Stompbox Brewing combines a passion for beer, heavy music, and the effects pedals that contribute to the distinctive distorted sounds of modern metal. Beer and metal go together like, well … beer and metal, and a small renaissance of heavy brewers has emerged in hip and not-so-hip enclaves nationwide, providing satisfaction to defenders of the faith and casual citizens who may care little for the power of the riff but enjoy the small-batch brews they inspire.
In its three years of existence, Stompbox has combined niche obsessions with effect-laden heavy rock and metal with professional-quality, highly drinkable beers, bringing a mixed crowd into its airy, naturally lit space at 210 River Drive in Davenport. The venue is celebrating its impending third anniversary with an outdoor show on Saturday, June 17, with music from Zed, Road Soda, Giallows, Rezinator, and a to-be-announced band.
The minds behind the “amplified ales” at Stompbox are capable of more than just liquid alchemy. Manager and brewer Joe Ronnebeck has been building and servicing guitar effects pedals for years under the Clone Tweaker Pedals moniker. The two worlds dovetail in unexpected but logical ways. Brewing and electronic effects have both become demystified in the past decade or two. The Internet has provided greater dissemination of previously obscure information, and affordable and reliable technology has gradually become easily available for both brewing and home electronics. Neither occupation is something that any everyman with a garage and an eBay account can tackle with immediate success. But for those with technical aptitude and time on their hands, these interests have shifted from hobbies to occasionally viable cottage industries, and even businesses (in Stompbox's case). Previous generations may have gone into the woodshop for recreation; today we brew beer and try our hand at mimicking the mysterious little gadgets that add that indefinable sonic quality to our favorite electric music.
Flash forward to 2023: The colorful and esoteric metal boxes glowing at the feet of axe-slingers worldwide have been revealed to be fairly simple aggregations of small electronic parts housed in a tough metal shell. The savvy realize that just as a good beer is the right collection of water, hops, etc., an instrument effects pedal is a collection of properly wired circuits and diodes, tuned to specification. Stompbox's name comes from the colloquial term for instrument pedals, as most are triggered by the feet so as not to disrupt the music. Today's devices can be as fancy as the builder desires; as a symbol of the increasing democratization of pedal-building, many will opt for a compact metal box, which coincidentally function well as tap handles for beer pulls, as at Stompbox.
It's a fantastic picture of the two crafts, brought to the level of the everyman: locally brewed beer poured from taps decorated by the metal housing for pedals built and designed by Ronnebeck himself. It could easily be snooty, a symbol of hipsterdom, but in the unassuming environs of Stompbox, it's anything but. Instead it's a heartening symbol of technology allowing the little man to break away from corporate beer and corporate guitar effects, and the little men (and women) at Stompbox are here to share their passions, not guard them possessively.
Their yearly anniversary parties reflect this same grassroots passion, featuring predominantly local musicians generally connected in some way with the local “scene.” Zed are a consistent party draw in the QC, with a high-energy psychobilly sound as Midwestern as anything but with a gritty punk edge redolent of crushed cans and cigarette butts strewn around the remains of a burned-out-factory turned party spot.
Every area needs one good punk band: the Quad Cities has Road Soda. Drunk, disorderly, and reckless, but also catchy and even vulnerable, they bring a fine punk blend to the table and pair well with Zed as an ass-kicking opener.
When last we heard from Giallows, the shadowy Davenport entity was still performing as a three-piece “sonic femdom” cult, its effect-laden, riff goth-rock augmented and mastered by a shadowy, masked and malevolent female leader who not only controls their rhythms thru a fiendish drum machine, but through some diabolical electronic craft has the option to control the position of either of the other two members in the sonic space at a given time. They are as ominous as ever, if not more so, and are nearing completion of a new recording; songs are expected to be debuted at the forthcoming show. “Goth-gaze” lives.
Rezinator are headlining. The bare-bones sludge-doom power trio feature brewmaster and effects whiz Ronnebeck on lead guitar; rounded out by Pit Lord grillmaster Dan Freitag on choked vocals and distorted Rickenbacker bass, and Justin Kelley (mastermind of one-man prog-metal spectacle Dead Ginger) on steady, grooving drums. Like the best stoner metal, they combine slow, rumbling metal riffs with head-nodding groove, just as Black Sabbath (the godhead of the genre) did in their prime. Sticky as hash, black as Peavey tolex, steady as a bake-ride in a Camaro on a warm summer night down the backroads with Schlitz in the cooler and Foghat Live in the 8-track; they take a sound that's been done nearly to death and do it really, really well.
Midway through the show is a special appearance by a semi-secret band. A proper announcement is due in the week before the show; it's a rare appearance from a much-beloved QC band, revamped and fresh off a hiatus.
Stompbox will be open from 11 AM top midnight on June 17; music will begin at 5 p.m. and end around 11:15 p.m. The day's featured beer will be Rezin Blast, a “danky hazy IPA” brewed in collaboration with Rezinator. Kitchen Brigade (the adjoining food wizards in the Stompbox building) will be open and serving from noon to 9 p.m.
Some of Stompbox's boutique pedals will be available for purchase on site; they're not just for tap-handle decoration. More information can be found on the Stompbox Brewing Facebook page, at StompboxBrewing.com, and by calling (563)424-1237. While the show will be outdoors, earplugs are recommended, given the love of band members and brewers alike for loud, distorted electric guitar. This is a free show.