Thursday, July 30, 2009

RIBCO 30th Anniversary Birthday Bash!

Before there was a District of Rock Island, there was RIBCO. Before there was a Gumbo Ya Ya or a Ya Maka My Weekend, there was RIBCO. Before there was fun at all, there was RIBCO.

OK, OK. Perhaps mankind amused themselves before the arrival of downtown Rock Island's premiere live-music venue, but it probably wasn't as fun, and it certainly wasn't as loud.

The Rock Island Brewing Company turns 30 this summer, and they're celebrating the only way they know how -- music, music and more music.

The RIBCO 30th Anniversary Birthday Bash happens this weekend with an indoor showcase on Friday followed by an all-ages outdoor show Saturday. There will be a lineup of past and present RIBCO favorites, including a few names you never thought you'd see onstage again. Putting together the project has been a labor of love for RIBCO talent buyer Jason Parris.

"We wanted to do something special that wasn't only fun but challenging to put together," Mr. Parris said. "We approached bands that helped shape RIBCO's history, including a few that haven't played together in years. To a lot of them, the idea of a no-pressure get-together sounded exciting."

Chief among the bands reforming for the event is Tripmaster Monkey. In its storied career, the band put out three releases in the mid-1990s on Sire/Warner Bros. Records and toured the U.S., all while getting MTV airplay and critical acclaim here and abroad. This weekend will be their first time onstage as a group in more than a decade.

"We were always looking for a reason to reunite," said Tripmaster Monkey guitarist Jamie Toal. "RIBCO's 30th seemed plenty good. Of course, there was also that dream I had with Abe Lincoln, except it was Spaceman Abe Lincoln from outer space. He said, 'Jamie, check this out! I am totally on Mars right now! Anyways, do me a favor -- reform the Monkey at RIBCO in August. The future of space travel and human awesomeness depends on it.' You don't say no to Honest Abe."

Other bands required considerably less extraterrestial persuasion to hop on board.

"RIBCO is the 'A Room' to play in the Quad-Cities, and has been for 30 years," said Bill Douglas, frontman for the defunct, but temporarily resurrected, Einstein's Sister. "RIBCO has hosted so many great bands and shows, and to be able to play that stage along with so many of them this weekend is an honor."

The power-pop of Einstein's Sister kicks off the weekend on the indoor stage Friday night, alongside local stalwarts John Resch & Detroit Blues. Rounding out the Friday lineup are two other recently revived favorites -- Keep Off the Grass and Jim the Mule.

On Saturday, Tripmaster Monkey is joined on the outdoor stage by Dean Wellman, The Warmth and another group reassembling for the first time in three years -- Parris' own Driver of the Year.

"I wouldn't call it a reunion as much as a return from a much-needed pause," Mr. Parris said. "Driver of the Year will never die in our eyes. I'm just excited to play with such a great variety of artists that I've respected for a long time."

After the outdoor celebration stops on Saturday, the party moves inside RIBCO for the grand finale -- the raunchy glam-rock shenanigans of Cheese Pizza, a crowd favorite.

"RIBCO is where it's at in the Quad-Cities as far as live music goes," said John Nelson, aka Cheese drummer Gil Fishman. "It's my favorite room to play because of the professionalism of the place. Great owner, great PA, an incredible sound engineer in Al Dimeo ... What's not to love? Just being included on this bill is an honor."

You can't interview any of these bands without them taking time to praise RIBCO owner Terry Tilka. Under Tilka's reign, RIBCO has risen from a solid local bar to a national touring destination. Known for his fair-handed, tell-it-like-it-is management approach, Tilka and his venue played a large part in the growth of every band on this weekend's lineup.

"Terry is a really smart guy," said Toal. "He's seen some crazy stuff with the Monkey boys, and we probably ticked him off on many occasions -- but he's really done a remarkable job in the Quad-Cities."

"For Terry to add us to that bill along with these other great acts tells me what he thinks of us as a band, and we appreciate that," Nelson said. "Terry loves us. He once cross-dressed and hopped onstage with us to sing 'I Think I Love You.' OK, that's a complete lie, but print it anyway."

Making the decision to reform was easy for some of the weekend's bands, but getting into the swing of things proved a little more challenging.

Toal described his first practice with the reformed Tripmaster Monkey as "the perfect sonic marriage of nails on a chalkboard with a flock of dying geese. These things take a while to get back to where they need to be."

We're promised they'll be in fine form by this weekend. And at the low cover charge of $5, it's a risk well worth taking for one of the best two-day lineups of local music imaginable.

"This is our way of giving back to all that have supported us over the years as a great music venue," Parris said.

RIBCO has been a steady hand in the Quad-Cities music scene for 30 years. Will we one day see a 60th-anniversary bash?

"We're already working on the line-up," Parris said with a grin.

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