“You’ll save big money! You’ll save big money! When you shop Menards!”
If you’re from the Quad Cities you’ve probably heard that jingle a million times. The artist behind one of the catchiest tunes around town is Bob Holtan. You may know him as the father of Jeni Grouws, lead singer of the Avey Grouws Band, who is following her father’s footsteps but carving her own path. Jeni sings the blues with a powerful voice that sticks in your head just like the Menards jingle.
The Avey Grouws band consists of members Jeni Grouws, Chris Avey, Bryan West, and Randy Leasman, with the addition of Nick Vasquez on the keys when possible. The group banded together after a jam session on the Iowa side of the Quad Cities, and since then have put their Quad Cities blues out into the musical airwaves. Their debut album ‘The Devil May Care’ was released in March of 2020, on the cusp of the pandemic.
“We had our album release party scheduled for March 20, 2020, in the QC. After a lot of discussions, we decided to cancel the in-person show a few days before,” Grouws said.
A little luck and quick thinking gave the band an incredible opportunity to bring a sense of community in the midst of a not-so-connected time. The band transitioned their album release party to a virtual setting and completely changed their trajectory for the next year.
“It was out of necessity that we did the first live stream and with the amazing success of that first one, which had around 15k streams, we decided that maybe this was something we could keep doing for the “short time” that this virus was around,” Grouws said. “Little did we know that we’d be doing an entire year of these streams!”
Not only did they play original music and covers during these live streams, but plenty of fun was had along the way. As the quarantine went in waves we all experienced various new cultural phenomenons including the Tiger King, Baby Yoda, and much more. The band joined right in on the fun dressing up as Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin, and little Broda adding some flair and fun to their live streams.
“We started the Quaran-TEA-ni parties because we wanted to keep these streams full of music and joy and laughter. We all were going through a lot of stress on both sides of the camera. The laughter was just as important, likely more important, than the songs themselves at times,” Grouws said. “Every once in a while, a song would make me tear up, and the people watching felt it. But the laughs we shared were more healing than probably anything else we could’ve done. The music and the streams became a vehicle for us to bring joy and comfort to the lives of people across the globe.”
Through pain came strength and growth. The Avey Grouws Band spent their downtime from live gigs, writing new music and quickly recorded their sophomore album, ‘Tell-Tale Heart’, in April with award-winning producer and engineer Casey Wasner in Nashville.
“The fact that we could record those songs for the most part in three days and have a live studio guitar instrumental on the album also is pretty incredible to me. I am extremely happy with how this album has turned out,” Avey said.
“And working with Casey was really kind of a dream,” Grouws says. “He’s so calm, but focused. Because, you know, you’re in a small space, for six hours, listening to certain songs over and over and you start going a little bonkers! Casey was good about keeping the good vibes flowing so that we could stay happily focused on our task at hand: making a great record.”
After the album was recorded, things began opening back up in the country. Venues started hosting limited seating concerts once again. The Avey Grouws Band jumped at the opportunity to put together a tour for the 2021 Summer, heavily focusing on Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, with one special show in particular. The Avey Grouws Band was set to open for blues legend Walter Trout at the Adler Theatre.
“Getting back to playing live shows is what we’ve been craving to do all along. It’s kind of our lifeblood as a band and musicians,” Avey said. “Opening for Walter Trout was amazing. I had done it a few times before in the Avey Brothers Band, but this time was really special. Being able to play on stage with Walter in one of our hometown theatres was really a special treat for me”
The band got a warm Quad Cities welcome when a hat was thrown on stage, fashioned with the Menards logo. A moment we’re sure Jeni won’t forget.
From playing live streams for a year to opening up at the Adler Theater in front of friends and family, the Avey Grouws Band continues to work hard and push forward. And as for the future, Jeni has a simple message, “One thing I know for certain: There are good things ahead, and we’re ready.”
The Avey Grouws Band releases their sophomore album ‘Tell-Tale Heart’ this fall. For more information regarding The Avey Grouws Band and where they will play next, visit their website: https://www.aveygrouwsband.com/
Callahan Herrig was born, raised, and currently inhabits the Quad Cities. He is a writer and an author of Roswell: A Literary Collection. He also enjoys a glass of bourbon, old records, and waiting for the wave to finally break. You can see more of Callahan’s work on IG @CallahanCreative.