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 Walk in Rock Island’s newest bar on a Saturday night, and it feels like a classic country song. There are pickup trucks parked outside, cowboys hats raised up high, flavors of moonshine on the menu and at least one person falling off of a mechanical bull. Red Rodeo may have opened less than three months ago, but everyone inside is already singing along.

Red Rodeo, located in The District, is riding on the mission of bringing honky-tonk entertainment to the Quad-Cities, with promises of having a country band on the lineup every Friday and Saturday.

Gene Redahan is the man behind Red Rodeo, but you should probably forget about his first name. Everybody calls him Red.

The Georgia native sees the bar as the storybook definition of: “If you build it, they will come,” because country-music fans have shown up in droves each weekend since Red Rodeo opened on New Year’s Eve.

“A lot of people didn't have a reason to come to The District before,” Redahan said. “Now they do. We bring trucks and boots to this area that were never here before.”

Redahan and his wife, Cherie, opened the bar on 2nd Avenue because there wasn’t a place like it — a live music venue where the “hard-working, blue-collar type” could hang out and rising bands could play.

“We both love love country music and Nashville and always thought we’d move there,” Redahan said. “So, we decided to bring Nashville here.”

One of those acts was Cody Hicks and his band from Montezuma, Iowa. They’ve traveled all over the Midwest and opened up for country legends like Tracy Adkins. But venturing to the Quad-Cities never really crossed Hicks’ mind.

“We play a lot around the state, but the Quad-Cities didn’t have a place for us,” Hicks said. “We want everyone at a show to feel like they had the best night ever — and that’s how you can leave this bar every night.”

Hicks also says the market for country music is a strong one.

“The people that fill up bars are loyal, country music fans. You can count on them,” Hicks said. “To have a room full of hard working people that want to support country music is the best feeling.”

Redahan has already booked his first national act, Love and Theft, which is slated to play at Red Rodeo on March 12, following a show at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.

“That blows me away,” Redahan said. “It just shows how much the Quad-Cities needed something like this. It feels like we’re already established.”

And the buzz is growing. Redahan has more than a thousand emails from talent managers and agents for future shows.

“That happened super quickly,” he said “But it’s what we built this place for — that was kind of the dream.”

Red Rodeo has a total of 10,000 square feet, including 200 feet of bar space and a dance floor of 1,400 square feet. So far, they’ve averaged around 700 people coming in and out of the bar on a weekend night.

The rest of Red Rodeo is playing out like a dream, too. Or at least, it’s living up to expectations.

“We target country music fans, from 21 to 80 or above,” he said. “And when you do that, you kind of know what you’re getting — it can be college students or anyone else who just enjoy the genre.”

Their most popular drinks are, by far, Bud Light and Jack Daniel's. They have moonshine specials, including an apple-flavored one. Hundreds of beer bottles are scattered around the bar and tables at the end of a night, like the leftovers of a house party. Redahan ordered beer carts to avoid long lines at the bar.

“That's the thing about country music people, no matter if you’re in Louisville or Atlanta or Nashville, they’re the same,” he said. “They drink Bud Light and Jack Daniel's.”

Red Rodeo hosts line-dancing classes on Thursdays. They usually charge a $5 cover (to help pay for the band and keep trouble out), but let people wearing cowboy hats in for free as a special deal. And it seemed fitting to have a mechanical bull, so Redahan just bought one.

“This place is not trying to be anything that's it's not,” said Hicks after rehearsing for a show later that night. “There aren’t any pool halls or TV screens. It’s a wide open space to hear music.”

That's how the Redahans, who have been married for two years, wanted it to be. 

“I like country music because of what the songs are about — real life and not Ferraris or making a lot of money," he said. "Most people can relate to these songs and you can hear your own life in it.”


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