By the time Brady Jager discovered his favorite band, Sublime, he thought it was too late.
As a teenager, Jager, of Davenport, taught himself how to play guitar with Sublime’s songs, such as “40 Oz. To Freedom,” in the background. He counts the group’s original lead singer, Bradley Nowell, as his musical idol.
“Sublime was the band that started it all for me — they were a catalyst,” Jager, now 31, said. “They were my teachers and they didn’t even know it.”
Nowell died in 1996 from a drug overdose, and Sublime broke up in 1998, so Jager figured he would never see the group perform live, "and that was always a disappointing thing,” he said.
Back in 2007, Jager started a reggae rock band, called Rude Punch, inspired by Sublime.
For the last 10 years, Jager and Co. have performed weekly shows, playing original songs and covers, around the Quad-Cities and nearby cities.
“Sublime was our model for how we should sound and represent the genre,” Jager said. “We've been carrying the torch for the genre.”
Fast forward to May of this year.
The Muddy Fest, a new festival combining motorcycle rides and rock ‘n’ roll music, announced its headliner: Sublime with Rome, the group that formed in 2009 with members of Sublime along with Rome Ramirez.
Fest organizers also announced a local battle of the bands.
The prize? Opening for Sublime with Rome.
Rude Punch rallied its fans to vote in-person during a competition at Harley Corin’s in Bettendorf and online.
“The fact that they were even coming to our town was crazy,” said Jager, who has seen Sublime with Rome in concert once in Chicago. “Now being able to open for them in my hometown … I get choked up thinking about it.”
He and his bandmates — Colton Menke, Jack Hill and Adam Tucker — will perform Saturday, which also happens to be Jager’s birthday, at Centennial Park just one slot before their heroes.
“It’s all too unbelievable to be anything but destiny,” Jager said.
And they have Steve Whitney, a Los Angeles based film producer, to thank for starting The Muddy Fest.
Whitney, a native of Norwalk, Iowa, has credits on movies such as the 2005 remake of “The Amityville Horror” with Ryan Reynolds, “The Hurricane” with Denzel Washington and “Girl Interrupted.”
On a visit to Davenport last year to help make a movie called "Mr. Thursday," the Hollywood producer said he was “amazed” by the Quad-Cities.
“I see the Quad-Cities, the bridges, the river and I’m like, ‘Wow, this isn’t what I was expecting,’” Whitney said in a phone interview this week. “I dug it. And I wanted to come back and do something here.”
That something turned out to be a mega motorcycle and music festival, which Whitney organized mostly from more than 2,000 miles away with assistance from Quad-City based staff and volunteers.
The team tapped an “eclectic” list of talent such as Robby Krieger (the guitarist in The Doors who has relatives in the Quad-Cities), Sublime with Rome, Dan Gable (the Iowa wrestling legend), actor Billy Baldwin and Mark Boone Jr. (the star of “Sons of Anarchy”).
“I wanted to do something that was a kickoff to summer,” Whitney said. “It’s not just a motorcycle rally. It’s a hybrid of everything the Quad-Cities has to offer.”
After hearing about the fest’s lineup, Jager, who works as a carpenter by day, thought: “Finally.”
“We need the big world to see what’s happening here, and we need people like (Whitney) to put us in the national eye,” he said. “And thank God he likes Sublime.”
On Saturday, Jager hopes to somehow meet the members of Sublime with Rome — or, at least, put on a good show for them.
“If they could just know the name of our band or if I could give them one of our CDs, I would die a happy man,” he said.
If he’s honest, however, Jager has another goal.
"I want to get on stage and sing a song with them," he said. “It could happen. There’s magic in the air.”