Wednesday, Jan. 20th, 2010

Vernons’ plans to convert 2 S. Barstow into cultural space gain momentum

Another chapter in the storied history of the 2 S. Barstow building opened today when the city’s Redevelopment Authority approved the plan of Nate and Justin Vernon to turn the three-level building into a live music venue and cultural center. This time around, the RDA heard proposals from four groups of potential developers, but gave the green light for only the Vernons to proceed. Nate Vernon – tour manager for his brother Justin and his band Bon Iver – is heading the effort, and now he and Justin have 120 days to firm up financing, construction plans, and get all the ducks in a row needed to actually close the transaction, at which point the city hands over the keys and work can begin. However, it is important to recognize that this is still just a proposal, and any number of unexpected roadblocks could still surface and thwart the plan’s feasibility, but everyone involved is optimistic that the right groundwork has been laid for success.

Likely to be called Union College (a play on the building’s history as a women’s school decades ago), the space will house a venue on the first floor with a stage and bar. Upper floors will host space for audio and video gear which the public may have access to through production classes and workshops. Inspiration for the specifics of the space could come from all over the world, as the Vernons have seen many of the best venues and performances spaces in existence through their international tours over the past couple years.

The considerable success of Bon Iver puts the Vernons in a strong position to grab larger touring bands off Interstate 94 and to network in a way that might help out in the short and long run. But it’s the strength and energy of the local scene that they hope to really harness, making the venue into a magnifying glass of sorts. “We need a focal point for the energy to come through,” said Nate Vernon in a phone conversation this afternoon. “Knowing who we know now after being on the road, and knowing lots of booking agents and having personal relationships with bands, we just happen to be the people that are capable of doing that for Eau Claire.”

You can hear about 10 minutes of the conversation below where Nate Vernon goes into the plan, the challenges, and the timeline. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also mention I’ve done some light consultation with the Vernon’s on their plan through its development over the past couple months. So take that for what it’s worth.

So, what are your plans for the space?

Will this venue be competing with other area efforts?

What's the next step?

Extra clips:

How does this fit into downtown?

Who are you working with on this?

Existing issues with the building.

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Michael Perry comin' in for a landing

Local record label and management firm Amble Down has signed Michael Perry & the Long Beds and seeks to release the country folk band's second full-length album Tiny Pilot March 16, 2010. Download the album's first single "Somewhere South of Sunday" here (right-click the link and select Download Linked File). Preorders from begin Feb. 1.

Tiny Pilot features country stompers, roughneck folk ballads and fiddle-addled Americana twang. "I write about the farmers, preachers, and tough country-women who raised me," says Perry, "And yet certain wisdoms are available only from whistlers, frauds, and sinners, so I try to slide them a few lines as well.” Michael Perry & the Long Beds' first album Headwinded was released in 2006 (listen to a free track from our web shop here).

Michael Perry is internationally reknowned as the author of his memoirs Population 485, Truck and Coop and the essay collection Off Main Street.

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Tuesday, Jan. 19th, 2010

Wanna buy a deliciously successful pie business?

In a story that basically constitutes my wildest, most magical fantasies coming true (minus Ferris Bueller becoming a real person and being my best friend), the Chippewa Herald reports that Bloomer’s Main Street Café – along with the Main Street Pie operation – is for sale. That’s right, for a mere $850,000 you can take over a small town restaurant legacy, some adjoining rental property, and West Central Wisconsin's pie empire, thus gaining accesses to pie nirvana. In case you’ve been living under a rock at the bottom of the friggin’ Pacific Ocean, Main Street Pies (40 varieties, baby) are sold in multiple restaurants, Gordy’s County Market locations in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire and at 40 Kwik Trip locations in western Wisconsin.”

And in case you didn’t know, I love pie.

According to the Herald, “Donnie Stoik started the Main Street Cafe on Jan. 7, 1981. ... Stoik ultimately expanded it into what had been the Ideal Movie Theater next door. Stoik said it’s time for him to do something else.” If you don’t have $850,000 burning a hole in HUGE pocket, the eatery, rental properties, and pie business can be purchased separately. The café seems as successful as the pie business, so there’s some pretty big shoes pie tins to fill with sweet success. Good luck to whoever takes up the challenge.

I don’t know about you, but I found the following line from the article awesomely hilarious: “Stoik said the pies are available from Hayward to Arcadia, and from River Falls to Wausau.”

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Monday, Jan. 18th, 2010

Show Review(s): South Farwell and The Old Fashioneds meet on Eau Claire Street

At the State Theatre, another night of Volume One's Backstage Series. The band South Farwell, with guest The Klenz/Walk Jazz Sextet. And, just down a couple of blocks Eau Claire street, The Old Fashioneds playing at The Haymarket Grill. It was a great night to enjoy local talent.

I continue to be impressed with the band South Farwell. From the very beginning they were impressive, but I thought they relied very heavily on the vocalist Bill Boles, lead singer. Skilled though he is, I felt the rest of the band was somewhat subdued, given their talent I had witnessed in previous bands. Over time though, the South Farwell has added depth by letting some of that talent free. The backing solos done by brothers, Tim Coughlin on guitar and Joe Coughlin on sax, I think are what really propel South Farwell into a new plane.

After the show, down the street from the State Theater, we caught the third set of a new local band, The Old Fashioneds. One word hyphenated, ya'all, Out-standing. I think it tugged to me in particular because this was the music my dad listened to when I was growing up. Hank when there was only one Hank, Merl Haggard. Real country music. Granted, even in it's wildest days back then, it didn't have near the punch of this night's performance. It would have confused my father. Long hair and 'lectric git-tars. And energy. The Old Fashioneds played the wildest version of Folsum Prison Blues I have ever seen, and that was just what opened the third set.

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2009 saw almost 40 Chippewa Valley music releases

The local music scene has an ebb and flow. And my biggest complaint is the tendency for things to get static at times, with the bands we love releasing an album every four years. 2009 was a huge "Flow Year," with upwards of 40 album releases by local artists – an absolutely incredible year in local music. But until recently I was bummed about the likelihood of an upcoming dry spell. What gives me hope is that bands like pop rockers Meridene are already back in the studio recording their next album. In case you forgot, their phenomenal Amble Down LP You’re Not Pretty, You’re Worse was released in late November of 2008. So by the time their next album comes out, it might be a mere 18-month difference. A few other locals (Brian Bethke, Breakneck the Mage) have likewise developed a quick turnaround. The ambition is mind-blowingly awesome, people, and all I can say is I hope this becomes a trend. 

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Sunday, Jan. 17th, 2010

Weekly Shakedown:
The Stuff You Maybe Missed

Here’s a fantabulous assortment of Volume One website goods that you may have missed last week.

Enjoy your Sunday, one and all.

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Saturday, Jan. 16th, 2010

Saturday: Melon Legend Gallagher

Listen up as I dole out the truth: As far as melon-based humor goes, it just don’t get no bigger than friggin’ Gallagher, baby. With over 100 shows per year and countless watermelons destroyed, comedy legend Gallagher, best known for his prop comedy with his Sledge-O-Matic hammer, aims for a smashing time at the Ramada Convention Center in downtown Eau Claire. The show starts at 8pm, and tickets cost a juicy$23.50/$30.50, but hey, as I said, it’s friggin’ Gallagher.

Also on Saturday: Planetarium Show, Brian Bethke + Leiah Webb, No Better Cause, Barefoot in the Park, Rudy's Holidaze Reunion, and Desolatevoid + Marked by Failure + The Parrish + Electric Wagon Burner.

Art shows: Anatomical Autonomy (Sammy Jean Wilson); Eric Lee & Jason Lanka Art Exhibit; Holy Mackerel: The Artwork of Ivy, Emma and Sandra Klinbeil.

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Friday, Jan. 15th, 2010

The Valley shoots Farms

A Farms show is more than music. The energy expelled by these two musicians is equal or greater to that of the raging coal fire powering your computer right now. Drummer Andy Todryk’s arms beat like a turbine, leaving your eyes (and our camera lenses) a blur where limbs should be present. Nothing about this session is clean, crisp, or safe. It’s not supposed to be, because where’s the fun in that?

... for more videos and photos of Farms, check out The Valley.

  • The Valley is a collection of musical performances with the Chippewa Valley as a backdrop. The project is headed by three students at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire who may have only minimal experience, but a passion for their community and the art that surrounds it. (The Valley is inspired by Vincent Moon's Takeaway shows, available at La Blogotheque.)

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Thursday, Jan. 14th, 2010

Wanna rent a "luxury" ice fishing shack?

The Chippewa Herald’s got the scoop on Mark McIlquham’s 3-room, $3,000 ice fishing shack out on lake Wissota – which is available to rent. From

  • McIlquham’s shack is just one story, but it has three rooms. That includes an 8-by-18-feet main kitchen/fishing area, a 6-by-12-feet room with four bunk beds off to the side and the small bathroom.
  • It’s big enough for a dining room table by the 6-feet-by-32-inch picture window (with tasteful drapes, or course). There’s a little kitchen area with an electric grill. Fish is on the menu a lot.

There’s even a high-def flat screen TV (local channels only). The shack is heated by propane, powered by “a 12-volt battery recharged by a 20-watt solar powered trickle charger,  with a 750-watt inverter providing the 110 power.” McIlquham also installed hinged trap doors for, you know, ice fishing. Unfortunately, the Chippewa Herald doesn’t provide many pictures.


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