The lineup for the first-ever Turnbuckle Comedy and Music Festival at Codfish Hollow Barn on Friday and Saturday, turned out to be much more comedy than music.

Forty comedians, 30 of whom are from Iowa, are set to take over two stages at the Maquoketa venue. 

The fest also includes five music acts and one slot dedicated to professional wrestling (SCW Wrestling will put on four matches on Saturday).

That mix brings a “brand new flavor” to Codfish Hollow, said Dan Bush, one of the fest’s organizers.

“It’s the fun of doing something that’s never been before,” Bush said. “There’s something like 18 shows a year at Codfish Hollow and there’s not going to be anything else like this." 

Still, he said, starting a comedy fest has been a tough sell for those used to exclusively seeing music at the barn.

Last week, organizers cut ticket prices, originally set at $55 per day or $80 for a weekend pass, to $25 per day. Tickets are available at

“Some people have been caught off guard by it,” Bush, who co-owns Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel and Analog Arcade Bar in Davenport, said. “We’re taking a gamble. No matter what happens, we’re not going to regret that gamble.”

Sean Moeller, a Davenport-based concert promoter who also helped put on the fest, offers this advice: “Just give it a chance.”

“We wanted to put together the most fun weekend ever; we wanted to see people smile for two straight days,” Moeller said. “There’s nothing like laughing until it hurts -- you just can’t beat it.

You may know not know all of the names, but I really think it’s going to be one of those weekends that years from now, you’ll be sad if you missed it.”

Stand-up comedians from the Quad-Cities, such as Bobby Ray Bunch, are thankful Bush and Moeller took the risk. 

“It’s the best comedy show that’s ever come to this area,” Bunch, of LeClaire, who will perform on Friday, said. “There are festivals that have been going on for 10 years that don’t have this caliber of talent.”

That includes headliners Kyle Kinane and Nick Thune, both who have appeared on several Comedy Central programs. Thune has appeared in movies such as “Knocked Up” and “Unaccompanied Minors.” Kinane, who Bush counts as his “favorite comedian of all time,” is also set to perform at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Fest in Manchester, Tennessee, in June.

“We had a short list of people we wanted and everyone said yes,” Bush said. “It’s our dream festival.”

Turnbuckle isn’t the only comedy event in the area: Others include the Beast Village Comedy Festival in Des Moines as well as Green Gravel Comedy Festival and Floodwater Comedy Festival in Iowa City.

Luke Swanson, a Quad-City native who will return to his hometown area to perform at Codfish Hollow this weekend, said Turnbuckle stands out from those. 

He said the longer sets, which range from 15 minutes to an hour, set Turnbuckle apart from other comedy showcases where performers typically have less than 10 minutes to tell their jokes.

“With full sets, you have time to get to know someone,” Swanson, 37, said. “You get a look at the thoughts they have throughout the day and what they’ve been up to and you get to laugh along with them.”

That, along with the background of gravel roads and rural Iowa landscape, is shaping up to make Turnbuckle “an experience you won’t get anywhere else,” he said.

“Comedy is very intimate,” he said. “With music, there is a script you’re following and there are songs you’ve heard before. Comedy is different because it really surprises you. It’s funny because it’s wrong and not expected.”


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).