items, street art painted by local artisans, parades, children's activities, and (count 'em) more than 20,000 strands of Mardi Gras beads to be thrown.
Plus, of course, there'll be plenty of jazz, Dixieland, and zydeco music in the air, with nine bands performing on two District stages. Headlining this year's festival are Gumbo Ya Ya favorites - and recent Grammy nominees - Roddie Romero & the Hub City All-Stars and they're being joined by the exuberant musicians of the Crawdaddies, Dikki Du & the Zydeco Krewe, the Creole Zydeco Farmers, Gumbohead, Hurricane Gumbo, the ... .
Whoa! Stop drooling! I'm talking about bands, not actual gumbo! Aw, for Pete's sake ... .
If your computer hasn't short-circuited, you can find more Gumbo Ya Ya information by clicking (http://gumboyayafestival.com). - Mike Schulz
The Redstone Room
Friday, June 6, 9 p.m.
You know how bands frequently list "influences" on their MySpace pages? Well, the list for the musicians of Bang Camaro - playing the Redstone Room on June 6 - is so lengthy that I was actually surprised not to find my own name there. All told, there are 391 influences cited for the Boston-based rock outfit ... which averages out to about three per band member.
I kid, of course, but check out that photo - that's a lot of freakin' people! Described by the Boston Phoenix as "Headbanger's Ball meets Polyphonic Spree," Bang Camaro is composed of guitarists Alex Necochea, Bryn Bennett, and Mike Oor, bassist Dave Riley, drummer Pete McCarthy, and a whopping 15 lead vocalists from the best of Beantown's rock bands; together, they've forged their own metal universe that has already achieved pop-culture immortality: a song - "Push, Push (Lady Lightning )" - on Guitar Hero II.
And if you're wondering just how 20 rock artists manage to collaborate, Necochea explains the process on the band's online biography: "We'll assemble for an evening and ask each other, 'What is the stupidest thing you got?' We'll go around the room and everyone will throw in some bits. We'll laugh, hug, and cry a lot. ... Somebody will edit for content. More crying will ensue. Somebody will insist we break up ... . Everyone then wakes up the next day with a screaming hangover." Interestingly, every issue of the Reader is put together exactly the same way. Except for the hugging. And the laughing.
Bang Camaro plays the Redstone Room with opening act American Babies, and more information on the group is available at (http://www.myspace.com/bangcamaro). - Mike Schulz
Thursday, June 5, 7 p.m.
Stick with me now:
In 1995, the prolific Texas-based singer-songwriter Will Johnson originated his indie-rock outfit Centro-matic as a solo side project.
In 1996, he enlisted violinist Scott Danbom, bassist and guitarist Mark Hedman, and percussionist Matt Pence to join his one-man band.
In 1997, they released Centro-matic's debut Redo the Stacks, and went on to deliver three more CDs over the next three years.
In 2000, they released South San Gabriel Songs, which featured quieter, more introspective songs than their previous offerings.
In 2002, the quartet formed another band, and began performing and recording as both Centro-matic and, with the participation of guest musicians, its more mellow counterpart - a band called South San Gabriel.
In 2003, Centro-matic released Love You Just the Same, while South San Gabriel released its debut, Welcome, Convalescence.
And in 2008, after a combined 11 albums between the groups, Johnson and his collaborators released Dual Hawks, which features numbers from both bands, and which led music critic Edward Burch to praise Johnson and company for their "catchy hooks, wiry guitars, harmonies and hand claps, splendid string and horn arrangements, and songs so well written and produced they will make indie rockers of lesser mettle go home and cry."
Indie rockers, and anyone trying to squeeze a coherent bio into 250 words.
Centro-matic plays Huckleberry's (located at 223 18th Street in Rock Island) alongside The M's on June 5, and more information on the group is available at (http://www.centro-matic.com). - Mike Schulz
Ballet Under the Stars
Friday, June 6, through Sunday, June 8
From June 6 through 8, Genesius Guild hosts the annual Ballet Quad Cities presentation Ballet Under the Stars in Rock Island's Lincoln Park, a free event designed to introduce families - and especially children - to the magic of ballet.
It's doubtful, though, that kids will need much introduction to the evening's main attraction: Sergei Prokofiev's Peter & the Wolf, which is sure to be the highlight of the numerous dances performed by both the professionals of Ballet Quad Cities and their guests (including outreach students at the Horace Mann Choice School). With renditions of Prokofiev's tale performed everywhere from Sesame Street to Captain Kangaroo to Tiny Toon Adventures, the Russian classic has long been a staple of kids' entertainment, and it's almost impossible to find a celebrity who hasn't narrated the Russian classic.
In fact, who among the following has not, as of yet, narrated a professional recording of Prokofiev's Peter & the Wolf?
A. David Bowie
B. Bill Clinton
C. Sean Connery
D. Dame Edith Everage
E. Mia Farrow
F. Melissa Joan Hart
G. Ben Kingsley
H. Itzhak Perlman
I. Patrick Stewart
J. Sharon Stone
For more on this year's Ballet Under the Stars, visit (http://www.balletquadcities.com). - Mike Schulz
Answer: B. Clinton did co-narrate the children's album Peter & the Wolf/Wolf Tracks in 2004, but didn't read the Prokofiev piece. Won a Grammy for his reading, though. Seven years after Hillary received her Grammy. And two years before Barack Obama won the first of his two. It's a good thing the awards are handed out in New York, or Democrats might be accused of being too Hollywood.
Greek Cultural Festival
Modern Woodmen Park
Friday, June 6, and Saturday, June 7
"I wanted to talk to you about my piece on the Greek Cultural Festival ... ."
"Oh, yeah ... I liked that one."
"Absolutely. I thought it was one of the better pieces you've written lately."
"You included all the necessary information - that it's an annual event, and that it's taking place at the Modern Woodmen Park on June 6 and 7, and that the admission price is only $1 before 5 p.m. and $3 after 5 p.m ... ."
"Uh huh ... ."
"You talk about the live performances by Genesius Guild and Chicago's Olympic Dance Troupe and the musicians of the Grecian Keys ... ."
"Right ... ."
"You mention that there'll be cooking demonstrations and a wine tasting and children's activities and vendors and a cultural center ... ."
"That I do ... ."
"You list that the food and beverage options include pork shish kebobs, pastichio, baklava, Ouzo cake, frappes, and loukoumathes ... all of which you even spelled correctly ... ."
"That's astonishing ... ."
"And best of all, you didn't use the event as an excuse for one of those infuriating Jeff-and-Mike pieces that you like so much. Good job."
"Uh ... thanks."
"So what did you want to talk to me about?"
"Well ... um ... I've got a revised draft for you ... ."
For more information on this year's Greek Cultural Festival, call (309) 792-2912. - Mike Schulz
19th Annual Komen Quad Cities Race for the Cure
John Deere Commons
Saturday, June 14
The 19th-annual Komen Quad Cities Race for the Cure, which kicks off its activities at 7 a.m. on June 14, offers options for the fit (the 5K), the family (the 1.2-mile family walk/run), and even those who had a rough Friday night. Sleep in for the Cure is an option for those who cannot attend the race but still wish to help raise funds; registration costs $23, and they'll even send you a race-day T-shirt. Early registration for the 5K and the walk/run ends June 4 - entry fees are $22 for the 5K and $17 for the walk/run - but you can register up through the day of the race (from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m.) for $30. And with the shorter walk/run, there's no excuse to miss the opportunity to help raise funds to fight breast cancer, especially when up to 75 percent of funds go to the Quad Cities area for mammograms, prosthesis vouchers for under-insured women, and breast-cancer education and screenings. Volunteers for the event, which begins at the John Deere Commons in downtown Moline, are also needed. For more information on the Quad Cities Race for the Cure, including downloadable volunteer forms, check out (http://www.komenquadcities.org). - Ben Clague
Sturgis on the River
Thursday, June 12, through Saturday, June 14
The way I see it, attendees of the annual Sturgis on the River festival - taking place in Davenport's LeClaire Park June 12 through 14 - will be there for one of the following three "B" reasons: (1) The bikes. Not only is the annual event the Midwest's largest gathering of motorcycles and those who ride them, but special attractions include the custom-built hogs on display in the River Rat Bike Show, and the gravity-defying two-wheelers employed in the Ball of Steel Stunt Show. (2) The bands. Over the festival's three days, more than two dozen local groups will perform two-hour sets, among them such familiar area acts as Cobalt Blue, Sugar Nipples, The Lovedogs, Mr. Whoopie, The Tailfins, Cross Mojo, Down 4 Whatever, and Blue Fuzzy Monkey. (3) The bonuses. In addition to the musical entertainment, Sturgis on the River offers ultimate-fighting matches, a classic-car show hosted by Dwyer & Michaels, daily book signings with biker par excellence "John Rock 'n' Ride," the annual Ride with the Celebrities event, and the legendary Big Schwag hosting the always hotly anticipated Scooter Girls competition. Considering its popularity, I actually thought about making the contest the fourth reason for attending this year's festival, but I couldn't think of a single "B" intro that wasn't offensive. More on Sturgis on the River is available at (http://www.strugisontheriver.com). - Mike Schulz
June through August
Over the next few months, area stages will be overrun with despots, gangs, killers, cannibals, and Nazis. Must be summer-musical season! Rest assured, though; there will be occasional respites from the gloom. Yes, the Quad City Music Guild is staging Andrew Lloyd Webber's dramatic Evita (opening August 8), but they're also presenting Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady (June 13) and a musical take on Little Women (July 11). The Green Room may be offering a grown-up treat with Stephen Sondheim's Assassins (August 1), but they'll also do one for the kids in A Year with Frog & Toad (June 27). The Clinton Area Showboat Theatre will keep things dark - albeit entertainingly dark - with Sweeney Todd (July 10) and Chicago (July 31), yet the Timber Lake Playhouse, in addition to the street fighters of West Side Story (June 5), offers the Elvis pastiche All Shook Up (July 3), a daffy quartet of Church Basement Ladies (August 14), and the fey, faux Nazis of Mel Brooks' The Producers (July 31). The Countryside Community Theatre's Nazis, on the other hand, will be less funny than Brooks', but at least they're in The Sound of Music (June 20), and the group is also producing Stephen Schwartz's Biblical musical Children of Eden (July 18). Genesius Guild and Opera@Augustana present three one-acts in Opera Favorites (June 13), but incredibly, there'll only be two on-stage deaths among them. Meanwhile, the Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse gives audiences the family road-trip musical Are We There Yet? (July 23) and The Bootlegger Show (August 7), a two-act production featuring the theatre's performing wait staff. At last - a venue where there'll be no violence whatsoever! Unless, of course, you forget to tip. - Mike Schulz
Comedies and Dramas
June through August
And what if, for whatever reason, you're not a fan of musicals? Well, this summer finds the Richmond Hill Barn Theatre producing a trio of comedies with Any Famous Last Words? (opening July 10), Dearly Beloved (August 14), and the switcheroo mystery Catch Me If You Can (June 5), and the Playcrafters Barn Theatre is offering a comedy of its own with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Crimes of the Heart (July 11). The Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse presents fairy-tale goofiness in Snowderella (June 10), while more adult-oriented laughs come courtesy of Scott Community College's Design for Living (June 6) and the Riverbend Theatre Collective's Kimberly Akimbo (June 20) and As Bees in Honey Drown (July 18). The Green Room offers romance with Jerry Finnegan's Sister (June 14), the Timber Lake Playhouse delivers the warm-hearted classic You Can't Take It with You (June 19) and the slapstick of The Foreigner (July 17), and the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre, on July 19, debuts its Bard-centric farce The Complete Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged). Less abridged Shakespeare will be on hand at Iowa City's Riverside Theatre, which stages The Winter's Tale (June 20) and The Comedy of Errors (June 13); one week later, Rock Island's Genesius Guild offers its own Comedy of Errors (June 21), and fills out its summer with the Bard's Romeo & Juliet (July 19), Sophocles' Electra (July 5), and Aristophanes' - and Don Wooten's - The Clouds (August 2). Finally, the debuting Harrison Hilltop Theatre adds both comedy and drama to the summer mix, with the Pulitzer Prize winners Proof (June 5) and A Streetcar Named Desire (August 21), the romantic Almost, Maine (July 18), and the "Peanuts" spoof Dog Sees God (June 20). That's 22 summer plays in total - so many that I no longer have room for a joke. You're welcome. - Mike Schulz
Israeli Film Fest
Figge Art Museum
Sunday, June 8, 1 - 5 p.m.
To celebrate the 60th birthday of the State of Israel, the Figge Art Museum will show two films on June 8 examining Israeli life and culture. The Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities will host the event, which starts at 1 p.m. with Schwartz Dynasty, a film nominated for three Israeli Academy Awards. Set in a small town crippled by religious extremism and power struggles, this comedy playfully engages social issues and satirizes the life of two Israeli women searching for their destinies. Following Schwartz Dynasty, the award-winning Broken Wings plays at 3 p.m.; the movie collected nine Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Film, as well as numerous accolades from international film festivals. After the death of a husband and father, Daphne and her four children flounder and begin to fall apart, until a sudden incident gives them a chance to heal. Each film is subtitled and contains adult content; the cost is $5 for either one or both movies. Between the first and second film, Israeli snacks will be served. The event is part of a community series celebrating Israel's 60th birthday, and for more information, head to (http://www.jfqc.org) or call (309) 793-1300. - Ben Clague
IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival
Thursday, July 3, through Saturday, July 5
People were cuckoo for Koko Taylor when she first performed here in 2001, and they can see "The Queen of Blues" again when she plays the IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival at LeClaire Park in Davenport. Taylor earned her right to the throne by winning 25 Blues Music Awards, more than any other male or female artist in history. However, the Grammy Award-winner, who performs July 4 at 10 p.m., isn't the only major draw at the 2008 festival, which began in 1985 and draws an annual crowd of about 15,000 people. Twenty-eight blues acts will perform on two stages between July 3 and 5; Elvin Bishop, Otis Taylor & the Black Banjo project, Billy Boy Arnold, Jody Williams, the Holmes Brothers, and Denise LaSalle are other headliners for the three-day event. Produced by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, the festival also provides free workshops and children's classes - the BlueSKool - with direct instruction from some of the top local and national blues artists. Tickets will be sold at the gate for $18 per day. Otherwise, $15 one-day passes or $40 three-day passes are available at IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union locations, through Ticketmaster, or at the Adler Theatre box office. For more information on the IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival and its performing artists, visit (http://www.mvbs.org). - Marguerite Day
David R. Collins Writers' Conference
St. Ambrose University
Wednesday, June 25? through Friday, June 27
For the third year in a row, the Midwest Writing Center is hosting the David R. Collins Writers' Conference at St. Ambrose University - a three-day celebration of the author's process, featuring a series of informative and entertaining courses with noted area authors. Also for the third year in a row, I haven't been asked to teach one myself. But to prove that I'm not the least bit bitter, here's a sampling of what you can learn from others between June 25 and 27: "Creative Nonfiction," in which Dr. Ann Boaden details such writing practices as immersion journalism and personal essay; "Journaling to a Memoir," wherein Joanne Wiklund guides students in writing someone else's personal story as well as their own; "Writing to Inspire," which finds author Twila Belk offering tips on making readers laugh, cry, and see things from new perspectives; and "Seeing Up Close: Reading & Making Poems," with award-winning poet Rebecca Wee discussing revision strategies and writer's block, as well as how to bring new poetry to the page. They sound like great courses. Nothing I don't effectively teach in the What's Happenin' pages on a weekly basis, but, you know, whatever. I'm not bitter. At all. For more information on these and other David R. Collins Writers' Conference courses and events, visit (http://www.$dg@7%*2k!.org). - Mike Schulz
(Editor's note: Mike's a little bitter. The actual Web address is http://www.midwestwritingcenter.org.)