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Rock the Roost: Bands joining forces to play for good on Cedar Rapids' NewBo City Market stage

A recent Rock the Block concert gets socially distanced listeners up on their feet. With that spirit and setup in mind,
A recent Rock the Block concert gets socially distanced listeners up on their feet. With that spirit and setup in mind, four area bands will take the stage in the NewBo City Market Yard on Saturday afternoon for Rock the Roost, a benefit concert with all proceeds supporting the Market’s shopkeepers. (Alexandra Olsen)
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With four start-ups ending their run inside NewBo City Market because of the pandemic, musician Robert Wallace of Cedar Rapids decided to round up local bands to help out a favorite roost in the heart of the city’s New Bohemia District.

From noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, The Mandela Effect, Brass Transit Authority, Williams and Wallace Duo and The Sensations Band will play 45-minute to one-hour sets on the outdoor Bankers Trust stage. All are donating their time and talents, so all proceeds will go to the Market, to support the shopkeepers inside the nonprofit business incubator.

“When this pandemic hit — this, in our lifetime, is nothing like any of us have ever experienced,” said Wallace, who has been a counselor at Four Oaks for 26 years and performs with bands on the weekends.

Not only was he dismayed to see NewBo vendors closing, but all the gigs scheduled between March and May went away for area musicians. That one-two punch set the wheels in motion for developing this benefit concert.

Wallace, who has been a working musician in Los Angeles and Nashville, as well as Cedar Rapids, has played NewBo’s popular Rock the Block summer series since it began. And as the pandemic started canceling everything, he wanted to help bring people back down to the Market when the time was right.

“It’s been a central focal point for Cedar Rapids for business and pleasure — for people to come to and relax, get some food and coffee, listen to some music,” he said.

When that could no longer happen, he began hatching his plan. He ran it by NewBo Programming Director Emily Qual and Executive Director Scott Kruger, telling them that “all of the money goes to the vendors, and none to the bands.”

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The idea is to get people into the market and support the vendors, he said. It also will support the bands in the long run.

“The bottom line is, if we don’t have restaurants to play at, we don’t play. If we don’t have venues to play for, and people don’t come down, we just don’t play. It doesn’t matter how good we are and how popular we are, we just won’t play,” he said.

“It’s a business point of view for everybody, and that’s an important thing.”

He will be there Saturday, singing with Brass Transit Authority, covering the tunes of Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, Van Morrison and more. He’ll also be singing and playing percussion with guitarist Mike Williams, reuniting as the Williams and Wallace Duo. Williams, an Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, will wrap up the event with his band, The Sensations.

Wallace also is giving a shout-out to his friend Layne Goldsberry from the PastMasters band, for donating the PA system for the day.

Social distancing will be enacted like the current Rock the Block concerts, where up to six people on a “quaranteam” can sit together in $20 reserved squares on the lawn, or at $25 reserved tables. Walk-ups also are welcome at no charge, but donations are suggested, in the spirit of the fundraising event.

Audience members sitting on the lawn should bring their own seating, and no outside food and drinks are allowed. The Market will be open for purchasing food and beverages, as well as other vendor goods. The indoor restrooms will be open, as well. Hand sanitizer will be available, and people are strongly urged to practice social distancing at all times, and wear masks when leaving their concert seating area.

The atmosphere will be “really open,” NewBo Marketing and Development Director Alexandra Olsen said. “It’s kind of like that music festival feel, where people can come in, enjoy an hour of music, then go get lunch. We know that four hours of music with the sun as hot as it’s been is a lot to ask for people, so we’re just keeping it real casual.”

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And while the market itself closed in mid-March and slowly began reopening in May, patrons are beginning to return, she said. Still, the vendors Get Fresh, One More Bite, Paulita’s Pastries and City Melt have left their spaces inside the Market.

“One of the things we’re working on is recruitment,” Olsen said, noting the addition of Burpurs Beads, selling crafts, arts and vintage decorative items.

Outdoor yoga, dance and Meet Me at the Market fitness programs are back, as well as Food Truck Tuesdays and weekend concerts outdoors.

“With this whole pandemic, we’ve really seen how our organization can help our shopkeepers continue their businesses. We’ve had rent forgiveness programs,” she noted. “Everything that we provide here for our shopkeepers is funded by our organization, so when you donate to the Market, you’re donating to that kind of support system.

“The tickets sales are really this donation to our cause — to help our organization continue to support shopkeepers.” she said. “Everything that we do here is for them, so the more tickets we can sell to an event, the more people we can bring down here for them to sell their food or their items to. That’s really the core of our organization.”

IF YOU GO

• What: Rock the Roost benefit concert for NewBo City Market

• Where: NewBo City Market Yard, 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids

• When: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday; check-in begins at 11 a.m.

• Bands: The Mandela Effect, Brass Transit Authority, Williams and Wallace Duo, and The Sensations Band on the outdoor Bankers Trust Stage

• Seating: Reserved tables or 8-foot squares, spaced six feet apart, for up to six people; bring chairs, blankets, no outside food or drink; NewBo City Market will be open for food and beverage purchases, as well as restrooms

• Cost: $20 per reserved square, $25 per reserved table; free walk-ups, donations suggested

• Details: Newbocitymarket.org/copy-of-happening-here

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

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