Eaux You, Eaux Claires | You’ve Got Our Heart
This past weekend, I had the absolute pleasure to attend a festival that’s been at the top of my list since its inception last year: Justin Vernon’s Eaux Claires festival in, yep, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he was raised and currently lives. I was also able to tick off an unvisited state and witness the blood, sweat and tears of one of my absolute favorite artists on his home turf.
In Justin’s own words Eaux Claires is…:
“Our mission for Eaux Claires is to create a deeply meaningful experience of togetherness and expression. We feel like everyone, whether interested in the fashion of popularized music or not, will be entertained, moved, and surprised by our festival. The inaugural edition proved that Eaux Claires can inspire and generate power beyond just the big names. We believe that every single artist will bring an equal amount of importance and uniqueness to the culture we’ve created. We’re excited to grow in that spirit and push ourselves forward every year, to grow with our audience and celebrate art in all of its forms.”
As we walked around both days of the fest, the joy of every single person there was immeasurable. It was smiles for miles, and every conversation overheard was one of praise for the fest. I went so far as to mention to my friend, as we left Saturday night – following Francis and the Lights (joined by Chance the Rapper and Justin Vernon) closing out the whole event – that I never saw one festival tiff nor drunken brawl nor angry diatribe. People were elated to be there. They were also waiting for Kanye to show up, but that’s a whole other thing. Didn’t seem to deter the happiness.
Having attended what seems like countless festivals and many of them repeatedly, the whole affair really was low key – almost like a small town get together – and yet the production was impeccable, the timing of each performance right on the dot (apart from Queen Badu), and the line-up incredible. This festival is truly a way to celebrate homegrown art and community and provide it with an international platform. The better festivals like Eaux Claires do, the more room for other regional events of its ilk.
The highlight, of course, was Bon Iver playing their new album, “22, A Million”, not out until September 30, from start to finish for the first time ever. Talk about making an audience feel special. And, given Bon Iver’s steadfast and large fandom and local hero status, not a single unhappy onlooker waiting for the hits could be spotted. And to that end, when the hits came, after the new album was played, they were completely reimagined songs – seemingly extensions of this new album but with familiar choruses and chords. Audience members were told of each new track’s name from “22, A Million” via a push notification on their phone from the festival’s well-done app. Pretty cool way to roll out a new album, says this music industry veteran.
Here were some of our favorite highlights:
Bruce Hornsby playing Friday night
The interactive stage where artists performed, utilizing the projectable space, all weekend
Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon unveiling September 30th’s “22, A Million”, their first new album in five years. Photo by David Szymanski
Subtle art in the “forest” between stages
Stage setting for Bon Iver’s unveiling of “22, A Million”
One of our spirit animals, Erykah Badu. Photo by Tim Campbell
James Blake performing in the rain Friday night. Photo by Nate Ryan/MPR
Francis and the Lights closing out the festival Saturday night