Echo: How did you get started promoting shows?
Sean Moeller: The first show ever did was in my parent’s shed – we called it the Shred – and I literally just sent a few emails to a couple bands I liked. I sent one to a band called Alistair and a band called River City High and somehow they both said yes. I don’t know that I promised them money or anything and they came and played at my farm. They kept commenting on how much the hogs smelled because we still had hogs on the farm and it just reeked like manure outside. That was my freshman year of college, I think. We got a lot of people to come to see it. I don’t even know that my parents knew I was doing it. They were home, but I don’t even know them they knew until that day that I was putting on a show in the shed. That’s probably the amateur version, but I mean that’s how it works. It is just sending emails and people saying yes. It really hasn’t changed any.
E: Can you tell us what is going on at the Raccoon Motel right now?
S: Our walls are being painted. We are getting ready to open a new venue. It’s always fun and nerve-wracking. A stage is being built, a really tall stage. The Raccoon Motel is going to be alive again.
E: Is there a show or event in the Quad Cities that you are the proudest of?
S: Bon Iver at the Rust Belt, for sure.
E: What shows coming up at the Raccoon Motel are you looking forward to?
S: It feels like a reboot in many ways and not just for this venue, but for kind of why I do this silly job that I do. Every show needs to matter and I think people are going to treat shows like that or they should. I’ve tightened up who I put on my stages even more than I did before. I think I was pretty good at it before, as far as not putting things on stage that I didn’t believe in. Now even more so, I think it’s important to kind of not just put a show on, but to put an event on. I think that’s always different. I don’t think that’s the same thing. Putting on a concert is not the same as putting on an event. I’m overly conscious of making sure that everything that happens at any show I put together is special and you can’t see it anywhere else. It is making every show that I have booked so far special to me. Our grand opening weekend and just the stuff that’s happening just following, I think they’re important. They aren’t just concerts. The grand opening show isn’t just “We’re having a party because we’re opening a venue.” I was very picky about who I wanted to come open the venue. Claud put out one of the best records of the year, so far. They’re Phoebe Bridger’s first signee to her label. They are a transgender artist who just kind of optimizes the kind of inclusiveness and things that we want to do here. Not that anyone else is doing it wrong, but there can always be more of that, where you do feel like everyone’s going to be represented on the stage. I want to put more R&B in here. I want to put more hip-hop in here. I want to put more country stuff in here. I want something that people can look at our lineup and say “What an eclectic mixture of stuff!” As a promoter, as a talent buyer, you should always strive for that. I wanted Claud to open the venue. I wanted it to be a statement where people hopefully are excited to see something different. We have Claud and then Orville Peck is playing here for three days. These are people that I like specifically sought out because I needed them to open this venue. I need things like that in town. I’m actively going to be trying to bring things that nobody else is thinking about, but should be.
Those are the easy ones. Vincent Neil Emerson is playing the following week, and I think he’s one of the most exciting young country artists in America. There are a few things that will be announcing next week that are absolutely mind-blowing. We’re just going to keep trying to make everything exciting.
E: What do you think the special qualities of the Raccoon Motel will be?
S: No matter what venue, you make money by selling drinks. You have to sell drinks to make money at a venue to keep the lights on and to be able to put people on stage. Every band knows it. Everybody that owns a venue knows it. That’s where you make money so that you can do the thing you do.
That said, people get loud and chatty. That’s fine if you are having fun, but then there are always those shows that get marred by that person. The old Motel had a lot of charm, it was a beautiful venue, but having everything all in one room certainly made it a less-than-ideal listening room at times. There are plenty of places where people are just there to have a party. That’s fine, but I think we’ll be able to control it here just by having the bar and the venue as separate entities. You have to come out of the venue to the bar to get a drink. It’s going to cut down a lot of the noise, which I think a lot of people are really going to enjoy. I don’t think that separation is necessarily an industry standard. The idea is you sell drinks to keep things going, but I want this place to also be a listening room.
It’s not going to be so jam-packed that a show is going to feel claustrophobic, definitely not like it did before. There’s going to be a lot of ease of motion in this new venue. I think we’re going to be one of everybody’s favorite stops on tour again, which is going to be great.
E: Where do you think the best to watch shows is going to be?
S: I don’t know yet. The room is interesting because it’s kind of a shotgun room, but in the front, it opens up a little bit on the right-hand side. I kind of see myself being talked back on the right-hand side where people can’t see me. I think I’ll be in the pocket most times. Stay out of the pocket! That’s mine.
E: Who is the Raccoon Motel for?
S: It was really interesting after the old Motel stopped, I heard from a lot of people and met a lot of new people who have a good taste in music who just didn’t go. I thought it was crazy because it wasn’t some sort of hipster den. It was a very wide array of people of all ages and all makes and models. I hope it’s kind of a lot of redo that way to where people do where everybody does feel like they can belong here. That also kind of goes hand-in-hand with the programming. I think if I can be more conscientious of programming things for everyone, they’re going to find their way in the door, and then they’re going to see that this is a place for them. I think there were a lot of people that really loved the concept and everything that was going on at the old Motel, who now get another chance. Maybe that leads to others who never thought that they could come to a show there. Maybe this will feel like it’s just a big warm hug for everyone.
E: What is your vision for the next couple of years?
S: We’re trying to do everything we possibly can to get the greatest artist available to come here. The idea is to have the names on the schedule be strong, never a weak name. It’s not going to be show after show after show after show. If we have lots of shows in a week it’s because they are all A+s. I don’t want to like waste my time with is doing things that are below that level, and so far I would say everything I have on the books meets that criteria. If you start that way from day one, it’s easy to keep that up. For the next couple of years, it’s just going to be about getting those names and building back those relationships and building new relationships and giving really cool bands a chance.
E: Why the Quad Cities?
S: Because I love the Quad Cities. This place has so many great qualities. I think disgruntled or dissolution people who maybe lived here their whole lives and don’t get out and don’t see what they have, just ignore it or they become so set in their lives that it just doesn’t hit them on the face.
Every band that comes here and people that come to visit, when they see the stuff that we have here are kind of amazed. For the size of community we have, we have the infrastructure to do anything here. I feel like I say this frequently, but most cities don’t get bands to come to their cities. If you take all cities that exist in America, there are very few cities that bands travel to. If you are one of those cities where bands travel to, it’s special. We have very cool bands that like coming to our city. That should tell everyone who lives here that this place is cool. Without having to say it’s cool, you should know it’s great because bands don’t just go places they don’t like.
For more information about the happenings at Raccoon Motel, follow them on their social channels and look for updates on their website.