Iowa, I have great news! While you might have missed some (or all) of the Quad Cities’ summer arts festivals, it’s not too late! You can ease your guilt and shame thanks to the inaugural weekend of the revolutionary All Senses Festival.
Closing out September, this community event is unique in its content, opting to focus on fringe arts from music to film to poetry. The kid-friendly psychedelic extravaganza runs from Thursday, September 28th through Sunday, October 1st. While tickets are $15 for Friday and Saturday respectively, the best thing you can do for yourself is preorder the $30 ticket for both days and guarantee yourself a seat for Thursday night’s Cinema at the Figge screenings brought to you by Ford Photography.
If you’ve already blown your mad money for this month, stop into the Figge on Thursday night anyway. It’s a free event (the $30 pass – in addition to getting you into the events at Rozz Tox on Friday and Saturday – just means someone’s saving you a chair), as is the Second Annual Lowland Block Party on Sunday.
While the festival features musicians, writers, artists, and performers from across the Midwest and beyond – Lyres hails from Boston – local favorites will include sonic giants Mountain Swallower, songwriter Liv Carrow (who will also be reading Tarot cards at the block party), renaissance woman Holly Norton, and a music set from Johnnie Cluney, who most people will know as the painter behind Daytrotter's flier and promo work as well as the brand-spankin-new Davenport sign off the Arsenal Bridge.
Abigail Zimmer’s coming in from Chicago, and hopefully, she’ll read from her newest book, girls their tongues. There’s going to be an amazing tribute to Arthur Russell featuring a film by Iowan Matt Wolf titled, “Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russel.” Also, The Golden Fleece are driving in from Peoria – maybe they’ll tell us more about the crazy new project some of the members have coming up with Condor and Jaybird! Ahhhh!
Speaking of which, I hung out with Bob Herington (Cartouche Records) at Ragged Records exactly one week before the madness begins so he could explain to me how all this is going to go down. Bob and Dennis Hockaday of Id Pyramid (which will open Friday’s music showcase) – are in charge, so to speak, but Bob was adamant that All Senses is an ensemble effort involving “a large cast of co-conspirators.”
“It’s basically a bunch of amazing people doing cool things that we’ve labeled under the umbrella of All Senses,” Bob said. “There’s Cinema at the Figge, which is Josh Ford, En Media Res, which is Harry Walker, is running the screenings outside of Rozz Tox on Friday and Saturday night, Ryan Collins and the Midwest Writing Center will have spoken word artists…”
In other words, the epitome of the Quad Cities arts community. It’s a tight group, both for reasons of practicality (there are only so many artists per capita, and we just don’t have NYC’s numbers) as well as mental/emotional health; area creatives function as a support group for people who grew up and found their voices in the region that spawned Grant Wood. Not that we don’t like Grant Wood – it’s just that we just also like Agnès Varda and Sydney Shen.
“That’s what makes All Senses stand out,” Bob said. “Most festivals are more mainstream and poppy. This one is for all the other stuff.”
That is, it features artists who might not be doing something that’s considered “typical.” For example, Chicago band Plastic Crimewave Syndicate is a divine cosmik punk band that’s going to blow the crowd away on Saturday night, but we probably won’t see them on stage at the Bix in this lifetime.
Again, this is why this community deems it so important for artists to support each other. There’s a distinct intention to give everyone a forum and hear every available idea, which in turn spawns more revolutionary projects. The birth of All Senses is a perfect illustration of how this works:
“Some friends of ours in a band called Lyres,” Bob said, “used to play around the Midwest in the 80s. They do a handful of shows a year now. I wanted them to play one here, and then a bunch of people wanted to open for them. Then some guys wanted to play on Friday instead of Saturday, so I said, ‘Well, let’s just make it a two-day thing,’ and then Josh Ford said, ‘Let’s do some some film stuff, too!’”
“So you started telling your friends about it,” I said, “which got them all stoked, and which I think answers my question about how Lowland got absorbed into it.”
“Yeah, Pat (Stolley of Future Appletree Studio) was going to do that great block party again, and I said, ‘Just push it back a week!’ It didn’t start out with us intentionally trying to start a festival. It just grew into that really quickly."
And All Senses has plans to keep functioning as a cultural entity beyond this month’s festival.
“We have a show at RIBCO at the end of October – Selector Dub Narcotic, which is Calvin Johnson, who owns K Records and that label’s been around forever (they signed Beck early on). Then we have another show that hasn’t been announced yet. It’s going to be at Rozz Tox on Black Friday [November 24], and that’ll be Ryley Walker and Bill MacKay, who have an album coming out together at the end of October through Drag City Records, and Bill’s actually playing a solo show at the festival, and then –”
At this point, I can no longer read my notes. Bob’s enthusiasm is so wild, I feel like I could sell tickets to just him sitting on a stool talking about artists he likes. He’s exactly the type of person you’d want to have a hand in an innovative new festival.
“And we’re already starting work on next year’s festival!”
Keep an eye out for more great events from the aforementioned sponsors and Laborspace of Rock Island, Illinois.