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082119-mda-nws-alternatingcurrents

Q-C native Claire Feeney fronts the Chicago rock band Claire and the Bears, to perform twice Saturday at Alternating Currents in Davenport.

DAVENPORT — When singer Claire Feeney tears into her set Saturday with her Chicago-based band, Claire and the Bears, at the Alternating Currents festival, it'll be the first time she's performed in the Quad-Cities since her Bettendorf High School senior recital in 1996.

“This is going to be very special for me,” Feeney said Monday. “A lot of friends and family are coming out — that's going to be really great.”

“We're so excited to check it out,” she said of Alternating Currents, a festival that will showcase 100-plus performances, film screenings and art-related events across 16 venues in downtown Davenport from today (Wednesday) through Sunday, Aug. 21-25. Reflecting the vibrant culture of the area, the annual event features live music, film, comedy and art.

“It's so great for downtown to have these really walkable events; people can hang out all day,” Feeney said, noting she'll play at noon Saturday at Great River Brewery, 332 E. 2nd St., and at 6 p.m. Saturday at Front Street Brewery's patio, 421 W. River Drive. Admission is free to both shows.

Formed in early 2017, Claire and the Bears defies traditional genres and claims influences that include '70s arena rock, pop-punk, Stax soul, musical theater, feminist folk and Southern gothic country. The five-member band is recording an original album scheduled for a fall release.

Feeney was a vocal performance and music education major at Simpson College near Des Moines. She came out as queer in college, which was difficult, she said, and she had a love/hate relationship with opera.

Feeney moved to Chicago in 2002, where she felt much more welcome, and she sang with several other bands before this one.

“It's turned out wonderful,” Feeney said. Of her current band, she said, “We really love playing for people, making people sweat and have a good time.”

“Classical training is not required to be a musician. For me, I feel like it was extremely beneficial in building up endurance, stamina, vocal range, especially for rock singing,” she said. “They taught me how to breathe, use my muscles properly. I know how to do this and not completely destroy myself. Having that strength and range, getting those low notes — velvety, chocolatey low notes — has been a blast.”

“It's always wonderful when you're having fun that other people are, too,” Feeney said. “I'm singing about things I care about. We try to write very gender-ambiguous songs, so anyone can relate to them.”

This year’s AC festival offers several new highlights, including headliner Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass with Max Weinberg’s Jukebox on Thursday at the Adler Theatre, 136 E. 3rd St., Davenport. 

Opener Kat Wright will take the stage at 7:45 p.m. Tickets ($15 to $45) are available at the Adler box office and at Ticketmaster.com.

Williams is one of the best-known names in bluegrass music, and his latest project, Grateful Grass, offers loose interpretations of Grateful Dead songs.

Weinberg, a 45-year drummer for Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, also spent 17 years with the Conan O’Brien TV show. His Jukebox band covers songs that range from The Beatles and Springsteen to Steppenwolf and the Rolling Stones. The audience picks the songs live, calls them out, and Weinberg and his band do them.

Alternating Currents is produced by the Downtown Davenport Partnership (DDP), a division of the Quad Cities Chamber. It "gives us a chance to highlight our incredible cultural scene while also building up the local businesses that make our downtown unique," DDP Executive Director Kyle Carter said.

"Now in its third year, the idea for the festival is based on the popular South by Southwest event in Austin, Texas," he noted. "People are encouraged to download the app to create their own experience. Search by venue, day/time or genre to find what interests you — then travel from place to place, and just have fun downtown.”

A weekend pass for AC is $15 in advance or $20 on the weekend. It provides access to all ticketed music performances at the Redstone Room at River Music Experience, 129 Main St.; EXIT Realty Fireside Garage, 221 E. 2nd St.; and Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel, 304 E. 3rd St. The pass is only $10 if you buy a ticket to Thursday’s Adler Theatre concert.

New this year is “Peace, Love & The Joy of Music: Ellis Kell's Birthday Bash,” to be held Friday and Saturday at the RiverCenter, 136 E. 3rd St. The mini-festival within the festival will be a celebration of the birthday and life of the late Ellis Kell, a local blues icon and longtime RME fixture who passed away in 2016 at age 61. The event also will feature a two-day vinyl record sale and musical swap meet.

Vendors will sell vinyl albums, amps, instruments and other musical wares, while local musicians and guest DJs who knew and loved Ellis will provide music. A portion of proceeds will benefit The Karli Rose Kell Music Scholarship Fund, RME and Davenport Noon Optimists Club. Admission to the bash varies, with discounts for those with an AC weekend pass.

From 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, tickets will be $20, or $10 with a weekend pass, and from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, tickets will be $10, or $5 with the pass. Admission will be free Saturday.

For more information about the entire festival, including a calendar sortable by date or location, visit alternatingcurrentsqc.com or download the app, on both Google Play and the App Store.

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