Festivals Come, Festivals Go - Roberta's Blog

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have to say that our local live music scene here in the Quad Cities is even more exciting than ever before. Although summer tends to be busy, it feels busier than in past years. I’m seeing more weeknight shows on my radar than in previous years – take a look at our calendar sometime and see how many choices you have – even on week nights. Every time a venue adds live entertainment on a weeknight, it strengthens our scene just that much more.

Not only do we have all the usual venues and shows, including all the wonderful outdoor shows that pop up in the summer, but we also have the added attraction of festival season. This past weekend was a fine example of some local music festivals that have just popped up.

Freedom Fest, now in its third year, takes over the 6Bs campground near Maquoketa with heavy music sounds for a day and night, with camping attached. At a $5 gate fee, this festival was extremely affordable. Many of the bands that play this fest are directly from the Quad Cities, with all of the bands located in the Iowa/Illinois region. This year’s bands included Kronos Resistor, Battle Red, Apathy Syndrome, Eleven Fifty Two, AsBigAsAMouse, RM-212, Dirty Laundry and Shadow Stone. You can see photos from this year’s event on Paul Brooks’ page here: https://www.facebook.com/PBrooksPhotography

Another all-local event took place on the Illinois side of the river this year. The inaugural Dawn and On festival, hosted by The Dawn, featured all Quad-Cities bands, including Barstool Boogaloo, Dusty Liquorbox, Patio, Orangadang, Earth Ascending, The Low Down, The Candymakers and The Dawn. It was a one-day event on the shores of the Rock River at Len Brown’s North Shore Inn. The Inn provided the perfect setting and plenty of assistance for this local festival. There was no charge for admission and at least 1000 people passed through the gates Saturday. Watch the Local Scene Facebook page beginning tomorrow for photos from the festival. https://www.facebook.com/localsceneQC

Sadly though, we lost two festivals this year – the Slip N Slide Music Fest on the Illinois side of the river isn’t happening, and at this time, I don’t know if they plan to bring it back in the future. And yesterday the Mississippi Valley Blues Society cancelled the Blues Fest. Since I moved back from Texas in the early 90s, I can’t remember a summer without a Blues Fest. Somehow I feel a little cheated, and I know I’m not the only one who participated in fundraisers to try to keep the event afloat this year. Even with moving the date to Labor Day weekend, and reducing it to 2 days, the Blues Society somehow still wasn’t able to come up with the money to make guarantees to bands and pay other pre-event expenses. There was a lot of discussion around this on Facebook yesterday – I saw comments from folks who couldn’t understand why the MVBS didn’t have the money. Truth is – not only did they have the added expense of moving the festival to 2nd street… the details of which have been discussed in all of the local media, but the last two years they also tried to bring in bigger names to try to increase the size of the audience. With Kenny Wayne Shepherd in 2013 and George Thorogood & the Destroyers and Savoy Brown in 2014, the name recognition brought a larger expense but didn’t really produce the ticket sales to make it worthwhile (that’s my opinion folks – not sure how the Blues Society folks feel about it).

As a recipient of the Keeping the Blues Alive award last year – the MVBF and Quad Cities have not lived up to that status in 2015. When the Blues Society was asking for help to raise this money, not nearly enough people and businesses came forward. Maybe they didn’t speak loudly or often enough to get everyone’s attention. Or maybe there really isn’t enough support for the Blues in the QC anymore. Something needs to happen to bring this event back. Businesses all around the QC see a boost from the festival, and its absence over the 4th of July weekend was obvious. We need to ask ourselves if we have what it takes to rebuild the Blues Festival. It is time to round up some new faces and sponsors and give it the support it deserves for all the years of business it has brought to the Quad Cities.

So, while our local scene is growing in a grass-roots sort of way, we’re seeing our big money-making events weaken. Those events draw people to the QC, and our local scene does benefit from them, even if it is only minimally represented on those stages. Maybe the organizers of our larger festivals could consider adding more local bands to the roster – the cost is generally less than a touring band, and it presents an opportunity to showcase our local music scene to people from outside the area. Plus, we’re seeing a draw to these smaller festivals that highlight local bands, so why not take advantage of the local draw? As our local scene flourishes, so will the local venues and those businesses that might provide sponsorship to our festivals.