A New Perspective

You may have noticed Local Scene has been a bit quiet in regards to articles these last few months. I’ve been busy with a new day job that has, at times, been overwhelming. (In a good way, I might add). There have also been some things going on with my family that have required my attention. With any luck, things will level out soon, and I’ll be putting those articles together again. Of course, I’m always looking for people with a love for our local music scene who are willing to write about it. The pay is lousy, unless you consider that each word you write helps promote a band or musician or just our scene in general.

Although I’ve been short on time, I recently took some time to refresh my perspective. An afternoon drive last week took me to Mount Carroll where I browsed an amazing art gallery and listened to some acoustic musicians play for the sake of playing.

Mount Carroll, Illinois is a sleepy little village about an hour away from the QC, where the business district is built on a hillside. Many of the storefronts are gift shops or dining establishments. It is here that you’ll find Heather Houzenga’s gallery, Now & Zen. Those of you who have ventured to Codfish Hollow might recognize Heather’s “Zenga’s” van sitting in the lower courtyard. Heather is also the creative artist coordinator for Codfish Hollow.

My first impression of the gallery was that Heather’s brain exploded and this was the result. You can see her touch in the multitude of unique art pieces, as well as the arrangement that allows the work of others to fit in so well with her style. As I browsed the gallery (I made 4 passes and still feel like I missed some things), I began to see that this was so much more than an art gallery. It beckons, welcoming all and enfolding them like the big bear hugs Heather hands out to her guests. From the quiet nooks that require reflection to the open seating in the center of the second room, it is just a matter of time before a guest feels themselves settling in for a soul cleansing.

On this day, area musicians had gathered in that second room and were taking turns playing. I sat and listened for a while, enjoying the relaxed pace and restful space that room presented. Jody McGill played this Saturday afternoon, as well as Bruce Kort. This was my first opportunity to hear each of them, and it was absolutely blissful.

Thanks to Heather and friends for helping me reset my perspective (and for my lovely new guitar strap!)

But my search for new things didn’t end there. I took a rare Thursday night out and found myself at Skellington Manor. I’ve been promoting the Skellington Swerve shows every month on Local Scene Magazine, but with my crazy schedule had not taken a Thursday night off to check them out. This week was particularly important to me though, as both bands performing are near and dear to me. Many bands are, but these two in particular have had recent hardships and I felt I needed to be there this night for them.

Swerve is more than just a music event. It is a variety show format, with comedy, dance, music and a little art. You’ll find the Magical Girls in the front entry reading tarot cards, and coloring pages and crayons on every table. There’s food to be had and the bar is well stocked. These shows are all-ages as well. I didn’t know what to expect, but was pleased to see Lars Rehnberg running sound, and a little more light on the stage than can be found at Rozz-tox. It was still a little dark, and with most of the dance happening away from the stage, I was unable to shoot those portions. I stuck around until the end of the show – which was pretty early. That makes Swerve and easy go-to for a weeknight.

About those bands…

Waking Robots played their first show back after the terrible accident that destroyed most of their equipment and merchandise, and left singer/songwriter Angi with injuries that still plague her. They’re pulling things back together, but are still waiting for the compensation from the other driver’s insurance.

Jenny Lynn Stacy nearly died last month. She spent weeks in ICU in Iowa City while doctors worked to save her from an illness that quite often takes lives. It wasn’t until she was recovered and checking out of the hospital that they sat her down and explained to her how close to death she really was. I think they wait until you are recovered because they want you to have positive thoughts while you are fighting such an illness. Swerve was the Dirty Roosters second show back since her recovery.

Ladies – I shed a tear or two while writing those last two paragraphs. These terrifying life events might leave you feeling weak and fragile, but I see you both as amazingly strong women and I look forward to every opportunity to see you demonstrate that strength on stage.

Finally – in case you haven’t already seen the Facebook announcements, there’s an art show coming up. Not just any art show, Light and Sound is a celebration of live music in the Quad Cities. This is my second year of curating this show, along with the fine gentlemen of Star Dog Gallery. So far this year, I have confirmation from Paul Brooks, Doug Jefford and Darren Schultz. There may be others TBA still, though the date of the event is quickly approaching. Last year we held our first event at the gallery and included photos of several local bands. The turnout was amazing! This year we hope to expand on last year’s show, with all new photos.

I’m not sure how the other photographers do this, but here is my take. This isn’t a show of photos of my favorite bands, but of the photos I think were my best. Were it to be a show of my favorite bands, we would have to have a much bigger gallery! As I looked back over my year in photography, I realized this was a busy year for me. There are over 200 folders of individual bands. Some bands I saw several times, some only once. There were quite a few folders of touring bands, so I cut them out of the search first. After all, this show celebrates LOCAL bands. I went through over 100 folders to pick out my favorite photos. By the time I reached the end of the list, I had 52 photos to choose from. I then eliminated any photos that blurred or pixelated or had too much noise when I blew them up a bit. That got me down to 36. I had many bands with multiple pics, so I then had to choose which pics I really wanted from those. A little help from Paul Brooks and his discerning eye helped me eliminate a few more. As of this writing I am down to 22. Some of those I have already flagged as “for sure” and have contacted the artists for their blessing.

Knowing the pain I go through at eliminating photos of musicians I love, I can only imagine the other photographers go through the same turmoil… when a photo isn’t my very best, do I keep it in because the musician was particularly expressive at that moment, or do I dishonor them by showing something that isn’t my best? And then there’s the cost. Printing, framing, mounting all cost money. Not everyone can afford to put these photos together. I’ve had a good year, and can afford to prepare a few more.

I guess what I am saying is that I am thrilled that these photographers have committed to this show – I know how hard this is. Please, please come out and recognize them, as well as the artists they will portray in the photos. There will be live music in the gallery in the form of a jam. Phil Force says it will be acoustic in nature. He’s also planning to feature recordings of only local bands between sets. Local Scene will be sponsoring the artists’ reception on Friday, and a “matinee” reception on Sunday for those who cannot be there Friday night.

The dates for the show are December 2nd and 4th. Friday’s opening is at 8 PM. There will be music until 1 am. Sunday’s closing reception will be from 4 until 8 PM. The gallery is at 114 West 3rd street in Davenport – below Boozie’s. Won’t you come out and celebrate the year in our local music scene with us?