Friday, Nov. 7th, 2014

Country Fans Go Nuts: Big festival lineups announced

Blake Shelton at Country Fest 2014
Blake Shelton at Country Fest 2014.

Unless Johnny Cash starts touring again as a hologram to do duets with Taylor Swift, next summer’s lineups at Country Fest and Country Jam could hardly get bigger. Both Chippewa Valley music festivals unveiled their lineups in the past week, and they’re chock full of country stars:

Above: Cat-loving Country Fest attendee (2014).
Above: Feline enthusiast/Country Fest attendee (2014).

Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Keith Urban, and Rascal Flatts will headline a dude-heavy lineup at Country Fest, which will be June 25-28 on the fest grounds outside Cadott. All four hitmakers have played the Fest before, but for a few of them, it’s been a while; Rascall Flatts last performed there back in 2006. The just-announced mainstage lineup includes Rascal Flatts, Brett Eldredge (who was named Best New Artist at the Country Music Association Awards this week), and The Voice winner Danielle Bradbery on June 25; Tim McGraw, Billy Currington, and Neal McCoy on June 26; Keith Urban, Lee Brice, and the Swon Brothers on June 27; and Toby Keith and Thomas Rhett on June 28. The party is only seven months away, so go to countryfest.com for the full lineup and ticket information.

A few weeks later, another hot crop of chart-toppers will hit the stage at Country Jam just outside Eau Claire. While headliners Blake Shelton and Eric Church had previously been announced, the big news is that Lady Antebellum will close out the opening night of the festival on Thursday, July 23. The chart-topping trio will be joined July 23 by up-and-comers Hunter Hayes and Sam Hunt. Shelton – a guy even non-country fans know from his hosting gig on NBC’s The Voice – will perform Friday, July 24, topping a bill featuring Kip Moore, Cassadee Pope, and LoCash Cowboys. Church will close out Jam on Saturday, July 25, topping a day that will include Jerrod Niemann and three TBA performers. Tickets are already on sale, so go to countryjamwi.com for more info.

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Wednesday, Nov. 5th, 2014

An inside look at Justin Vernon's April Base recording studio

The Staves recording at Justin Vernon's April Base studios outside of Eau Claire.
Two-thirds of The Staves recording at Justin Vernon's April Base studios outside of Eau Claire.

“I think this is my favorite place to be to make music,” says one of the three members of the British folk group The Staves in a video documenting the recording of their new album at April Base Studios (watch it below). The mini-documentary provides not only an in-depth look at the making of the trio’s upcoming Justin Vernon-produced record If I Was, but also an intimate glimpse into the local musical legend’s home base.

Nestled just outside of Eau Claire, April Base has been the main recording venue for Vernon’s musical endeavors since its creation in 2008. Over the years, the studio has also become a major attraction for musicians from around the globe.

So far, Vernon fanatics have only been able to catch a few glorious glimpses into the studio; however, this documentary provides a more in-depth look inside the studio than has ever been seen before while also featuring other local musical treasures, like engineer Zach Hanson and musician Brad Cook, in their natural habitat. Local hangout and bar The Joynt also makes an appearance (of course, it does) in a segment showing Vernon, The Staves and the rest of the gang partaking in two sacred Wisconsin rituals: drinking beer and shooting pool. 

Watch the If I Was mini-documentary ...

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Monday, Aug. 11th, 2014

UPDATED: Preview the long awaited Bon Iver + Astronautalus + Ryan Olson collab

UPDATE 8/11/14: Pitchfork is steaming the album (http://pitchfork.com/advance/509-de-oro/) and has choice bits of the band's bizarro press release here.

A couple years ago there were rumors flying out of April Base – Justin Vernon's Fall Creek studio – about a collaboration between Vernon, Bon Iver bandmate S. Carey, and Minneapolis rapper Astronautalis, but nothing really came of it (besides a few kinda cool Instagrams). 

Until now. The Current has a short (and weird) teaser video and a couple more details. Former-Eau Clairian-turned-Minneapolis-superstar producer Ryan Olson has a hand in it (no surprise) and it's called Jason Feathers. Yes, Jason Feathers, everybody. That's what we've been waiting for.

Watch the teaser below and stay tuned for whatever comes next.

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Thursday, Aug. 7th, 2014

Volcano Choir gets you ready for some football

Volcano Choir
Volcano Choir

The NFL is upon us, folks. Preseason is kicking off, which leads to the regular season, which leads to the playoffs, which leads to THE PACKERS WINNING THEIR FIFTH SUPER BOWL. Or, just the Super Bowl.

The NFL has a new commercial featuring Eau Claire's own Volcano Choir, providing an epic soundtrack to fans talking about the upcoming season. Of course it features Rodgers and crew a couple times (the Packers QB1 and Volcano Choir frontman Justin Vernon are pretty much besties).

Check out the commerical here and start getting your brats ready for kickoff.

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Monday, Jun. 30th, 2014

Bon Iver pens new song for Zach Braff film

The future (or finality) of Bon Iver has been tossed around in interviews for years, but we know at least for now it still exists. NPR Music premiered a new song, "Heavenly Father," by Vernon that was recorded for the soundtrack of upcoming feature film Wish I Was Here – a Zach Braff joint.

Braff is known for hand selecting music for his films – the soundtrack to his first film Garden State (you know, the one you used to show your crush how edgy and quirky you were) has sold nearly a million and a half copies. This new film features Coldplay, Cat Power, Paul Simon, and – of course – The Shins. Bon Iver's 2011 hit "Holocene" also makes an appearance.

Wish I Was Here hits theaters July 18. Here's a bit more of a backstory from NPR Music:

Wish I Was Here is a follow-up in spirit to Garden State. As the music supervisor, Mary Ramos helped choose the music for the new film. She flew to Wisconsin to screen a rough-cut of the film for Justin Vernon and his brother Nate late one night in their living room. She told us via email, "They were enjoying it and laughing, but at a certain point, they just got quiet. When it was over, Justin started humming. We talked afterwards about the relationship between Zach's character and his brother [Josh Gad], and Justin and Nate talked a little about their father — all the while Justin kept distractedly humming. Eventually, he sang out the words 'heavenly father.' Before I even left their house, Justin was recording the first version of the song in his downstairs studio. His inspiration was that immediate." This song is one of two tunes Bon Iver has on the soundtrack. The other is "Holocene" from the band's self-titled 2011 album.

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