Next week will mark my one-year anniversary living in the Quad-Cities and working at the Quad-City Times.
I remember telling my friends about my move to Iowa, and they were quick to joke around: "Will you hang out in a cornfield? Will you go on dates with farmers? Won't you be bored?"
Over the past year covering entertainment here, I have, thankfully, been able to correct their perceptions.
I've been surprised by the long list of cool, off-beat and diverse things happening here and beyond the metro Quad-Cities.
And I've never been bored.
So in the spirit of saying goodbye to 2016, here's my list of top moments (and stories) in the entertainment scene around the Quad-Cities.
• Codfish Hollow: The Codfish Hollow bug spread around our newsroom, the metro Quad-Cities and the region this year. I remember vaguely hearing about the music venue in Maquoketa, Iowa, where music is performed in a barn, where Norah Jones has played, where you camp in a cow pasture and ride on a hayrack, and I remember thinking, "Well, that sounds very Iowa." In early May, Quad-City Times Executive Editor Autumn Phillips wrote a column about going to her first concert there, writing this: "The Codfish Hollow barn is a visceral place. There’s no sense that goes untouched. No emotional string that goes unplucked." As soon as I walked into the barn, I knew she was right. I went back twice, for the venue's first-ever music festival called Garp, where I saw my new favorite artist LOLO perform and for Halloween weekend. My visits there also inspired one of my favorite stories I wrote this year: "In the middle of nowhere, Codfish Hollow puts Quad-City music scene on the map."
• Daytrotter shows: In mid-January, about two weeks after my move here, Daytrotter opened its new venue in downtown Davenport. I've been to several concerts there since then, including seeing Charles Bradley, Robert Ellis and a host of great shows during Dayrotter's first multi-day festival Daytrotter Downs. To me, the show that stands out is when Rock Island-native Lissie packed the room there in February. I've also seen her perform at East Fest in the Village of East Davenport and at her annual benefit concert, called Laura's Legacy, in Rock Island, and each time is a treat.
• The Q-C hip-hop scene: I scratched the surface of this with a story about a handful of East Moline-based rappers. I learned that the Quad-Cities is home to a hip hop scene "on the verge" of breaking wide open, according to one recording studio owner. That scene is something that interests me and I want to explore more.
• Prince: When Prince died in April, days after making an emergency stop at a hospital in Moline, it was a big (and sad) moment for Quad-City and national entertainment news. I spent the day talking to musicians who were inspired by Prince and fans who saw Prince's concert at The Mark of the Quad-Cities in 1997. What makes this stand out more is when I saw a Prince tribute concert, presented by Al Sweat Productions, at the Redstone Room. About 20 Quad-City musicians packed the stage singing songs, such as "Purple Rain," and it remains one of my top musical experiences here.
• Street Fest: When I think about this year, one of my favorite "firsts" was running the Quad-City Times Bix 7 and, afterward, standing in the middle of 3rd Street in downtown Davenport and seeing live music pop up on what seemed like every corner. I loved how the city of Davenport shut down and how the community came together all day, first to watch or run the 7-mile race and then to celebrate after.
• Quad-City Arts: The programs put on by Quad-City Arts are some of the most fun to write about. One of the best happened in July, when I reported on the Quad-City Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship program. Students spent five weeks revitalizing 10 of Rock Island’s downtown benches and got a taste of working as full-time artists. I love what one student said about it: "It sounds cliche, but art is everywhere. This is the kind of thing that gets people to notice it.”
• Honoring an icon: Ellis Kell's death on Friday, Dec. 16, rocked the Q-C music community. Posts about Kell, his warm "gentle giant personality" and how he influenced so many people, filled my Facebook feed and filled my daily conversations. When I went to a tribute concert for Kell at Cabana's in Rock Island, I was moved by all the musicians and members of the community playing (and watching) music as a way to grieve, remember Kell and send love to his family. Even with so much sadness, it showed me how strong, and close, the music community is and will continue to be in the Quad-Cities.
There is so much more I could add to this list: My first concert at the Mississippi Valley Fair, that time Luke's Diner from "Gilmore Girls" took over a Davenport coffee shop, when O.A.R. performed at River Roots Live or when I judged a Monster Jam show at the iWireless Center. I loved walking through "The Wonderful World of Oz" exhibit at the Figge Art Museum, going to the Boots and Brews fest in downtown Rock Island, jamming along to Electric Shock, an AC/DC cover band and seeing "Phantom" at Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse and the King Tut exhibit at the Putnam Museum.
So, thinking about this year, here's what I'm taking away: There is always something going on in the Quad-Cities. And in 2017, I hope to uncover more moments and share them with you in the Weekend section.
I also hope that we, as a community, shy away from the "there's nothing to do" mantra. I hope we try something new — go to an art exhibit, a ballet performance or a comedy show — on the weekends. I hope we invest in the arts and entertainment here and we chase that next cool thing around the corner. And I hope we are reminded, over and over, that where we live is not a boring place at all; it's a place filled with surprises.