Massive Jambrella Show to Benefit Quad-Cities Musicians and Bars
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For the past 10 years, Molly Durnin has worked as a full-time touring musician, but 2020’s Covid pandemic put a stop to that – as it’s decimated the careers of so many artists nationwide.
“It was the worst year of my life,” the 32-year-old Moliner said Friday, noting her gigs were shot for most
of the year, between mid-March and the fall. “It left me completely confused, hopeless as to what to do in my life. For a lot of us musicians, it’s not just performing, it’s our life. It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. It was traumatizing.”
An upstate New York native, who moved to the Quad-Cities in 2017 from Charleston. S.C., with a boyfriend from here (with whom she later broke up), in 2019 Durnin played full-time every Thursday through Sunday, including touring the East Coast. She made good money on tour, but when Covid hit, she was left high and dry, and terribly low.
“For a long time, there was no light at the end of the tunnel,” Durnin said. “I felt hopeless and helpless.”
“Everyone tried to do the outside thing, and I played a show outside on a patio, and it was 35 degrees,” she recalled of a fall gig. “Over the summer, a lot of the bars didn’t want it — they didn’t have the budget, they wanted to follow protocols. If you did music, you didn’t want to promote it…You could be spreading this. It could almost get like a witch hunt.”
Illinois public health regulations have been more stringent than Iowa, so half of Durnin’s regular venues have stayed closed to live music, like downtown Moline’s Pub 1848, O’Keefe’s, Bier Stube, and Broken Saddle.
On the Iowa side, she has enjoyed playing solo in recent weeks at Unimpaired Dry Bar, Kilkenny’s and The Office in downtown Davenport, and Eleven 17 in the Village of East Davenport.
Many local musicians and bars are getting a hand up with the help of a new music festival – Jambrella (organized by Q-C musician Michael Moncada), which will open Friday, Feb. 26, at 5:30 p.m. at The Mound, in the Village (1029 St., Davenport), with live music from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Durnin is scheduled among 25 musicians to play that night – with all proceeds split among all artists and selected Q-C bars.
Durnin is to play for a 25-minute set at 7:25 p.m. with Eric Sparks and Craig Bentley. It will not be a ticketed event (suggested donation is $5 – which includes a drink ticket donated by The Mound — and tips encouraged), and the night will be livestreamed online, which she appreciates.
“This is amazing. I am so proud of Mike for putting this together,” Durnin said. “It got a little frustrating — people think of industry workers in need, but never think of musicians falling into that category. For him to take that knowledge, it’s absolutely…it’s hard for me to put into words.
“It’s all we’ve ever asked for,” she said. “I don’t know anybody who got into music for the money; we’re used to being poor. But he has done an amazing job, out of the graciousness of his own heart. He’s such a selfless person, beyond what any musicians in the Quad-Cities could ask
“The whole industry got hit, like it never has, and hopefully never will again,” Durnin said.
The performing musicians include Levi Craft, Jarrett Bailey, Jim Drain, Cooler Schou, Michael Brock, Leland Chasey, Craig Heidgerken, Joe McKinny, Jamie Hopkins, Alex Axup, Laura Hammes, Matt McEwen, Sean Ryan, Dan Olds, Angela Fisher, Ray Polanchek, Jon VanCamp, Scott Reeves, Mo Morrison and more.
The Mound has been a reliable live-music host and they’ve been hit hard by Covid, Durnin said, noting live-music venues are taking varying approaches to safety precautions.
“It depends on the venue, what they’re willing to take on as risk – they tell people to try to stay six feet apart, having capacity limits, masks when people are walking around,” she said. “Every place is different. There have been some bars that are dying. We want to play music…It’s
up to them if they want to see their business succeed or not.”
According to the state of Iowa, all gathering organizers or hosts are strongly encouraged to take reasonable measures under the circumstances to ensure the health of participants and members of the public, including social distancing practices, increased hygiene practices, and other public health measures to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19.
Earlier this month, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds defended her decision to rescind a limited mask mandate and related restrictions, saying Iowans don’t need a government order to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
“Iowans know what to do. We’ve been telling them for a year what they need to do. And they’re doing it,” Reynolds said in her first news conference since she announced Feb. 5 she was lifting the state’s mask mandate and social distancing rules.
Unlike many other governors, Reynolds did not implement a mask mandate during the initial wave of coronavirus infections in the spring. She issued her mandate in November, when infections and hospitalizations were surging throughout the state. The rule she put in place required Iowans to wear masks when indoors and unable to socially distance for 15 minutes or more.
At the time, more than 1,500 Iowans were hospitalized with the disease. More than half of the more than 5,300 Iowans killed by Covid died in November and December, state reports show.
Reynolds said that Iowa’s hospitalizations for Covid-19 have dropped 80% since November. On Friday, Scott County hit the milestone of 200 deaths related to Covid, among 5,336 total Covid deaths in Iowa. There have been 326 Covid deaths in Rock Island County.
Putting together in under a month
Mike Moncada (the brains and heart behind Jambrella) is a 39-year-old Cedar Rapids native who moved around a lot before settling in the Q-C about 18 months ago. He worked 11 years as a professional dog trainer, and while he always loved music, he didn’t start to make it his career until July 2017.
By February 2018, Moncada had 75-plus shows to his name at venues in three states, and formed his country rock band Michael Moncada & Whiskey High.
He finished 2018 with 250 shows under his belt, gaining popularity, and eventually earning nominations for KBOE Iowa Artist of the Year three times (2018, 2019, 2020). In addition, Moncada released his self-titled EP and two singles, streaming on all major media platforms (Spotify, iTunes, etc.)
In 2019, he played a lot of big shows, opening for over a half-dozen top recording artists in seven states. After that fall, it became too much and he ended up getting a recording contract, recording an album that never got finished. After Covid hit, the studio closed and it got scrapped.
“It’s been challenging to say the least; I’m trying to do this as an independent artist,” Moncada said Friday, noting he’s re-formed his band with Sean Ryan and other players from The Dawn and their first official show is Feb. 26 for Jambrella, which he just conceived of in early February.
He’s also owner, event coordinator and promoter for Jambrella Productions.
“Covid has not only decimated careers but has caused the deterioration of so many of my friends in the music community,” Moncada said. “We are drowning. Our hands are up and we are sinking. We haven’t had help from the state and the already struggling community hasn’t been able to help the way they used to pre-Covid.
“So I formed Jambrella, to grab the hands of those sinking. And Jambrella is who is going to pull them out of the water,” he said. “We saw a need in the community to put something together to help musicians.”
And the Q-C community has certainly pulled together in support of the fundraiser.
The event sponsors include River Music Experience, The Mound, Eleven17 (If ya know what I mean), Underground Economy, Lobo’s Salsa, Thirsty’s on Third, The Diner, Dam View Inn, Unimpaired, Mayne St. Pub-N-Grub, Almost Home, WQUD 107.7 Vintage Radio, Korbin’s Boro, Dirt Road Rockers, Eternal Quality Group, Minuteman Press, and more TBA.
There will be sponsor raffle boxes for this event, and all proceeds go to the sponsored bar staffs and performing musicians. Along with the entire sale of tickets, the Mound has donated money to start off the tip jar for the night, and Moncada also has donated his $300 booked show amount for that night back into the tip jar.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said of Friday of helping musicians and bars. “I’m tired of watching them sink. As musicians, we’re considered self-employed. I am supposed to have back unemployment that hasn’t come through. Money is sitting there, in a very large sum, but it’s not coming. No one will answer the phone; I don’t know what we’re supposed to.”
“I’ve been watching my community – I’m not from here, but they’ve taken me in as an outsider in the last 18 months, and I’ve been watching it sink. Directly associated with us is the bar community, and I’m watching friends and bar staff, they lost this — she lost her car, he can’t pay
The selected bars and venues to benefit from Jambrella will be:
Eleven 17 (Village of East Davenport)
Almost Home (Silvis)
Thirstys on Third (Davenport)
Mayne St. Pub (Blue Grass)
Dam View Inn (Davenport)
Moncada knows that people are concerned with Covid, being out in public, and patrons can certainly come and go during the seven-hour event. Also, the public can still donate and watch the musicians from the Jambrella event Facebook page.
“They can livestream from home,” he said. “Anyone who wants to participate but doesn’t feel comfortable because of Covid can do that. The community has stepped up, I’m impressed. I have been putting in 18 hours a day for nine days. I’m exhausted, but I’ve got to keep it going.”
The Mound is not a direct beneficiary of proceeds but will benefit from the event because of the tremendous food and drink business they’ll
do, Moncada said.
“We picked six venues that support live music we wanted to support,” he said, noting the offers from sponsors for raffle have been staggering. As of Friday, he’s got 32 or 33 sponsors, and originally planned on just 10.
“It says for me personally, it’s a very grateful feeling, humble feeling that we weren’t forgotten,” Moncada said. “It’s showing the music and
bartending communities they aren’t forgotten. It’s pretty cool, the amount of support is pretty overwhelming.
“I have a friend coordinating all the staff and volunteers — Kris Street,” he said, including photographers and videographers. “It does show me the community is missing music. Music heals — music is love, music is a language. Communities across the country are missing this.”
The bars to benefit all have supported artists and bands, Moncada said. “The whole time they’ve been supporting us, it’s time to give back to them.”
RME events manager Chrissy Boyer “has been unbelievable – an amazing supporter of live music in the community,” he said. “I was introduced to her five days ago, and within 24 hours she was completely on board. She gave us four tickets to any show, through July 2022, with four drink tickets, all at the Redstone Room.”
Another sponsor – Junior’s Sports Bar & Grill in East Moline – has donated for raffle a box with a Junior’s hat, sweatshirt, and $25 gift card
to some of the best BBQ in the Q-C.
A “far-out” band from Viola
Moncada said one of the bands he wanted for the event was Far Out 283, “one of the fastest up-and-coming bands, way past their years of experience,” he said. “I’m very careful who I put my brand with,” and he booked them to perform the same night with Moncada at Bettendorf’s Tangled Wood in July 2021.
Lead singer of Far Out 283 is Levi Craft, who just turned 24 Friday. The four guys in the band (the youngest is 19) have been just playing together a little over two years now.
Their name comes in part from their first show at Davenport’s Gypsy Highway, one of the fathers in the crowd kept yelling out “Far out!” and Craft lived on 283rd Street in Viola, Ill.
As for their style, “I’m not sure,” he said. “We’re some sort of like alternate blues rock, kind of Stevie Ray Vaughan meets a little bit of funk, hard rock, soul. We try to do a little mix of every genre. We have some originals we’re in the process of getting scheduled to record in a studio in Iowa City.”
A Sherrard High alum, Craft works full-time at a metal finishing factory in Aledo.
This past year’s band gigs have been slim, and in recent weeks they try to play at least once a weekend, he said. He also plays electric guitar and has been performing with Zach Zurcher.
“In the past two weeks, things are starting to get a little back to normal and that feels good,” Craft said, noting Illinois bars have been mostly shut down to live music. He loves the Jambrella concept.
“It’s a really great idea, he’s going about it the right way,” he said of Moncada. “He’s really professional, giving back to the community that needs to receive it.
The Mound is one of my favorite venues. The crowd is super energetic, it’s always a good time in there.”
Moncada said he loves playing with a band versus solo, “because of the energy,” he said. One of his favorite bands is Whiskey Myers. In 2021, he expects to be back playing 200 gigs total, opening for such artists as Brett Young, The Hooten Hollers, David Allen Coe, Alex Williams,
and Sunny Sweeney.
Durnin heading back to Charleston
Molly Durnin hates the question about her musical style.
“I do a good mix, it depends on the show and venue,” she said Friday, noting she tries to get a couple originals in each set. “I don’t like genres. I have a lot of country influences, folk and blues. I sing whatever
On her site, mollydurnin,com, she’s described as a “powerful, engaging singer-guitarist,” who has “garnered accolades as a singer-songwriter due to the breadth and depth of her writing, and she has paid her dues as a cover artist at countless venues and watering holes across the U.S.”
A native of upstate New York, she’s developed a following in several states, beginning with the “518” music scene in Albany, N.Y., where she released her debut CD “Run” in 2012. “A musical shape-shifter, she has earned praise at the renowned folk venue Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY, and has been both a street singer at the City Market in Charleston, SC, and a sunburned soloist on restaurant rooftops in nearby Folly Beach,” the site says.
Durnin was one of many Q-C artists helped through the generosity of QC HIVE, last spring, which was a six-month Facebook group that chose an artist or business each day for people to donate and help them in this time of need.
“That was a really great way to remotely help everybody who was in the thick of it,” she said. “He did help a lot of people, it was such a great idea.”
HIVE was started last March 23 by Q-C musician Donovan Gustofson (attracting 6,855 members), and raised over $70,000 to support local musicians, artists, bars, restaurants and other small business owners struggling to make it after Covid devastated the economy.
At the time it disbanded in late September, the virus claimed 200,000 American lives; as of Feb. 19, that death toll is 494,051.
Durnin played at Unimpaired in downtown Davenport Friday night, and Saturday (Feb. 20), she will be featured from noon to 3 p.m. on WQUD’s “Local Lick Show” in Erie, Ill., at 107.7 FM.
“It’s awesome, they get all of us out there,” she said of the station. “They reach out to a lot of people working on original music, they plug our shows — they’re really good.”
In eight weeks, Durnin will be moving back to Charleston, S.C., a busier (and warmer) music destination.
“It’s a bittersweet move,” she said. “Warmer climates mean more shows. What it came down for me, I was having too much of a hard time here. I’ve got to go someplace I can work the entire year around. South Carolina has been doing OK, and with warm weather comes outside shows.”
“I’m looking forward to getting back to that hustle,” Durnin said.
You can listen to Moncada’s music on Spotify HERE. He couldn’t say Friday if there will be other Jambrella benefits in the future.
“As long as there is a need, Jambrella will be there. It’s a movement,” he said.