An Open Door At The Village Theatre - The Echo

The Quad Cities is home to a number of memorable live music venues. Be they small and intimate spaces, grand concert halls, theaters, or repurposed rooms, the locations where live music can be experienced in this area are certainly more than you can count on two hands. However, few have the open door policy that The Village Theatre in the Village of East Davenport is honored to uphold. Matt Moody, the general manager, sat down with The Echo to give us the scoop.

“There is absolutely no discrimination whatsoever,” Matt Moody said. “We’ve seen EDM acts, rap, blues, country, heavy metal, funk, hip-hop, the list goes on. We’ll give absolutely anyone and everyone a chance.”

The 250-capacity theater is an exciting place to host a show, and the musicians know it. With a private green room, an impressive analog sound system, and a fully staffed bar for each show, the venue is an extraordinary place to play a live performance. The theater has seen about 300 acts during the five years under Moody’s management with four-to-five bands playing a typical Saturday night. The acts that come through generally bring solid crowds.

“Half the time we have more dance space behind the bar than they do out there.” Michele Cotton, bar manager, said. 

She isn’t joking. The entire staff is made up of volunteers who do it for the fun, and occasional tips. It’s a motley crew led by Moody and Cotton who wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Part of what makes the Village Theatre so unique is it’s history. Originally built in 1891 the theater has been many things aside from the venue it is today: a German American community and fitness center, a bingo parlor, and even a speakeasy. At one time named East Davenport Turner Hall, the Village Theater was the site of the biggest prohibition raid in Davenport’s history. According to research done by local authors, Michael McCarty and John Brassard Jr. for their book Eerie Quad Cities, in 1928 a federal prohibition officer and a number of Davenport police officers seized 4,185 bottles of homebrew, 90 gallons of mash, 15 crocks, 50 cans of malt, and numerous beer-making supplies from the basement of the structure that is now the East Village Theatre.

So, what about memorable events at the venue? 

“We definitely have a few of those,” Moody said. “I remember Silent IRE was playing a particularly gruesome, Halloween-themed show and I walked in on them playing with a human heart in the men’s restroom. It was a stage prop, of course. I let them know I wish it had been the strangest thing I’d walked into in that bathroom.”

The green room, located in the basement of the theater, is also known for shenanigans. Oftentimes after shows, the windows and doors are opened and fans are placed leading up the basement stairs to clear out a certain haze that some may be familiar with. 

“It took us two days to air out the green room after Big Chief’s birthday,” Matt said with a fond chuckle in remembrance of the late producer with Rock Town Entertainment.

“There’s a lot to love about this place. Our sound system is older but analog fans will absolutely love it.” Matt said. 

He went on to say that although bands have full access to the system the theater does have a preferred sound technician, Ben Larson who also plays guitar in Little Foot and Empty Graves. 

“He’s an absolutely brilliant sound guy. He once took over when a band’s sound system wasn’t working. Kingdom Collapse invited him on tour, he did such a good job.” Matt said.

“We’re also always making improvements. However, when things are going really well there’s no time to make upgrades and when things are slow there’s no money.” Matt explained. 

Typical story for any non-profit organization. Yes, the Village Theatre is an entirely not-for-profit organization. The theater operates strictly to support New Ground Theatre, a non-profit whose mission is to seek out and produce the work of new and/or unknown playwrights. New Ground Theatre presents many regional premieres and the occasional world premiere. Each and every band that comes through helps further support that mission. 

As with most other venues, the pandemic hit the theater hard. They took a full year off. 

“Our mortgage lender let us skip a few payments and I liquidated a 401K to help, mainly for roof repairs,” Matt said.

However, the theater did host a number of live stream events with the Show Us Your Pokeballs Comedy Troupe as well as several live music performances with QC Hive, an initiative run by local musician Donovan Gustafson that raised money for musicians, bartenders, and venues during the course of the pandemic. 

So what’s next for The Village Theatre? 

“Monica Austin, a country singer who has opened for Winona Judd, is putting together a series of two artist shows. A writer’s round of singers and songwriters who will play and tell stories.” Matt explained. Austin will all be bringing that to the theater this summer along with her newest album release party in August, also to be held at the theater.

If you’re interested in putting on a show at the theatre, “Rates are negotiable based on time of week and amount of time needed.” Matt told the Echo. “ We’re open to working with anyone and we’d absolutely love to see some new faces.” 

Contact Matt Moody at 563-396-9841. Leave a message with the desired date and a short description of your event.

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