Far from the idyllic Shire-like spring paradise in which it is painted by yearning winter minds, May is an unpredictable month in the Mississippi Valley, a season of change unto itself. The polarity of the season is reflected by this month's musical events: a pair of shows as drastically different as the ever-shifting days of May.

March in the Quad Cities sees the return of spring, or something like it. It also brings a wide variety of live music, from past masters and new faces. My top live picks for March fall into each category, from returning rock veterans to debut performances in the Quad Cities.

Though largely known as a venue for singer/songwriters and scaled-down indie rock, Davenport's Raccoon Motel has been a consistent host for metal bands of varying extremity and national and regional renown. Friday, February 24 sees a stylistically diverse bill of four uniquely pulverizing Iowa and Illinois bands, each testing the boundaries of good taste as well as the downtown-Davenport noise ordinances.

Thirty years on, black metal has come to be about more than lo-fi recording, buzzsaw guitars, and hatred for Christianity. Even in its tumultuous infancy, reverence for and celebration of nature was an inspiration for many bands, tying in with their pagan leanings. Following close behind was a folk music influence, with or without the use of acoustic instruments. These influences caught on like a forest fire, and in 2023 are commonplace. In context, then, the show at the Raccoon Motel in Davenport on Saturday, February 25 is not quite as outlandish as it may appear on the surface.

In 2019, Radio Moscow frontman and guitarist Parker Griggs had a yen to try something different. As he explained in an interview with It's Psychedelic Baby! Magazine: “ … after all the years solely focusing on [Radio Moscow], I wanted to branch out and try something new, touch on some new sounds and influences.” The result: El Perro, a five-piece band that takes the energetic heavy blues of Radio Moscow and lays in an infectious, funk-and-Latin-influenced groove.

January is a right proper time to rest and rebuild, and if any business has earned that respite, it's Rozz-Tox – the Rock Island spot has spent more than a decade functioning as a music venue, art gallery, café, bar, hostel, and all-in-one “culture hub,” weathering the plague and coming out on the other side with fresh ideas, including all-vinyl DJ nights curated by local and regional musicians and knowledgeable non-musicians. The venue is breaking its winter's rest for two special events: an experimental show at the end of the month, and, on January 21, the formal QC headlining debut of Running Man.

The year's most fully-realized, cohesive album is a scant nine minutes long – it will probably take more time to read this article than it will to listen to the album.

Fontaines DC, Skinty Fia

We've widened our acoustic lens this year and are pleased to present top five to 10 albums of the year from 16 disc jockeys spinning tunes at two independently owned radio stations and three prolific local musicians/artists. The styles range from country to death metal, from indie pop to jam bands, from blues to roots and everything in between and around the edges. There are legends such as Buddy Guy and Elvis Costello. There are bands with such names as Fat Earthers and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizards. The lists include live concert recordings from mega-stars including the Rolling Stones and Tom Petty, both from 1977. Who knew iconic artists Jimmy Cliff and the Dropkick Murphys were still making music?!

Gallery of Skewered Swine was released on November 5, 2022. This second full-length album release finds musicians Pit Lord in their Davenport stronghold: a forbidding, unwelcoming, cyclopean structure looming over the industrial stench of the West End. They glare from their thrones, two heads of a table gouged with countless blade and stained by sauces unknown.

Joe Bonamassa is the biggest name in blues-rock today. The former child guitar prodigy has risen to stardom with virtually zero major-label support, instead forming J&R Ventures with manger Roy Weisman and producer/A&R man Kevin Shirley to bypass the fickle, meddling, trend-and-profit driven nature of the record companies and bring Bonamassa's music directly to the people.