Live music is a passion of mine, its cathartic to such an extreme with me that I feel almost lost not seeing a live show. It's probably some type of addiction I have or just a way to extend my childhood once again. My childhood had so many layers inside of it that it is possible that some of the areas are in a strange way intertwined. Without question I have seen to so many live shows that they at times melt together like those old plastic toy cars I had as a child. What?
As a child I played with Matchbox cars and these really, really cheap cars that you could get for just a couple of bucks at any K-Mart. The cars were so cheap that you really never missed them if something happened to one of them. The plastic was thin and the wheels were mounted to straight shafts that would bend so when it happened the car would wobble like it had a flat tire. The cars were resilient though, so much in fact that if you pushed them really, really fast into a wall they would just bounce off of concrete walls and yes I did that.
That was a problem at times you see because my cousin Ron and I had this strange desire to smash toy cars together like they were in some sort of traffic accident. We would hit those things together so hard and they would just bounce off of each other and Ron at times would want his Matchbox cars to really look like damage from a traffic accident so he might hit them with a rock or even bounce them off of the sidewalk to get the desired effect. One of the memories I still have to this day some 35 or so years later was Ron taking this little Matchbox station wagon and smashing it against a big tree at their house in Roscoe, Illinois. That takes us full circle to the cheap plastic cars, and the explanation of melting together.
As a youth we lived in the country and my Mom worked during the day and my Dad was a truck driver so when Ron and his sister Rachel would stay during the summer we had some time on our hands. One summer we were outside with those cheap cars and we weren't getting the desired effects from their act of crashing so we decided to make the cars look more "realistic." Since my Mom and our Uncle Jeff both smoked we found a lighter and we began to melt the cars and pushed them together and much like the directions on a shampoo bottle are "wash, rinse, repeat" we continued our melting. Our Uncle Jeff came home and saw the carnage and put the melted, destroyed remains in his old Chevelle to take away the evidence so my Mom wouldn't see it, laughing as he did. On an interesting side note I know understand why I wanted to be an EMT, it was those damned flaming plastic fireballs with bent axles wobbling down the driveway.
With time and age I started to mix my love of music, all kinds of music and a desire to see some of the bands I loved actually play their music live. Early in life my Mom and Aunt Cheryl took my cousin and I to see Elvis Presley, and before that was Dr. Hook at an old minor league baseball field in Dubuque, Iowa but my love for the band KISS started me on the path of loving live music with seeing them live at a small arena in Dubuque, Iowa. That really seems to be the recurring theme in my life, I have seen bands all over the country from little dive bars to massive stadiums and clearly many of those bands were those I loved as a kid.
I have developed lots of friends and contacts throughout the journal of the music I have seen live and I always try to see or visit them along the way. I met a man named Kenny Bailey at Taste of Minnesota at the booth for the band OWL and I recognized him as the tour manager for Brandon Gibbs. We talked for a little while and Kenny told me that he had a bar in Moline, Illinois which isn't too far from home, it is after all closer that Taste of Minnesota. Kenny told me I should come down some time and until April 29th, 2016 the schedules really never meshed.
Making the trek that evening we intended to see Great White and Brandon Gibbs Band play at Rascals Live. Rascals Live is a quaint, neighborhood bar or so I thought. We walked into the bar and were immediately greeted by the bartender, got our tickets for the show and then I started to look around. The very first thing I saw was an old quarter video game, and eagerly threw a quarter in to play Dig Dug (I was really good at that game as a kid but apparently not as an adult). As the luster from my eyes washed away getting crushed in Dig Dug I started to look around and I began seeing guitars on the wall, autographed guitars from some INCREDIBLE bands like Megadeth, Anthrax, B.B. King, and Bruce Springsteen. There are also drum heads and pictures autographed by the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Frank Sinatra. As I stood there I had that seminal moment as if I wee standing in that Dyersville, Iowa baseball field made famous in "Field of Dreams" and I asked myself "Is this heaven?" and I answered myself "No, Moline."
Rascals is very interesting because there are two sides to the building, the side that I entered and next door where another bar and stage reside. When I walked into the other side I was really impressed for many reasons but the striking part was the stage. The stage was obvious, it was taller that the little "one step" stage you see in the average bar, this stage has substance and with its height there isn't a bad place to sit or stand in that area.
I have been to many bars to see live music and often the sound that is being pumped into the to ears of its patrons is so loud and distorted it becomes painful to listen to but that isn't even in the equation at Rascals Live. I wasn't blown into the next county or across the river into Iowa but what I found was that there is a very nice mix of loudness and comfort. The building itself lends itself to the potential of mind numbing sound issues but the staff has it down perfectly. The bands that I saw that evening were clear to the ear and even more importantly made it quite enjoyable.
The staff on both sides of Rascals Live were friendly and helpful and even joked with me about the video game I got slaughtered on when I asked for another dollars worth of quarters. The bartender joked that watching me play saying "that was quick." She was right, Dig Dug did bury me quickly which made me very sad (no I am not that needy). Despite my failure playing that game I found that their staff didn't waiver on either side in the midst of the craziness of the night. When I went to the bar during the show the bartenders were quick to notice customers and deliver their drinks almost right away, they were great!
Rascals Live and live music really does take me back to the earliest days of my love of seeing live music. Since my earliest days I have been part and parcel to seeing a cornucopia of bands live and the number of venues I have seen those bands in blurs together. Its kind of like those cheap plastic cars we would melt together when I was a youth. It is with some certainty I can tell you about melting those cars together successfully but I can't tell you what the cars looked like. It becomes blurry probably because of the toxic fumes we introduced to our young lungs and the atmosphere but having seen many bands I can't remember the facility that I saw them. That isn't indicative of any of the bands I saw throughout my life but too often the places I see them just melt together, Rascals Live is different.
Rascals Live stands out just like that Matchbox station wagon Ron threw against the tree, not because of the implied carnage but because it is memorable. The crushed car and the actual action to "crush" it stand out because it was fun, it was cool. That's what makes Rascals Live so memorable, its fun and cool. In a world full of venues that "melt together" Rascals Live stands out because of their atmosphere, their staff and their attention to detail. As I look back at the the parallel between my cousin Ron with that Matchbox station wagon and Rascals Live, they both accomplished the same thing: they crushed it.
Check out their website for upcoming events and on Facebook as well or stop in and say hello, you will NOT be disappointed.