Following last month’s announcement that River Roots Live will not return for its 13th year this August, the Downtown Davenport Partnership has fielded questions about the outdoor festival's replacement, Alternating Currents.
“Everyone knew about River Roots Live,” Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, said. “It’s fine to mourn a fest we all loved, but we hope people will have an open mind to this new model and doubts will go away.”
One step in quenching doubts? Tapping Ben Folds as the headliner of Alternating Currents.
“We felt Ben Folds was one of those rare acts that crosses a huge spectrum of audiences,” Carter said. “It’s hard to find an act that has that much universal appeal.”
The singer-songwriter known for hits such as “The Luckiest" and “Still Fighting It,” along with opener Julien Baker, a standout at the inaugural GAS Feed & Seed Festival in February, will perform Saturday, Aug. 26, at the Adler Theatre, Davenport. Tickets range from $29 to $79.
According to Carter, Ben Folds sets the tone for the new multi-venue festival, which is modeled after South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.
“We want to be credible,” Carter said. “We want to come out of the gate the first year and have an act that says we care about the artistic credibility of this festival. We want to say we’re serious about bringing top talent to this area.”
The risk of Roots
In short, putting River Roots Live on in LeClaire Park, Davenport, was getting too expensive.
“With the park’s bandshell, we had to build a lot of the infrastructure and production value,” said Jason Gilliland, director of events at the partnership. “Our margins are so slim with everything that you get even the threat of weather and 1,000 people don’t come that would’ve come, that makes a difference.”
Between 25,000 and 30,000 attended River Roots Live in previous years. In 2016, with headliners such as O.A.R. and Booker T. Jones, tickets were $25 per day.
“The cold hard truth is that it’s a very risky financial model to have festivals of that scale in the park at the price point we were at,” Carter said. “This fest is a third of the budget of River Roots.”
Along with less risk involved, there is “potentially more benefit to the downtown,” with the new model, where concerts, comedy and film screenings will be held at a dozen indoor and outdoor venues on Aug. 25-26. The Chalk Art Fest, sponsored by Quad-City Arts, and the OMG Becky Fest, an outdoor arts and craft festival sponsored by Crafted QC, are set for the same weekend.
“This is more aligned with our mission of representing the businesses and property owners in the downtown,” Carter said. “We keep calling it in the office the choose your own adventure festival, because there’s so much diversity to this thing.”
For the rest of the fest, a $15 weekend pass will get you into shows at Daytrotter, Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel and Redstone Room on Friday and Saturday. Carter said 1,000 weekend passes will be available.
“We’re really trying to make this affordable,” Gilliland said. “You could spend nothing. Or you could experience all of it for $50.”
Carter and Gilliland see Alternating Currents as an annual celebration of the Quad-City's growing music scene.
“This is a product of the music scene we have,” Gilliland said. “If we didn’t have the venues we have, we couldn’t do this.”
The fest is also something of a stepping stone to the “next level,” he said.
“There’s still people who don’t know that these music venues exist and we want to shine a spotlight on it,” he said. “If it’s a slow start, it’s just going to get better.”
The rest of the lineup, to be announced in the coming months, is being put together by area promoters and booking agents.
“I want downtown to feel like it’s just happening,” Carter said. “Any way you turn, you’re going to find something that’s interesting and out of the ordinary. That’s the whole point of this is to get people downtown and experience what is here on a routine basis."