Monday, Jul. 16th, 2018

UPDATED: Gov. Walker Announces Foxconn Purchase in Downtown Eau Claire

The Haymarket Landing Building, downtown Eau Claire. (image: HayMarketLanding.com)
The Haymarket Landing Building downtown Eau Claire. Foxconn Technology Group will use space on the building’s ground floor for an innovation center to be part of a talent network. (Image: HayMarketLanding.com)

Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday morning that Foxconn Technology Group will obtain two properties in downtown Eau Claire. Foxconn has reached an agreement to purchase The Grand, a six-story office building located at 204 E. Grand Ave. The company will also buy or lease 15,000 square feet of the first floor of Haymarket Landing, 220 Eau Claire St. This represents just under half of the roughly 34,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor of the building.

The Grand, 204 E. Grand Ave., will be used will be used by Foxconn to house a laboratory for technological solutions.
The Grand, 204 E. Grand Ave., downtown Eau Claire, will be used by Foxconn to house a laboratory for technological solutions.

The Grand, formerly a Wells Fargo Bank, will be used to house a laboratory for technological solutions, while the Haymarket Landing space – which will overlook Eau Claire Street and Haymarket Plaza – will serve as an innovation center that will be part of a talent network, according to a Foxconn press release. The company expects to create 150 jobs to support these efforts.

Foxconn and Commonweal Development began discussion of the technology corporation's temporary occupation of Haymarket Landing last month, according to Commonweal President Stuart Schaefer. Further discussions will determine whether Foxconn will purchase or lease the space.

Finding tenants for the bottom floor of Haymarket Landing has been a challenge for Commonweal due to continuous construction in the area. “We always thought we’d be able to get sort of a large restaurant usage or many restaurants into that space, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Schaefer said. “Given a year or two, with the bridge and the plaza and the Confluence finished, we think that people and businesses will have the confidence to go into that space. ... As of yet, we haven’t found that, so we’re happy to make use of that space in the short term.”

JCap Real Estate, the company that owns The Grand, has been working with Foxconn for several months to arrange this purchase and prepare the building for its future tenants, JCap President Brian Johnson said.“I think it’s great!” he said of Foxconn’s move into downtown Eau Claire and the jobs it is expected to bring. “It’s going to add to this energy in downtown Eau Claire.”

“Eau Claire is a great place for Foxconn’s newest Innovation Center – and Haymarket Landing, one of many UW-Eau Claire innovative partnerships and student residences, provides a vibrant hub for students, faculty, and Foxconn employees to connect and create together,” UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James C. Schmidt said. “UW-Eau Claire has long been an economic driver for Western Wisconsin, providing talented graduates in everything from healthcare to high-tech. We are excited to be a partner with Foxconn in exploring together a ‘smart future’ for the Chippewa Valley and for Wisconsin.”

The Haymarket Landing building's commercial floor plan. Info: Commonweal Development
The Haymarket Landing building's commercial floor plan. Info: Commonweal Development

“Foxconn’s investment in the Chippewa Valley is great news for the region and the entire state as the company continues to demonstrate how its presence in Wisconsin will truly be transformational,” said Mark Hogan, Secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. “From the day Foxconn announced it had chosen Wisconsin as the site for its campus, we have talked about the ripple effect that decision would have throughout the state. Today we are again experiencing that ripple effect here in west-central Wisconsin.”

The move to invest in locations in Eau Claire is part of a multibillion-dollar project to establish a Foxconn production facility in the Racine County village  of Mount Pleasant in southeastern Wisconsin. Walker promised the company up to $4.5 billion in tax incentives to build the $10 billion factory and create a predicted 13,000 jobs in the state.

Many public officials and citizens disapprove of the plan, saying that the payoff to Wisconsin and its residents will be too little for such a large benefit to Foxconn.  Protesters waved signs that read “No Foxconn, No Walker,” at the announcement location in Phoenix Park.

Others, including Andrew Werthmann, acting president of the Eau Claire City Council, have reservations about Foxconn itself.

“Our community has a set of values, and we need to hold them accountable to it,” he said.“It can’t be lost in this discussion that (Foxconn has) a horrible human rights record, they have a horrible environmental record, they have a horrible labor record. And so, knowing all that, I think it’s on us both as community leaders and as a community to make sure that they are held accountable to the kinds of values that we hold dear.”

Foxconn plans to close on these properties later this year and open the spaces for operation in 2019.

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Thursday, Jul. 12th, 2018

5 Historical Nuggets From the New WPT Show About Eau Claire

daniel shaw lumber
Daniel Shaw Lumber Co,

1. Three Confluences

The city of Eau Claire grew up around the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers, but that’s not the only confluence that was vital to the community’s early history. The new Wisconsin Public TV documentary, Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Eau Claire, notes that the city was at the crossroads of two ecosystems: hardwood and pine forests to the north and east and buffalo- and elk-filled prairies to the south and west. It was also along the disputed border of lands inhabited by the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes.

2. Lots of Lumber

Eau Claire was ideally located to take advantage of all those trees. The Chippewa River was only navigable up to Eau Claire,which made it the logical place to build sawmills. At least one-sixth of the white pines in the United States were in the Chippewa Valley, and the river served as a superhighway to float those logs to the Mississippi River and beyond.

3. Living Relic

Old Abe was a bald eagle adopted by Eau Claire’s Company C, 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, when they marched off to the Civil War in 1861. the bird accompanied Company C in at least 34 battles before retiring from active duty. He was declared a war relic by Gov. James Lewis and was given a two-room apartment – complete with a swimming pool! – in the state Capitol’s basement.

4. Rolling Along

The Gillette Safety Tire Co. built its first tire in 1917, and was soon a major employer. At one time, the plant produced one-third of the tires for new General Motors cars and was the nation’s biggest maker of bicycle tires. Eventually owned by Uniroyal Goodrich, the plant closed in 1992.

5. Hammerin’ Hank

Baseball hall-of-famer and longtime major league home run king Henry Aaron famously played a season with the minor-league Eau Claire Bears in 1952. At the time, Eau Claire had about 36,000 residents, only about three of whom were African-American. Yet the 18-year-old from Alabama was embraced by the community and went on to be the league’s rookie of the year.


Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Eau Claire premieres on Wisconsin Public Television at 8pm Monday, July 16. Learn more at wpt.org. The DVD is available at The Local Store.

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Tuesday, Jul. 10th, 2018

4 Weekends, 4 Big Music Festivals

Country Jame 2017 (Image: Caitlyn Berlin)
Country Jam 2017 (Image: Caitlyn Berlin)

ROCK FEST

25th Anniversary Rock Fest • July 12-14 • 24447 County HWY S, Cadott • Tickets $89-$500 • www.rock-fest.com • Rock n’ roll fans from around the world will gather Thursday, July 12 through Saturday, July 14 for some head-banging, crowd-surfing, beer-drinking kind of fun at Rock Fest. The festival is the US’s largest rock music and camping event, and it’s located right in Cadott. This will be the 25th anniversary of the iconic festival, which has hosted legendary performers such as Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Kiss, Fleetwood Mac and many more. This year, attendees will rock to featured headliners such as Disturbed, Incubus, and Godsmack, with many other performances throughout the weekend. While the music is enough to make for a great weekend, Rock Fest offers a wide variety of different experiences and exhibitions. Most notable will be the zombie crawl, where attendees dress up in their best zombie costumes for a chance to win a meet and greet and pit passes for the rest of the weekend. Other experiences include a tattoo parlor to get ink to commemorate the weekend, giant games, and a hammock haven with free massages. Rock Fest also offers helicopter rides and a chapel of love for attendees to get married or renew their vows. All that rocking will leave attendees hungry and thirsty, so thankfully there will be plenty of food vendors and bars at the event. Rock Fest is a place where rock music still matters; it’s a true rock experience that shouldn’t be missed. –Raquel Dorf

COUNTRY JAM

Country Jam • July 19-21 • Whispering Pines Campground, Eau Claire • Ticket prices vary (children 4 and younger free) • Parking $15/day or $40 for the festival • Camping available • countryjamwi.comDust off your cowboy boots and cutoffs: Country Jam Wisconsin is returning to the Chippewa Valley July 19-21. Three days of camping, top-notch country performers, and a non-stop good time await those coming to see the performances. For those who haven’t been to Country Jam, the VIP section offers reserved seating up close to the main stage and access to a variety of food, including a buffet, a variety of beers on tap, and flush toilets. There is also a Party Pit next to the stage, a Country Club which allows access to artist interviews, a SkyBox, and an Ultimate VIP experience for those looking for an even more exciting, up-close-and-personal experience. The general admission section offers seating (bring your own chair) on a first-come, first-served basis, and access to vendors selling food and drinks around the grounds. Both options offer access to the main stage and big-name country artists, including Blake Shelton, Alabama, Billy Currington, Justin Moore, Dustin Lynch, and Craig Morgan to name a few. There are two side stages featuring up-and-coming acts and classic acts, including Alter Ego, Lorrie Morgan, Hillbilly Vegas, and Maggie Rose. New this year is the fact Country Jam is cashless – wristbands are equipped with RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) and Cashless Payment Technology – so you will use the same wristband to get in and pay for items throughout the grounds this year. Vendors are not accepting payments by means other than a wristband. –Haley Wright

Blues on the Chippewa 2017 (Image: Marcie Pannell)
Blues on the Chippewa 2017 (Image: Marcie Pannell)

ONE FEST

OneFest • July 28-29 • Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, Chippewa Falls • Ticket prices vary (children 4 and younger free) • Parking $5 on Saturday, free Sunday • Camping available at fairgrounds • one-fest.com • (715) 379-3742 • Beginning Saturday, July 28, and rolling in to the 29th, the Chippewa Valley will see its first large-scale Christian music festival at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds. OneFest will provide a truly wholesome experience with live music in the great outdoors. The event’s motto – “One God, One Song, One Voice” – truly encapsulates the purpose of the weekend. Performers include Tenth Avenue North, Mandisa, Citizen Way, Love the Outcome, Sanctus Real, and Cloverton on the main stage and Light45, 513Free, Brayton Meyer, Brady Luke, Sparrows Rising, and CollECtive Choir on the side stage. This event also offers family-friendly fun such as outdoor sports, activities for younger kiddos, indoor activities, and a bounce house. There will also be a worship service at 10am Sunday with Pastor Ryan Fontenot and special guest performers We Are Leo. There will be food and beverage vendors all over the fairgrounds as well as merchandise, non-profit, and ministry vendors. This event is totally accessible with handicap parking and paved pathways. You can buy tickets online or in person at Calvary Baptist Church in Eau Claire, Mathison Chiropractic in Cadott, My Life Chiropractic in Lake Hallie, and Kings Way Bible and Gift in Rice Lake. Ticket prices vary, but group orders of 20 or more will receive discounted prices. The main stage has standing room as well as seating options available. –Julia Van Allen

BLUES ON THE CHIPPEWA

Blues on the Chippewa • Aug. 3-5 • Memorial Park, Second Avenue East, Durand • FREE • bluesonthechippewa.com Blues lovers unite, there’s a festival for you! Of course, anyone can attend, but if you’ve been craving some blues music this summer, you’re in luck. On the weekend of Aug. 3-5, Blues on the Chippewa is taking over Memorial Park in Durand, just a half-hour drive from Eau Claire. This year they’ve added a second stage, giving attendees even more entertainment options – and they’re free! Fifteen acts will be spread out throughout the three days. Left Wing Bourbon, which provides a blend of soul, blues, and getting your boogie on will kick off the fest at 5pm Friday with Ghost Town Blues Band closing out the evening. The Avey/Grouws Band will get your body moving and ready for the Saturday lineup starting at noon, while Hamilton Loomis, a blues, rock and soul musician born and raised in Galveston, Texas, will cap off the second night. More fabulous acts to follow on Sunday: Three-time Grammy nominee Ellen Whyte will open up the final day with the Whyte-Orfield Band at 11am. With 35 years of experience fronting bands, Ellen is known for her breathtaking vocals, mixing blues, jazz, funk, and ballad stylings into her music. As the festival comes to an end, David Bromberg will grace the stage, closing out Blues on the Chippewa wit a set starting at 5:45pm. Known as “The Godfather of Americana,” he has performed on hundreds of records by artists such as Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, and more. His background in various styles will make for the perfect end to a blues-filled weekend! –Measha Vieth

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Monday, Jul. 9th, 2018

Eaux Claires IV: Recapped

The Flambeaux stage. (Image: Branden Nall)
The Flambeaux stage. (Image: Branden Nall)

“Fly or fall on feeling.” That was at the core of Eaux Claires’ no-lineup philosophy for 2018. Feeling. And there’s a lot of feelings out there at the moment. 

Seemed like a lot of fest-goers were really quick to shout out their distaste with the lineup – which didn’t feature a so-called “big name,” but did feature a lot of really, really good ones. The lineup argument is obviously a matter of perspective (mostly). And I also think we’re all tired of hearing about it, and you’ve probably already got your mind made up about it anyway, so I don’t need to wax about it here. Instead I’d rather be honest and say I don’t really care. I had a good time.

IV certainly felt loose in a way it hasn’t before. No-lineup thing aside, there were some logistical oil slicks out there like long bathroom/beer lines, long food lines, schedule flips, and whatnot … garden variety music festival stuff that could’ve been tightened up quite a bit. I still had a good time.

It’s pretty simple really. The music was great, the mosquitos were terrible, they had beer for sale, the weather was as perfect as it’s ever gonna be. It’s a good music festival and I had a good time. Dreaming up something bigger and getting angry when it’s not that just seems like a waste of time to me. But you do you.

I walked in Friday afternoon, and while everyone was riffing their flaming hot lineup takes, I was listening to the sweet sounds of Wye Oak, who pounded out a terrifically dreamy early set. Following that up on the Lake Eaux Lune stage with Julien Baker’s heart-wrenching songs was a cathartic kind of chill – and we got to see Baker’s powers pop up for different performances no less than half a dozen times throughout the weekend, which was a true blessing in and of itself. Julien Baker gets the MVP.

Julien Baker (Image: Luong Huynh)
Julien Baker (Image: Luong Huynh)

Serpentwithfeet was a stunner on Friday, swirling his one-of-a-kind voice up to otherworldly levels for big anthems about the complexities of queer love at the House of IV – the Vans stage that had some absolute knock-outs all weekend. Later on, Serengeti had a super fun set, and after midnight, Marijuana Deathsquads did their thing 'til close night one, seemingly scraping every sound in the universe together and letting it blast at full capacity.

The Flambeaux stage was transformed into a stage in the round for IV, and while it had few drawbacks, it was home to some pretty cool stuff. Big Red Machine – a new project from Eaux Claires co-curators Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner – performed there Friday night under a stunning, sky-high light show. Earlier, the brothers Dessner scored a killer performance by TU Dance on satellite platforms surrounding Flambeaux out in the crowd. And at one point, Francis Starlite sang a few songs karaoke-style. And he straight up just played Kanye West’s “Lift Yourself” – a capital-G Good song, by the way – with all the “whoopty scoopty poops” and none of the actual Ye. Ah well, there’s always next year … 

The woods were pretty fantastic this year if you knew where to look. There were hushed concerts at a solo pedal-affected piano, the wooded Oxbeaux stage, a giant house structure where everything you touched was an instrument, and a Player Fence. Artists like Gordi, S. Carey, and Baker made good use of the experimental stages by daylight, and by night they came alive with electricity. The Oxbeaux stage was draped in screens – one of them with some Super Smash Bros. being played live – for Psymun’s cool late night set where the Twin Cities producer’s reverb-drenched hip hop beats were paired with vocal contributions from Corbin, Dua, Spank Rock, and Velvet Negroni. Down the wooded path and behind a mural at a stage called The Hunting Blind, super secret raves happened both nights. Because, I’m sorry, you can’t always shake your booty to The National, ya know?

The National with Phoebe Bridgers (Image: Brendan Nall)
The National with Phoebe Bridgers (Image: Branden Nall)

Saturday heightened the music, and was stacked with most of the best stuff. Kevin Morby and Phoebe Bridgers had awesome afternoon sets, which were followed up with a breathtaking Moses Sumney performance at Lake Eaux Lune. Watching Sumney kill with his slot two years ago at Eaux Claires before anybody knew who he was, then seeing him return this year to blow the doors off the main stage with a master class in what a gifted vocalist is capable of – it felt amazing.

I loved getting to see Noname bring the bounce with soulful beats and boundless raps; it was fun as all get out and she is fantastic. And later at the stage in the round, I really loved Sharon Van Etten’s minimal performance. Where her records are typically layered productions with a bunch of instruments, she kept it synthy and bass-heavy and let her voice and gut-wrenching words do to the heavy lifting. For a rare set after a long hiatus, I am definitely here for it.

Pussy Riot (Image: Luong Huynh)
Pussy Riot (Image: Luong Huynh)

And we need to talk about Pussy Riot. The buzzy Russian feminist protest artists brought irrepressible energy to their rare American performance. With spastic visuals full of fiery slogans and lyrics laced with anti-corruption, anti-sexism, and anti-hate messages along with thick, heavy dance beats – it’s a performance that you could never dream of seeing in Eau Claire, and we’re lucky for it. I feel lucky, at least. Crowds were sleepy on the whole, but during Pussy Riot, it seemed to come alive like no other. For sure, one of the most truly unique performances this festival has ever had.

So I feel good about IV, and you can feel whatever you feel about it. Let me just say, before you puke your guts out, consider how lucky we are that every summer, this kinda thing can happen here in the Chippewa Valley. Consider the breadth of artists that came here for Eaux Claires and came a couple days earlier for Prex Claires. Think about five years ago before all this stuff started happening. 

And now breathe. 

And now let us know what you think.

(Image: Brendan Nall)
Flambeaux (Image: Branden Nall)

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Thursday, Jul. 5th, 2018

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 at past 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.

Sometimes it's hard to contain their excitement.

Music is serious business.
Music is serious business.

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

#FlowerCrownLife

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 scruff and Pepsi, y'all. 

#FlowerCrownLife

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, no punches are pulled.

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

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Tuesday, Jul. 3rd, 2018

LISTEN: Justin Vernon Talks to V1 about the City, the Festival, and His Creative World

The coming week is a big one for the culture of Eau Claire. Thousands of people from around the world will descend into the valley soon for not only the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival on July 6-7, but for a whole array of related events and happenings in the days before and after.

With that on the horizon, a while back I got a text from Justin saying he wanted to talk and had some things on his mind he wanted to share with not only me, but perhaps with the city too. He was fresh off his two intimate Lock-Inn shows at The Oxbow Hotel in downtown Eau Claire and the debut of his revelatory collaboration with TU Dance. So we set up a recorder and had a little talk at Volume One a few weeks ago.

And now if you’re interested — and you can handle a few inside jokes, unfamiliar references, and unexplained name-drops — you can listen in.

We of course covered Eaux Claires and the “no-lineup lineup” and what it means to him and the city, as well as the economics and future of the festival. He also elaborates on the plan for “scoring the fireworks” with Aaron Dessner of The National at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire on the 4th of July.

We also talk about just how good I felt the TU Dance collaboration was in St. Paul (and its possible future at the Pablo Center here in Eau Claire). We also touch on the ambitious Bon Iver schedule this year and what it took emotionally for him to get back in the game.

But in true form for a couple of old locals, we talked about where the Eau Claire community has been and where it’s going, what he thinks about all the attention the city has been getting, and about how he experiences this place.

The audio comes in at about 45 minutes long, has been edited for length, and contains minor adult language.

Here are a few random excerpts:

On Eau Claire…

“The character or type of person that lives here is a very good one, very good people. But I also feel like we just don’t step out or something. We don’t take that chance. Or we don’t do the thing we’re not supposed to and that’s what kinda keeps us pulled back.”

On the Pablo Center…

“I’m just happy that’s it happening. It just seems like all of the rowboating to the truth, to the final stages of this thing has gotten a good team in place. I think Jason Jon has become a really close not only friend but like — I told him: 'This town needs you.' I just personally feel great that I feel like I can call Jason … and just be like 'Hey, can I do something there and can we work this out and can I stretch my artistic wings, like a local artist at this place?'”

On Eaux Claires…

“We plan on being around 20 years. We made money the first year. We lost a lot of money the last the couple years. But we’re not gonna give up. And we’re gonna keep trying to figure out what this thing is without trying to be like financially guided, other than just trying not to lose our asses … 20 years we hope to be doing this thing, if not longer. I foresee giving up very few times between then and now.”

On the TU Dance Performance…

“I was proud because I felt like a really new kind of reward after it because of the hard work. Because it was new and it was different. I got a chance to express myself. All I had was an opportunity to do something new, and it felt like just as exciting as like making the first album.”

 

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UPDATED: Eaux/Prex Claires - Here’s Everything We Know

The next couple days are gonna be crazy; can we all at least get on the same page?

Alright gang, the next few days in Eau Claire are throwing an absolute crapload of music and art stuff out there to go out and do. With Eaux Claires looming over the weekend in its shroud of riddles, a whole freakin’ day (and a half) of Prex Claires events emanating from pretty much every downtown venue, and oh, I guess we gotta throw a major national holiday in there somewhere too – there’s definitely no shortage of musicky, artsy rigmarole for you to take in.

But for all the excitement, it seems like there’s a decent amount of confusion out there as to what’s actually happening when and where, and that’s OK! Don’t feel bad if looking at all this stuff leaves you a little puzzled and whatnot. I mean, with Eaux Claires deliberately withholding its lineup and Prex Claires adding more and more music stuff to the days before – it’s all too easy to lose track of all this #culture.

So with that in mind, here’s what we know. Maybe this will help your plans shake out, or maybe this will convince you to skip the whole dang thing and drive to Canada until it’s all over. Either way, let’s all get on the same page, shall we?

Fireworks over Carson Park. Image: Frank Robinson
Fireworks over Carson Park. Image: Frank Robinson

July 4: The Fourth of July

You might be familiar with Independence Day, where our country celebrates its birthday by getting drunk, eating hot dogs, and lighting off explosives. All that stuff is still on the table, but if you’re in Eau Claire for the Fourth, there’s a bit more to it. 

As always, there’s a big daytime celebration in Carson Park leading up to the city-wide fireworks display. But this year, since the holiday is so close to Eaux Claires, Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner (the co-founders of the festival) are live-scoring Eau Claire’s fireworks from the Haymarket Landing building in downtown Eau Claire.

UPDATE: It's during a private event, but perhaps you'll be able to hear the music from Phoenix Park – a popular spot to see the 'works. (Originally, Vernon had said the live scoring would happen from atop the Jamf building.)

They’ll be joined by some mystery guests, and they’ll probably play some cuts from their new Big Red Machine project. You can stream the performance live on Converge Radio 99.9 (f.k.a. Verge Radio 99.9, f.f.k.a. Blugold Radio 99.9). 

Then after the fireworks, Marijuana Deathsquads are hosting a Good Ole Fashioned Pizza Race show at The Metro with additional performances by Swamp Dogg and FOG. The Deathsquads are gonna have four phones hooked up to the speakers and order some delicious hot 'za from four different pizza places all set to zany music and visuals. You can get into that show for a $10 ticket, but you can bundle it with a Prex Claires wristband that gets you into a bunch of festivities the following day for $25 as well. Either way, grab those at convergeradio.org

OXBEAUX 2017, downtown Eau Claire
OXBEAUX 2017, downtown Eau Claire, Image: Joel Pearish

July 5: Prex Claires + Oxbeaux

Since one festival clearly isn’t enough, there’s Prex Claires. Prex Claires is a local festival in and of itself the eve before Eaux Claires (get it?) where, throughout the city, tons of venues are hosting a mostly local lineup of Eau Claire artists. You’ll need a $20 wristband (you can grab it at convergeradio.org) and that gets you into shows at The Metro, The Plus, The Masonic Temple, and much more. Here’s the official Prex Claires wristband lineup …

The Plus • 208 S. Barstow St. • 7pm • Sawdust City Limits No. 4 • Jim Pullman + Two Castles + Pit Wagon + FM Down + The Ronald Raygun + The Heart Pills + Drunk Drivers

The Metro • 201 E. Lake St. • 7pm • Local Independence Showcase • Roma di Luna + Wayward + TeawhYB + P•PL

The Masonic Temple • 616 Graham Ave. • 7:30pm • The Sue Orfield Show • Billy Krause + Them Coulee Boys

Downtown Cinema • 315 S. Barstow St. • 8pm • Clear Water Comedy

410 Café • 410 S. Barstow St. • 8pm • Open Mic

State Theatre • 316 Eau Claire St. • 11pm • Vespers • Michael Perry + Astronautalis + Mary Cutrufello

The Metro • 201 E. Lake St. • 11pm • Spank Rock + Mouse On Mars

So that’s what the wristband will get you ...

But don’t forget about OXBEAUX II • There’s also a giant block party concert called OXBEAUX II happening simultaneously on Galloway St. in front of The Oxbow Hotel. That brings 2,000 people from around the world and a lineup of great music with Hiss Golden Messenger, S. Carey, Chastity Brown, and Orchid Eaton – but that’s a totally separate ticket price and experience offering food, drink, and more. You can cop a $25 ticket at volumeonetickets.org, otherwise they’re $30 at the gate.

Would you believe there’s even more? There’s a couple of awesome shows around downtown that are free and open to the public, completely separate from the Prex Claires and OXBEAUX events. In the afternoon, Revival Records is hosting a 3pm rock show where Miss Dee Lovely will team up with The Jaggernauts to play a David Bowie tribute set, with openers the Giants of Midgard and the John Buxton Experience. Then there's the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series in Phoenix Park at 6pm, which features Idle Empress, The Nunnery and Chamber Noise. At 8pm at The Fire House, local folk singer D. Janakey will perform with special guests. Later that night at 9pm, The Nunnery will perform again at Dive inside The Lismore. Then at 10pm at The Mousetrap, there’ll be a great free show featuring Moon Ruin, Idle Empress, and Sloslylove.

And there’s supposed to be a whole other music festival after this? Yep ...

Eaux Claires, 2015, Image: Lee Butterworth
Eaux Claires, 2015, Image: Lee Butterworth

July 6 + 7: Eaux Claires

As circumstance will have it, this is the thing where it seems we have the least amount to tell you. No, we can’t confirm the lineup – not officially. But if you’ve been paying attention and staying vigilant, you probably know a lot of musical artists that are playing. 

Gathering bread crumbs from Vernon’s Twitter account, a couple podcasts, and some dedicated Redditors, you can most likely expect to see the following artists (with varying degrees of certainty): The National, Patti Smith, Sharon Van Etten, Moses Sumney, Noname, Wye Oak, Dirty Projectors, Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, Kevin Morby, Serpentwithfeet, Pussy Riot, Anaïs Mitchell, Gordi, Big Red Machine, Ho99o9, Mouse On Mars, Phil Cook, Field Report, S. Carey, Marijuana Deathsquads, Aero Flynn, Francis and the Lights, and our sources say the Bon Iver / TU Dance collaborative performance that was conceived earlier this year will happen in some capacity at Eaux Claires.

And … let's see ... probably Kanye West, right? Right? Why the heck not. Names like Kendrick Lamar, Father John Misty, Sufjan Stevens, and The Arcade Fire have also been tossed around, but don't seem likely.

But here's a thing: If you update the Eaux Claires mobile app, and connect it to Spotify, a playlist called "Sounds Of IV" appears before you and features tracks from most of the artists we listed above. Could it be? Who can be sure? 

So hey, don’t get mad at us if this isn’t 100% accurate; we’re just trying to do our jobs here. Not sure what else to tell you … 

The Flambeaux stage will be replaced by a stage-in-the-round for some particularly unique performances, there’s an pretty good list of hints for the literary lineup too (Hanif Abdurraqib, Chastity Brown, Dean Bakopoulus & Alissa Nutting, Leesa Cross Smith, Kimberly M. Blaeser, Joe Horton, Eleanor Perry-Smith), and a bunch of art installations in the works which you can see on the map in the mobile app (although there’s few details provided beyond the names and locations).

Here’s something we do know with reasonable certainty: The weather’s gonna be nice. Like, real nice. But we just probably jinxed it, so we’ll see?

Anywho, the point is you’re not supposed to know, so maybe just roll with that.

Whew. So that’s basically everything in a massive convoluted nutshell. Hopefully this helps you figure out what to do, who to see, and all that jazz. Remember to stay hydrated and take care of each other. We’ll see you on the other side ...

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Monday, Jun. 25th, 2018

Short Film by Local Author and His Brother to See Midwest Premier

Night’s Still Young
Night’s Still Young

A new short film entitled Night’s Still Young – which celebrates the beauty in life while simultaneously delving into the dark stuff – is coming to Eau Claire. Prolific Chippewa Valley author and UW-Eau Claire English professor B.J. Hollars teamed up with his brother, Brooklyn-based Brian J. Hollars, to create the film. B.J. wrote and co-produced, while Brian directed, co-produced, and served as director of photography. The film, which runs just under 15 minutes, is set in Louisiana and focuses on Kate (Shanna Vincent), a terminally ill woman who decides to host a 26th birthday party for herself. Surrounded by close friends, Kate looks back on and celebrates life, both past and present. The guests are unaware the get-together also functions as Kate’s farewell party. Kate plans to end her own life the morning after the event – with the support of her brother Austin (Adam Henslee) and closest lifelong friend Jeanie (Nadiyah Skyy Taylor) – instead of letting her disease take the reins. The film’s world premiere took place in May at the ninth annual NYC Independent Film Festival, and it was screened at the NYCIndie Film Fest and selected for the the New Hope Film Festival. The film’s Midwest premiere will take place from 3-4pm Thursday, July 5, at Woodland Theater in UW-Eau Claire’s Davies Center. The free event, sponsored by NOTA, will include a screening of the film and the opportunity to hear what the film’s production process was like from B.J. and Brian themselves. 

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Friday, Jun. 22nd, 2018

Historic Steam Train Could Come Chugging Back to Eau Claire

Soo Line 2719 in the Two Harbors area, circa 2009. (IMAGE: Pete Markham | CC BY-SA 2.0)
Soo Line 2719 in the Two Harbors area, circa 2009. (IMAGE: Pete Markham | CC BY-SA 2.0)

UPDATE! (June 27) The city of Eau Claire will have an additional six months to come up with a plan to buy back a historic steam locomotive from a Duluth museum and return it to Eau Claire. The Eau Claire City Council voted 7-1 on June 26 to seek a six-month extension on its option to repurchase Soo Line No. 2719. Now, Councilmen Dave Strobel and Jeremy Gragert will explore the logistics and cost of relocating the locomotive and report back to the City Council in September.


The Eau Claire City Council could exercise its option to buy a 95-year-old steam locomotive from a Duluth museum as early as this summer, bringing the historic engine back to the city after a decade-plus absence.

The City Council will take public comment Monday evening on the resolution, which is sponsored by Council members Dave Strobel and Jeremy Gragert. The council is scheduled to vote on the resolution at its Tuesday afternoon legislative meeting.

According to city documents, it would cost an estimated $31,000 to move the train from Duluth to Eau Claire (this would be done on a flatbed rail car) and another $59,500 to built a shelter to protect it and tracks to place it on.

Three years ago, the city passed on the chance to bring Soo Line No. 2719 back, but Strobel is optimistic that there is now enough support (and potential funding) to make the plan work. “We’ve got another bite at the apple now, so we’ll see how it shakes out,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of positive feedback and encouragement and support since it went public. I’m really enthusiastic right now.”

According to city documents, it would cost an estimated $31,000 to move the train from Duluth to Eau Claire (this would be done on a flatbed rail car) and another $59,500 to built a shelter to protect it and tracks to place it on.

The 2719 was built in 1923 and pulled passenger trains between Minneapolis and Chicago until the late 1950s (it was the last steam train to run on the Soo Line). The coal-powered, half-million-pound engine is considered historic: It is listed on both the state and national Registers of Historic places. The engine was on display in Carson Park from 1960 to 1996, when it was sold to the Locomotive & Tower Preservation Fund, a private group which raised money to restore it and ran it as an excursion train until the early 2000s. It was later leased to the Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, which also ran it as an excursion train until a few years ago, when it was sidelined because of the need for repairs.

In 2015, the city exercised its first right of refusal and bought the locomotive for $1 from the Locomotive & Tower Preservation Fund. At the time, Strobel had hoped the City Council would opt to bring the locomotive to Eau Claire. Instead, the council turned around and sold it to the Duluth museum for $2. However, the sale included a clause that the city of Eau Claire could buy back the train within three years. That window will close on July 28.

Under the resolution the City Council will consider Tuesday, the city will seek an extension of the right to purchase the locomotive until Feb. 1, with an additional 120 days to move the locomotive from the museum. If the Duluth museum won’t agree to the extension, the city will purchase the locomotive immediately. Strobel said he’d prefer the former happened, since it would allow time to form a plan to move and house the locomotive locally. In fact, if the City Council approves the deal, Strobel and Gragert will explore the logistics and cost of relocating the locomotive and report back in September.

Strobel isn’t sure if the City Council will approve the resolution, but if they do he hopes the train will return to Eau Claire, perhaps to find a home downtown. He said the cost to move and maintain the train could be covered by the city and private donors. And if the city doesn’t want the train, he added, perhaps a nearby community would.

“I’m really excited,” Strobel said. “I’m glad we have the opportunity. We’ll have to see what the council decides to do and what the public says at the meeting.”

Want to add your 2 cents to the discussion about the future of Soo Line No. 2719? The Eau Claire City Council will hold a public hearing at its meeting at 7pm Monday, June 25, at City Hall. The council will vote on the resolution at its legislative session at 4pm Tuesday, June 26.

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Wednesday, Jun. 20th, 2018

Passenger Rail From Eau Claire to the Twin Cities? The Discussion Continues ...

All aboard, Wisconsin.
All aboard, Wisconsin.

Can the Chippewa Valley support a passenger rail line to the Twin Cities? That’s the issue explored in a front-page article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which details ongoing efforts to bring passenger rail back to Eau Claire after a more than half-century hiatus. The article, published in the June 20 edition, discusses the West Central Wisconsin Rail Coalition’s grassroots effort to create a public-private partnership for passenger rail service between Eau Claire and St. Paul’s Union Depot along the existing Union Pacific freight rail line.

According to the article, the rail coalition has been “emboldened by privately funded transit projects in Florida and Texas (and) the Trump administration’s support of public-private partnerships to bolster the nation’s infrastructure.” The line would cost between $100 million and $250 million to build, and its operating cost would be paid for by passenger fares. The article continues:

“Nothing we’re looking to do here has been done before,” said James Coston, chairman of Corridor Capital, a Chicago-based passenger rail development, finance and management firm that plans to invest in the Eau Claire project. “This is a real grass-roots effort.”

The Eau Claire-St. Paul line would feature stops in Menomonie, Baldwin and Hudson in Wisconsin and Stillwater in Minnesota. A one-way trip traveling at a top speed of 80 mph would take about an hour and 20 minutes and would cost $30 to $35, though some discounts may apply, and fares would be less for stops in between. Four trips a day are planned, two in each direction, with Wi-Fi, snacks and beverages available for passengers.

Check out the full article on the Star Tribune’s website. And a word of warning, the first paragraph contains another cringe-worthy reference to "mini-Portland."

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