Eaux Claires Preview

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    by Web manager
  • Post Date
    Mon Aug 15 2016

Author: Marko Uzeirovic 

Eaux Claires is returning this weekend with its second year of festivities in the Chippewa Valley.  Last year's inaugural festival ended with a performance by Bon Iver.  Festival narrator Michael Perry told audience members to feel the confluence of 20,000 simultaneously beating hearts as he depicted the magic of the moment.  A magic that lasted throughout the weekend, and left many wondering whether they would feel the magic of this festival again.  In October, early bird tickets for the second Eaux Claires festival sold out in less than half an hour.  I, as well as many others, sought to return to the magic of the Chippewa Valley.

Eaux Claires's magic is found in its heart.  With a lineup curated by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and The National's Aaron Dessner, the festival felt like a festival built for fans and musicians alike by fans and musicians.  Its lineup varied from other festivals whose lineups became monotonous.  Every attendee received a booklet where each artist had their own uniquely designed logo, as well as a background written by Vernon or Dessner (filled with plenty of “Vernonisms”).  It felt like a good friend was throwing a big party with 20,000 of your closest friends, and that could be felt in collaborative performances seen across the various stages.  Vernon joining another Eau Claire music alum, Josh Scott, in a surprise performance with Aero Flynn, and later Scott joning Bon Iver alongside The Staves, yMusic, and No BS Brass Band highlighted the block party feel of the festival.  No, Eaux Claires wasn't the first or the only festival to host a skew of collaborative efforts, but there was something personable about it.  As Vernon said in an interview with Grantland before the festival last year, “picking music for music's sake seems like the obvious choice,” and maybe that's what made it feel the way it did. This festival felt uniquely crafted from its Hollywood-esque sign, rainbow strings, and its location in the woods by a river.  Eaux Claires shined in its personality.

This sense of uniqueness continued into the winter as early bird ticket buyers were surprised by a mixtape containing songs and rare performances by some artists who would be at the festival.  Eaux Claires, in a way, was the best high school significant other I never had, and it fueled the fire to return to the river.  That day is finally coming after a long wait.

This year's lineup is marked by performances from Bon Iver, Beach House, Erykah Badu, Bruce Hornsby, and James Blake.  The grounds now hold six stages instead of four.  The festival will kick off Thursday, August 11 at the Lismore with a performance from Phil Cook. The festival itself begins on Friday, August 12.  Richard Reed Parry will perform on Friday for any Arcade Fire fans interested in seeing his solo work.  Aaron Dessner writes in his preview that much of the performance will be premieres of new material from the drummer, citing it as “the most moving and important album of songs I've heard in many years.”

The Staves will return to Eaux Claires, this time alongside yMusic.  The Staves made their mark last year joining Bon Iver on stage, and this year their lush harmonies will be accompanied by classical instrumentation.  Friday evening fans will have to choose between Vince Staples and Deafheaven.  The good thing is, fans can't go wrong.  Friday's closing acts will continue the magic.

James Blake and Bon Iver will perform back to back performances, and, fingers crossed, a Fall Creek Boys Choir performance.  Justin Vernon stated that the Bon Iver performance will consist entirely of new material, and their Facebook page posted new artwork and videos with no explanations. Similar artwork is appearing in Brooklyn, Minneapolis, and Eau Claire in the form of murals, adding to the mystery. Following Bon Iver, Tickle Torture and Cornelius will perform.  Tickle Torture providing some great late night dance party music, while Cornelius will be playing his cult classic, Fantasma in full.

The magic continues into day two.  Mavis Staples is the first artist in day two's lineup that I am looking to see.  The Stax Records alum is performing music from her solo records, and hopefully some classics.  In the early afternoon, another scheduling dilemma may leave many, including myself, choosing who to see between Jenny Lewis and Shabazz Palaces Moses Sumney will be taking stage after Shabazz Palces. Sumney has received a notable amount of buzz in the past few years with cosigns from Justin Vernon, touring with Sufjan, and a feature article in Pitchfork.  I saw him perform with Sufjan at Pitchfork, and his cover of Prince's “Kiss” was sensational.

Later on Saturday, UMO and Buke and Gase perform at near the same time, and after that yet another conflict for me between Melvins and Day of the Dead.  Day of the Dead will take collaboration to a new level as Jenny Lewis, the Dessner Twins, Bruce Hornsby, and many others pay tribute to the Grateful Dead in a unique performance. Erykah Badu is scheduled to perform a 90-minute set.  Seeing the doula at the river will be magical, and I'm not sure if anyone is ready.  Following Badu, Beach House will take stage.  I have no doubt that this will be one of my favorite performances.  I'm hoping they continue playing a career-spanning mix in their set.

Ending the festival is Francis and the Lights.  Their hit “Friends” featuring Justin Vernon will more than likely be performed.  And it wouldn't be Eaux Claires without rumors of a Kanye West appearance.  The hip-hip icon is a frequent collaborator with Justin Vernon and appeared in the video for Friends.  In a recent interview he stated Justin Vernon is his favorite living artist.  I doubt it will happen, but the floating rumors will add to the sense of magic the way they did last year.

If you can't tell by now, I'm psyched to return to the river.  Aside from music, there will be food carts, wide assortment of drinks, and the premiere of the Eaux Claires Lighthouse, which sounds like a deli line waiting for an intimate poetry reading.  If last year is any indicator, there will also be plenty of live performances and art installments throughout the grounds.  Eaux Claires has a lot to live up to after its inaugural festival, but the festival seems fully capable of recreating the magic.

Full daily lineups available here!