ABOUT THIS SERIES:
“Music Venues in the Quad Cities” is a 12 part series providing a comprehensive overview of live music venues in the Quad Cities area, with a specific focus on venues whose audience capacity is below 500. The series aims to highlight the vibrant music scene in the Quad Cities and shed light on the smaller, more intimate venues that may often be overlooked.
The series exclusively focuses on dedicated live music venues and excludes bars that occasionally host live performances. By narrowing the scope to these venues, the series provides a detailed exploration of the unique experiences and opportunities they offer to both local and touring musicians.
By highlighting venues with an audience capacity below 500, the series aims to showcase the intimate and personal experiences that these venues provide. The series acknowledges that larger venues, and bars often dominate the music scene conversation with either touring musicians or cover bands and seeks to shed light on the charm and character of the Quad Cities’ smaller music venues.
In a historical section of downtown Davenport, as recognized by the national register, know as Motor Row, sits a venue with a neon vacancy sign resting above the doorway welcoming visitors ready to make some history of their own. This is a place that has quickly become my favorite place to see a show locally, with a name as unique as its interior, I can only be speaking of The Racoon Motel. Raccoons are crafty individuals with an admirable level of determination, and these thumbed-wonders of the animal world have a resilience that can also be applied to this independently owned gem of our local scene, adding an extra layer to the name. Now you may think this is still a halfway misleading name, but take a step inside and you surely find Raccoons tucked among the kitschy wall art, and upstairs from the venue there are three different apartments that can be rented via AirBnB for a more unique stay in downtown Davenport.
Raccoons: ✔️ Check
Modern Motel-like Amenities: ✔️ Check.
This current location, nestled on 2nd street between Ragged Records/Trash Can Annies, and Bootleg Hill Meadery, wasn’t the original spot for The Raccoon. In 2019 a far-from-forgotten flood inundated this area of downtown, moving Abernathys from this space into their lovely new storefront on 3rd. It was after this when Sean and his team brought the vision that began about a block north in the old Musicians Union building to a room that had recently been home to 4 feet of the overflowing Mississippi River. This change also allowed for an increased capacity, practically doubling what the original location could contain. Having a capacity below 200 could cause one to think that this venue caters to a smaller, more indie, scene, and while this is true, The Raccoon has pulled in some major acts from both the music and comedy worlds, including Iron and Wine, Mark Normand, and a three-night stand from rising county music legend Orville Peck. Sean has long been known for bringing in acts to the QC that are just on the edge of massive success, and/or would otherwise not likely make a stop in our area. This has also helped create a real local following for returning acts that have themselves formed a genuine love of the Quad Cities thanks in large part to Sean, The Racoon, and the crowds that continue to fill it each week. Acts like Michigander, who will be returning on January 25th, and Hembree who made multiple appearances in 2023 immediately come to mind. This is the perfect spot to see your next favorite band in an intimate setting before they move on to bigger stages.
While the intimacy of the space is appealing to many music lovers, sometimes you may be looking for somewhere to converse without speaking over the band and/or interrupting a performance and this venue has a great design for this. A pair of closed doors keeps a real separation of sound between the bar/lounging area and the at-times raucous room that houses a stage flanked on either side by Marlboro signage and Swamp Thing. A friend even recently mentioned to me how during their first visit they had to check and be certain the band was playing because upon entering they weren’t overwhelmed by sound as is common with other venues. Now this is not to say this is the truth at every show by any standard, as I have shot some shows here that easily escape beyond the cover of those doors, but more often than not The Raccoon Motel provides a perfect balance that I believe caters to everyone, from the most committed music fan to the casual observer that may find as much interest in the growing “gallery” of “recycled wall art” as they do in the bands making up the bill that night.
Beyond the performers themselves, the atmosphere at The Raccoon Motel is something all its own, and you won’t find a venue with more unique and engaging decor. A combination of thrift store gems, and unexpected antiques that may have once been found in your grandparent’s wood-paneled rumpus room adorn the walls. Similar items are even available for perusing and purchase while you take a break from the music or await the next act to take the stage. Velvet portraits and Charlie Bown artwork stare back at you while a television plays old episodes of Daria, or some other classic for the aging “MTV generation.” The mix of unearthed nostalgia and newly discovered bands is what keeps bringing me back here, and makes for a one-of-a-kind experience every show.
The Raccoon Motel is more than only a place for music though. You can spend most Mondays playing bingo with an eclectic array of prizes on the line, or make it down for a Bends and Brews yoga session, which often occur several times each month. The Raccoon Motel may be a relatively new name for some, but it’s a crucial piece of Davenport’s resurging Motor Row district, which in 2019 was added to the National Register of Historic Places. This section of town played a major role in Davenport’s development during the early 20th century, and people like Sean Moeller and The Raccoon Motel are helping bring art, and renewed attention back to this district, bridging the gap and carrying this part of the city into the 21st century with increased excitement.