Daytrotter Downs has a stacked list of 47 acts on this year's lineup. How will you choose who to see? Here are five worth checking out:
11:30 p.m. Saturday at the Redstone Room, 129 N. Main St., Davenport
Catherine Harris-White, based in Seattle, Washington, has been making hip-hop music for more than a decade, including several years in the now-defunct group, THEESatisfaction. During that time, she had plenty of song ideas, but was intimidated by being on stage all alone. That is until she started writing and performing solo under the moniker, SassyBlack, a name she says makes her feel like a “warrior queen."
“They are two words that mean a lot to me and are really my identity," Harris-White said in a phone interview. "It makes me feel like I can do anything."
Under "anything," file releasing an album, called "No More Weak Dates," touring internationally and speaking up for minorities. Her rather vulnerable, yet strong, album became a mantra for improving her romantic life. “Honestly, I was getting back into the dating world and I remembered why I hated dating,” she said. "I wanted to express the similarities I have to people as a queer black woman in a way that others could relate. I know I’m not the only one who went through a weird dry spell." Since writing the album, she's gained confidence in her personal life. And she no longer fears the stage. "I'm way more comfortable as an artist," she said. "I was so scared of doing my own thing, but now when it's just me, it feels so great. It's just me, my controller and my beats."
2. Mountain Swallower
Midnight Friday at Daytrotter, 324 Brady St., Davenport
What does Moutain Swallower, a Quad-City based group, think of grabbing a headlining slot at Daytrotter Downs? “We just think of it as playing last,” Garrin Jost, the band’s vocalist, said. “We’re really lucky to have been given this opportunity. It’s a really cool gesture to the local scene.” The group, consisting of Jost,Mark Leveling, Steve Maule and Kirby Calamari, got together last year, typically take mini-tours on the weekend and released an album in July. They each work day jobs or attend college, so the 20-somethings play mostly in the Quad-Cities. As Jost said, their guitar sound, showcasing original songwriting, can “be inappropriately loud” or “pretty dang quiet.” “We’re not crazy physical like jumping over the stage,” he said. “But I look back at photos of the show and we’re making the craziest faces.” For them, that's a sign of a good high-energy show. That’s the biggest thing,” Jost said. “We want to keep putting on bigger shows, keep growing and keep getting better."
3. Middle Western
9:30 p.m. Friday at Redstone Room, 129 N. Main St., Davenport
William Elliot Whitmore, a Lee County, Iowa native, has played solo at Daytrotter several times in the past. This weekend, he's bringing his newly-formed band, called Middle Western, to Daytrotter Downs. "Daytrotter has grown into this beautiful thing, right here in Iowa,” he said. “And I'm proud of that." Whitmore and fellow artist David Zollo toyed around with starting a band for years, but were too busy working on solo projects. Middle Western, an indie folk group, started coming together last year when Zollo and Whitmore joined forces with Brian Cooper on drums and guitarists Stevie Doyle and Stephen Howard. "We started writing songs immediately and it slowly took shape," he said. "We had our formula. It's pretty much bar rock, and I mean that in a good way." The sound, and band dynamic, is different for him. “The songs I write for that are very personal and I'm very protective of them — it has to be just me," he said. "This project is a break from that. I'm the weakest link musically, but they let me be in the band anyway because I have a van."
4. Gaeylnn Lea
8 p.m. Saturday at Daytrotter, 324 Brady St., Davenport
Perhaps you're one of the million people who have watched Gaelynn Lea's NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, a video recorded because, out of 6,000 submissions, the Duluth, Minnesota fiddle player and singer-songwriter won NPR's second annual Tiny Desk Contest in 2016. If so, then you know Lea's skillful sound — and the nontraditional way she plays — is so impressive that you don't want to look way. Before winning the contest — and before that "extremely surreal" phone call with NPR's Bob Boilen — Lea performed regionally and taught fiddle lessons. "I submitted it for fun and wasn't expecting anything," she said. "It was so surprising. I knew that my life would change after that." Following the initial publicity, Lea, who has brittle bone disease and learned how to play the violin in fifth grade by holding it like a cello, and her husband sold their house and took off of an international tour, which included public speaking events tied to disability awareness. "I never would've thought this would happen and now it is," she said. "The world seems a lot smaller now."
5. Pieta Brown
11:30 p.m. Friday at Redstone Room, 129 N. Main St., Davenport
One of Pieta Brown's closest friends sometimes calls her "Bubble girl." The Iowa City native grew up without a TV and quickly adapted music as a "lifeline." After living in big and small cities around the country, the singer-songwriter is back in her hometown, where she fell in love with music. "It was kind of like breathing for me," she said. "I've always had a fairly isolated approach to it." Brown has released five albums, mostly in the indie and folk genres, over the years and she has a new album, "Postcards," due out March 10, that marks a departure from her previous live records. She recorded each track by herself and then sent them to a variety of collaborators around the world. "I essentially sent the songs as musical postcards to different musicians and they sent it back to me," she said. "It's different for me. With postcards, you send it in the mail and everyone can see it." She'll play a mix of new songs as well as her favorites, including "Other Way Around." "I love playing in the Midwest. "I've been around the world, but there's a good vibe here ... almost a magic about it."