The anticipation for Saturday’s “Local All-Star Fundraising Showcase” began a week prior, when a not so cryptic post on Mountain Swallower’s Instagram page pointed out the Gary J and the Pancake Bros. event topping the upcoming events at Raccoon Motel. With the few seconds that story stayed on the screen, my mind was already moving, quickly connecting the dots that after far too long of a break, the boys in Mountain Swallower would be gracing a local stage once again. As the week unfolded and the rest of the details were announced, including the fundraising purpose of this event, it was clear this was not going to be one to miss.
Upon arrival, it was evident that others felt the same way, as the space was already teeming with familiar and new faces coming out to see some amazing music and show their support for Wendy. The rain was already beginning to puddle along the curbs, reflecting the neon glow of the sign suspended above the entrance to a Motel that is anything but traditional. Beyond the bar doors, the music was just about to begin, and Jon Burns took to the stage to open the night as Centaur Noir. Centaur Noir creates electronic, synth-filled soundscapes that beg you to move your feet, and it’s always a treat to see a local act that creates the sounds they desire regardless if it is seen as the norm in this scene.
Following Centaur Noir, the stage was taken over by another “John,” though Johnnie Cluney and his guitar played through a mix that was a definite departure from the more auto-tuned, synth-filled sounds which opened the night. While to be expected with a fundraiser, the room was full of friends and recognizable faces, as was clear during the mid-set banter. Even if that weren’t the case, even strangers would recognize Johnnie through his unmistakable artwork, including the sign that has been welcoming people into Davenport from Arsenal Island since 2017. I had seen him perform as part of Bedroom Shrine at the old Daytrotter venue, but this was my first chance to see him solo.
After watching Johnnie play through a few songs, a bit of an escape from the crowd was needed, so I made my way past the donation box placed on the edge of the bar next to a container full of buttons adorned with Wendy’s likeness and out into the unseasonable warmth of March’s first weekend. There was a small gathering outside lost in conversation, or the smoke of a cigarette, as I made my way around the corner to my car. After a quick switching of camera batteries, the somewhat calm night sky was split by a pair of sirens announcing a coming storm while everyone’s phones erupted with warnings of tornados in the area. As expected in the Midwest, I returned to the Motel to see a sizeable gathering outside, watching lighting illuminate the sky while the storm blew in. In a matter of seconds, the sky opened up, and save for a few intrigued individuals, and everyone quickly made their way back inside. Which was perfect timing because Tambourine was starting to fill the space with their set of indie pop/rock, and once I found myself back along the stage, becoming lost in the music with the rest of the crowd, the storms battering local communities was quickly far from my mind.
The night came to a close with Gary J and the Pancake Bros, aka Mountain Swallower, tearing the room apart as they tend to do. While they haven’t performed a local show for ages, it felt as if they hadn’t missed a beat. They pushed through their set, and it seemed the crowd’s excitement increased with each note. There’s some undeniable magic that rises when watching a room belt out the lines to a local band’s songs loud enough that for a moment, the crowd’s collective voice was itself a part of the act. The energy of the crowd was powerful, palpable, and was the perfect way to close out a night of good people and good music for a great cause.