Monday, Jun. 19th, 2017

Eaux Claires 2017: In the Woods and in the Rain

Friday after the rain.
Eaux Claires, Friday, after the rain.

When you’re in Wisconsin, the weather in June can be miraculous or tumultuous depending on the hour. You’re out there, the sunshine’s beating down, the humidity swells, the air gets thick, and before you know it the sky turns into one giant menacing cloud and thundering rain gushes down on you within a matter of minutes. You can’t predict when it’s going to happen, you can only adapt once it does.

It happened off and on throughout Troix, the third installment of the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival, but the tricky weather was never enough suppress the creative energy, the artistic drive, and the Wisconsin-y good vibes that permeate year after year. Optimistically speaking, it actually added a cool wrinkle to some of the weekend’s best performances.

John Prine set.
John Prine set with Bon Iver and friends.

Like John Prine walking onto the stage at the same time as a huge thunderclap – that’s pretty dang cool. Or the booming 808s throughout Danny Brown's powerful set that made the raindrops vibrate as they fell – that’s pretty cool too. Or hearing Paul Simon and yMusic do a neo-classical version of “The Sound Of Silence” while lightning flickered in the sky above – that was almost too good.

Of course it wasn’t all gloom and doom; there was plenty of sunshine to go around. Sylvan Esso was better than ever for their fantastic Friday night set, where the North Carolina duo pumped out spastically infectious pop beats to a rain-soaked crowd who tried their hardest to dance themselves dry. Then across the field, Chance The Rapper took over for his absolutely crushing blockbuster set mostly comprised of cuts from last year’s universally-lauded mixtape Coloring Book. He is the best. Chance is a uniquely magnetic performer, and it felt otherworldly and lucky to see him in Eau Claire. The nearly 90-minute show was complete with smoke blasts, a killer light show, and at one point, the entire music video for “I’m The One,” Chance’s superstar collab with DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Quavo, and Lil Wayne.

Saturday kicked off strong as Philadelphia rappers Spank Rock and Amanda Blank brought insurmountable energy to their incredible afternoon set, pushing the Flambeaux stage sound system to its limit with a bunch of club-ready bangers that would make your grandparents blush. Immediately after, Jenny Lewis showed up and did a surprise set of breezy country tunes a couple steps away at the wooded Sparreaux stage, backed up by JT Bates and Mike Lewis. Perfume Genius wowed with their catalog of emotionally resonant songs that could be pin-drop hushed at one moment and completely bombastic in another. I saw the most tears at either Perfume Genius or Paul Simon. You can't help it sometimes.

Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso

Across both days, Troix embraced the woods – ticks and all – in a way the fest never has before. On one end, the treehouse vibes of the Oxbeaux stage saw some impressive acts like stunning three-part folk harmonies from Mountain Man in their first performances in five years and later, a surprise set by The Staves who did a spin on Simon & Garfunkel's “The Only Living Boy In New York” (a personal fave) with their signature sisterly harmonies. Another end of the woods was transformed into an art gallery with wooded installations where you could rearrange different words printed on white feathers refrigerator-magnet-style, you could check out controlled water drops falling on different stuff in intricate rhythms, or relax in an entire living room set up with couches and a TV that's playing Super Bowl I.

The Oxbeaux stage.
The Oxbeaux stage.

As has become the norm at Eaux Claires, there were musical collaborations happening everywhere all the time on every stage. Each day saw a PEOPLE Mixtape set anchored by festival co-curators Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon where tons of musicians on the lineup came together for extended jams. Elsewhere, Astronautalis showed up to freestyle with the inventive percussion of s-t-a-r-g-a-z-e. The John Prine tribute set had Phil Cook, Jenny Lewis, Spank Rock, Amanda Blank, Chris Porterfield of Field Report, Mountain Man, Jeff Tweedy, The Staves, and soul legend Swamp Dogg all show up to sing Prine’s classics before Prine even hit the stage himself. Vernon, as is customary, appeared all over the place, singing Wilco and Billy Bragg’s “California Stars” along with Tweedy and gleefully joining in the choreography with Chance The Rapper and Francis And The Lights as they sang “Friends” during Chance’s set.

Chance The Rapper.
Chance The Rapper.

Heavy storms encroached on Saturday evening pushing main stage acts earlier and abandoning the side stages, but like I said, you can only adapt once it happens, so acts like Velvet Negroni and Phil Cook did their thing back in town out of the mud at The Lismore Hotel. Meanwhile back at the grounds, Wilco – whose members all had busy weekends performing with their side projects – closed out Eaux Claires by relishing in the stormy darkness and even playing a little long despite the foreboding lightning. Jeff Tweedy was almost gleeful before "Via Chicago" when he said, "We're usually playing outside when it's sunny, and this song really bums people out, but this is (expletive) perfect." It truly was.

Eaux Claires has evolved somewhat drastically year to year over the last three summers. With re-evaluated grounds, new ways to unlock different spaces, new collaborations, new visions, and new spots to take it all in, you’ve got to go out there ready to wander and be surprised. The whole shebang has this choose-your-own-adventure vibe to it where anything can happen – you forge your own path immersed in art of all kinds, you come out muddy, sweaty, exhausted, and damned if you’re not ready for more.

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Modicum Brewing Opens July 7

Image: Modicum Brewing
Image: Modicum Brewing

Modicum Brewing – a collaboration between brewmaster Eric Rykal (formerly of Lucette Brewing Company in Menomonie and The Brewing Projekt in Eau Claire) and business partner Mike Blodgett – looks set to open on July 7. The Altoona-based brewery sent out some PR today announcing the date, a grand opening event, and a few details about their new taproom (see below). We first announced the new operation last January

Modicum Brewing Set To Host Grand Opening July 7th, 2017

Modicum Brewing, the Chippewa Valley’s newest brewery is set to open their new taproom to the public on July 7th at their Altoona location at 3732 Spooner Ave. The brewery, founded by former Brewing Projekt brewmaster Eric Rykal and Environmental Engineer Mike Blodgett, has been under construction for the last four months. The grand opening party will commence at 2 PM on the 7th of July and feature Modicum beers available on tap and limited availability 750ml bottles for take home.

The 3,500 square foot taproom also features an event space that is available for booking parties, meetings and gatherings of all types. The Modicum brewery is located right in the middle of the taproom and will allow for easy viewing of the brewing process as well as brewery tours and beer classes.

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Light Installation to Shut Down Phoenix Park Footbridge for Much of Summer

Phoenix Park footbridge
Phoenix Park footbridge

If you’re a fan of the Phoenix Park footbridge in downtown Eau Claire, we’ve got good news ... and bad news.

The good news is that, as a result of a fundraising campaign, hundreds of colorful LED lights will be installed on bridge, turning the 526-foot-long structure into a dazzling attraction after dark.

So far, more than $200,000 has been raised for “The River Lights at Phoenix Park” project.

The bad news is that installation of the lights will mean that the bridge will be off-limits to pedestrians and cyclists during daytime hours for much of the summer. Starting Tuesday, June 20, the bridge is to be closed between 6am and 4:30pm Mondays through Thursdays. According to a city press release, “This schedule is expected to last throughout the summer until installation is complete.” Pedestrians and cyclist will be directed to the Grand Avenue footbridge, which is a quarter mile downstream.

So far, more than $200,000 has been raised for “The River Lights at Phoenix Park” project, a joint effort among Rotary International, Downtown Eau Claire Inc., and UW-Eau Claire (with the help of hundreds of donors). “Once completed,” the press release explains, “the bridge will be bathed in ambient colors that can change for seasons and events, and will highlight the unique and historic architectural structure of the bridge. The result will be a world-class attraction that can be enjoyed by the public year-round.”

To learn more or to donate to the project, visit

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Friday, Jun. 16th, 2017

Video: The Shouting Matches at Oxbeaux

In case you missed it, check out The Shouting Matches (Justin Vernon, Phil Cook, Jill Heinke Moen, and Brian Moen) opening up their set Thursday night (June 15) at The Oxbow Hotel. They were the last performer at the Oxbeau concert that night, which closed down a block of Galloway Street in downtown Eau Claire on the eve of the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival – just one of many shows that night.

We shot this quick video from the rooftop of Ramone's Ice Cream Parlor. 

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Thursday, Jun. 15th, 2017

Lineup Revealed for 2-Day 'Last Call' Show at the House of Rock

Later this summer, Eau Claire’s long-running rock club the House of Rock will close its doors for good after 17 years of hosting shows on Water Street, but not before this music scene and the spectrum of bands that have developed their sound on that stage can give it a proper send-off. So July 21 and 22 is “Last Call” for the House of Rock with 27 bands performing over two nights. We’ll see the return of Laarks, the return of Meridene, the return of The Nicotines, plus a crazy slate of artists from rock to metal to punk to hip hop to electronic all culminating in one final set by the Drunk Drivers. Mark your calendars and raise a glass, here’s the lineup in full:


Last Call at the House of Rock • 422 Water St., Eau Claire • July 21 and 22 • show starts at 4:30pm both days • $10 • 21+

Friday, July 21

Landfill Park
Arms Aloft
No Loving Place
Jim Pullman Band
I, Torrent
Giants of Midgard
FM Down
FanOffBirdSafe / Beercan Pentagram
Two Castles
Pit Wagon
In Black Print

Saturday, July 22

Drunk Drivers
The Nicotines
Smack Davis
The Jaggernauts
Mors Mortis Machinatio
The Ronald Raygun
The Heart Pills
DiY Daisy
Distant Friends

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Wednesday, Jun. 14th, 2017

Look for "If History Had Legs" Art Installation at Prex Claires (June 15)

Amongst other art installations around downtown Eau Claire on Thursday, June 15 – part of the freshly announced Eau Claire Public Arts Council launch, as well as part of the city's Prex Claires events leading up to the Eaux Claires Music at Arts Festival on Friday and Saturday, you'll find "If History Had Legs." From the artists ...

"If History Had Legs" Installation

Our time and place has a scale and movement.  A crib representing human powered nomadism asks What time is this place? ... How did we get here? ... What innovations can we create to modern living that allow for humane, human scale, urban life? ... How can we guide movement to grow our sustainable home here in the Chippewa Valley?"

Presentation methods: The crib will be stationed at Grand and Barstow Street on June 15.  A film inside the crib will screen current conditions juxtaposed against historical conditions and crossings on Barstow and Graham Ave.  Think of it as a kind a of time machine.  Photos gathered at Chippewa Valley Museum are key crossing locations for before and after images.

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Baroque Sculpture Lighting to Debut at Prex Claires (June 15)

Join Visit Eau Claire from 8:30pm to 11pm on Thursday, June 15 for the lighting of the Baroque sculpture as part of the Prex Claires festivities near the intersection of West Grand Avenue and First Avenue in downtown Eau Claire. A sneak-peek of Grease the Musical presented by the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild will perform at 8:30pm. Live music will be featured by CollECtive Choir on the Baroque stage starting at 9pm.

Originally a featured piece at Eaux Claires Deux in 2016, Baroque is the product of a skilled Italian design team, headed by Edoardo Tresoldi. Masterfully sculpted and constructed, the mysterious lights enhance the viewer’s experience as Baroque takes center stage along the scenic Chippewa River and brings this ominous pipe organ to life. Baroque offers a one-of-a-kind artistic flavor to the Eau Claire community and its visitors, while igniting conversation for all of those who passersby.

On Thursday evening around 8:30pm, Baroque will be lit for the first time since its return to Eau Claire. The conjoined event will be a part of the Prex Claires activities on Thursday, June 15. For more information on all Prex Claires activities, check out

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PHOTOS: Eaux Claires Fans at Peak Eaux Claires

Eaux Claires fans wisp about like dandelion wishes.
Eaux Claires fans wisp about the festival grounds like dandelion wishes.

We've taken many a photograph over the past two Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festivals, as all kinds of fantastic people converge upon the Chippewa Valley from around the world. Enjoy a handful of music fans who seem extra-at-home at Eaux Claires.

Eaux Claires fans like to reflect upon the journey.

Eaux Claires fans like to reflect upon the journey.

It's often hard to contain their excitement.

Music is serious business.
Music is serious business.

They paint with all the colors of the hot Wisconsin wind.


At music festivals across America, a hero appears whenever we need him most.

To be fair, this noble hero appears at all music festivals everywhere.

Some of the fans have their own bands.

Sweaty whiskers and Pepsi, y'all. 


Eaux Claires was made for romance.

Their strength and balance are second to none.

They had the time of their life.
They had the time of their life. They never felt this way before.

They stay true to their roots.

When representing Wisconsin, they pull no punches.

Hush and be still as the splendid Eaux Claires Spirit Animal quietly steps from behind a birch tree and welcomes you to the merch tent.

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Thursday, Jun. 8th, 2017

5 Nicknames Only Eau Claire Townies Will Understand

The Daniel Shaw Lumber Co. – the namesake of
The Daniel Shaw Lumber Co. – the namesake of "Shawtown."

How many of these old-timey Eau Claire monikers do you know? 

1. Plank Street Hill

To long-time residents, the steep street that the maps call Harding Avenue has another name: Plank Street. In the early days of Eau Claire, this steep, sandy ridge was a difficult climb for horses, so a road was built out of planks to make travel easier. These wooden boards have been gone for generations, yet the name remains – at least among those of us who’ve lived in town awhile.

2. Shawtown

The thousands of visitors who will soon be winding their way to the music festival grounds just outside the city limits will have no idea they’re cutting through one of Eau Claire’s oldest and most colorful neighborhoods, Shawtown. This neighborhood, built along the west bank of the Chippewa River around the slopes of Mt. Washington, takes its name from Daniel Shaw’s lumber mill, which once stood here.

3. The Bloody Ninth

Genuine Eau Claire old timers refer to the West Side neighborhood around Bellinger and West Madison streets as “The Bloody Ninth.” More than a century ago the area took its name from both its voting ward and its young people’s pugilistic reputation. As former V1 columnist Frank Smoot wrote in 2012, the Bloody Ninth was a “tough, working-class, immigrant neighborhood, without, as we say now, ‘enough parental controls.’”

4. The Four Corners

Countless communities have a crossroads dubbed “The Four Corners,” and Eau Claire is no exception. Long-time residents will recognize that the title here is applied to the intersection of South Barstow Street and East Grand Avenue. Today, you’ll find the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire on that corner, as well as the parking lot next to The Lismore Hotel, One Source Imaging, and a multi-tenant building. A century ago, the intersection was home to the Eau Claire National Bank and the Union National Bank; just down the street was the massive Ingraham Block, later home to the Midelfart Clinic.

5. The Point

Before it was cleaned up, parkified, and rebranded as the Confluence, locals referred to the spot where the Eau Claire River flows into the Chippewa River as “The Point.” The area was home to the “old gas house” – a former Northern States Power manufactured gas plant – and was largely abandoned and unused by the mid 20th century. Whatever you call it, it’s far from forgotten now as it's the home of Phoenix Park.

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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Throws Eau Claire Some Love

And the hits keep coming. Just last week we mentioned two different Wiscosnin magazines featuring Eau Claire as a travel destination, and today we have the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (with one of the lengthiest pieces we've seen) highlighting Eau Claire as "one of Wisconsin's most underrated getaways."

The article features a bunch of photos from around the area and even a video interviewing Volume One owner/Oxbow Hotel co-owner Nick Meyer.

The piece, as usual, mentions Justin Vernon and the Eaux Claires festival, but it also spends a ton of sentences on local attractions such as our rivers and trails; The Informalist; The Dive; Lazy Monk Brewing; The Brewing Project; The Firehouse; Phoenix, Owen, and Carson Parks; Clancy's; JAMF Software; Justin Green of Toy Car Studios; Big Falls County Park; The Devil's Punchbowl; Lucette Brewing; Lake Wissota; Leinenkugel's; and The Oxbow Hotel and The Lakely. And more. 

And as we mentioned last week, these kinds of articles (like this one and this one and this one) have been popping up more and more – and there's sure to be more on the way.

ALSO: Check out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's companion piece Trip Tips: Things to do in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls.

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