Catching a Drift

new programming gets locals on the Pablo stage

Bonni Knight, photos by Lee Butterworth

HITCHING UP THE WAGON. Eau Claire country folksters Pit Wagon is on board for The Driftless Series coming to the Pablo Center on Nov. 1.
HITCHING UP THE WAGON. Eau Claire country folksters Pit Wagon is on board for The Driftless Series coming to the Pablo Center on Nov. 1.

What do homegrown acts The Ben Shaw Band, LASKA, and Pit Wagon have in common? In terms of musical genres, not much. After all, one brings a gritty, yet folksy, Americana, another features three sisters known for harmonious vocals as well as soaring instrumentals, and the last lays down a sort of “cowboy punk.” Yet the three bands are sharing the bill at Pablo Center at the Confluence on Nov. 1.

This is the second show in The Driftless Series, brought to you by Leinenkugel’s, to be presented at the Pablo Center. The series, which debuted with Michael Perry and the Long Beds, aims to give local musicians a chance to perform in what Evan Middlesworth calls “a beautiful space that’s here to be utilized.”

“Diversifying the set list appeals to everyone. And we are working to grow our offerings.” – Stephanie LaBair, marketing and communications manager, Pablo Center

Middlesworth is the founder and owner of Driftless Artist Management, a local project that strives to grow regional artists. An audio engineer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Middlesworth is better known around here as the owner of Pine Hollow Audio, a renowned local recording studio. But in his role as head of Driftless Management, he identifies artists he believes in and helps them deal with business side of things, so the musicians can focus on growing their craft.

“Having someone take some of the behind-the-scenes business, promotion, booking and logistical stress off their shoulders helps them focus on continuing to develop their writing and performing skills,” Middlesworth said.

By booking musicians in the Jamf Theatre at Pablo Center, Driftless gives local artists an opportunity to perform in Eau Claire’s state-of-the-art facility. The financial sponsorship from Leinenkugel’s helps offset some of the costs, allowing Chippewa Valley folks to experience local music in a high-caliber nationally acclaimed setting but at a local gig’s prices. The cost for the trifecta performance is $10, and tickets are still available.

Pablo Center is perhaps best known for its big name national acts such as Wynonna & the Big Noise, Ray LaMontagne, Chris Kroeze, and Trampled by Turtles. But local artists and organizations, from musical performances to dance recitals to literary readings, are also stepping on stage. Pablo Center Marketing and Communications Manager Stephanie LaBair confirms this: “We consciously encourage the local music scene as well as support it.” In 2018, Pablo staged 238 events, with a well-balanced mix of local artists, rentals, and constituent groups in addition to the professional shows books by the facility. “Diversifying the set list,” LaBair adds, “appeals to everyone. And we are working to grow our offerings.”

Catching the “three-fer” on Nov. 1 will allow you to enjoy three unique local bands and taste that “diversified set list” goal of Pablo Center, all in a premier setting. One of the performers, Ben Shaw, likens the show to a “mini-festival.” As Shaw points out, “You may go because you’re a fan of one of the bands, then discover a new band you also really like.” Shaw, who also brings his touring experience as well as his music law background to Driftless Artist Management, prefers mixed-genre shows, suggesting that a little push outside one’s typical tastes might just be good for you. 

The Ben Shaw Band, LASKA, & Pit Wagon brought to you by Leinenkugel’s • Nov. 1 • 7:30pm • Jamf Theatre, Pablo Center at the Confluence • Tickets $10 • pablocenter.org