From the mythical cabin-in-the-woods start to recently snagging two Grammys, Bon Iver has captured the world’s attention. How can you even summarize the whirlwind that has surrounded them? The collaborations with Kanye West and The Roots, the huge play in TV and movies, the SNL parody from Justin Timberlake. All you can say is it’s nothing short of enormous.
Justin Vernon, a guy who once played to dozens at Stones Throw with Mount Vernon and DeYarmond Edison, now sells out the biggest venues on the planet and headlines festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Latitude, and Sasquatch. The critical and popular success is in part because of the music: dense lyrics (sung in falsetto) combined with layered and nuanced instrumental accompaniment (by other locals Sean Carey and Mike Noyce).
But in many ways Bon Iver’s management, Kyle Frenette and Justin’s brother Nate Vernon, is just as much the architect of the band’s success. Kyle started Amble Down Records first in Chippewa Falls to help regional artists become something more, and he used the same tactics in making Bon Iver become more than a band.
In turn, their efforts made the words “Eau Claire” show up such publications as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times, and images of Vernon wearing UWEC or Leinie’s shirts were on publication covers like Paste, MOJO, and SPIN. It all brought unbelievable attention to our area. Suddenly people wanted to know about Eau Claire and Fall Creek (where Vernon remodeled a veterinary clinic into a recording studio), and what other hidden gems lie undiscovered in the great Chippewa Valley. And “The Bon Iver Bump” has helped other locals get noticed and maybe even signed to labels.
Because of Bon Iver, we get to claim one small part of the global stage. And with both Kyle and Justin’s desire to maintain ties to Eau Claire still firm, the glow of it all is not ending anytime soon.