YOU LOOK LIKE YOU NEED A BREAK FROM STUDYING. Or at least a new soundtrack to get you through the night. Check here for info on what bands to listen to, where to see movies, and where to find inspiration.
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE THE GREAT OUTDOORS. And Eau Claire’s out- doors are really great. Whether you just want a place to sit out and tan or you’re looking for your next centennial trail ride, check out the ammenities here.
EAU CLAIRE HAS A LOT TO OFFER, BUT FIRST YOU HAVE TO GET OUT THERE. Luckily, we’re also pretty good at that. Whether you have a car, a bike, or just your own two feet, check here for the scoop on getting around.
WE KNOW YOU’RE NOT A MONEYBAGS OVER THERE. College students are notoriously strapped for cash as they juggle school and jobs, but start here to find the best places to get the essentials – or to treat yourself.
If you’re a candy-loving kid, it’s never too early to plot your trick-or-treating route for Halloween night – or Halloween afternoon, as the case may be.
In downtown Eau Claire, the bonanza of treats from generous businesses will run from 3-5pm on Wednesday, Oct. 31. Costumed kiddos (and their grown-ups) will find treats up and down Barstow and Farwell streets, Graham Avenue, Grand Avenue (both the east and west ends), the Phoenix Park area, and on Water Street. Residential hours are from 5-7:30.
In Chippewa Falls, downtown trick-or-treating also runs 3-5pm on Halloween, with residential hours from 5-7.
In Menomonie, downtown trick or treating is held – you guessed it – from 3-5pm on Halloween, with residential hours from 5-7.
Newly installed seats inside the RCU Theater, the Pablo Center at the Confluence's large theater. (Image: Pablo Center)
After 6-plus years of gathering ideas, planning, building, shaping, rethinking, finessing, and dreaming big, the inaugural season of shows at the Pablo Center at the Confluence is finally upon us. On September 22, Eau Claire’s new arts center officially opens its doors, and the program of artists and performers slated to bring their talents to our city ranges wide and deep.
The project has lived for so long as an abstract idea. Soon it will truly be the tangible, artistic force it was meant to be. This feels like a special moment – one we’ve been leading up to for a long time. That time and community effort is not lost on the Pablo’s Director of Artistic Programming Brenna St. George Jones, who told us she feels the pressure to deliver something really special this inaugural season.
"The stakes are really, really high,” St. George Jones said. "Even in a city the size of New York, this place would be a splash. But here, with all of the time and energy and emotion and everything the community has put into this thing, the stakes are higher. It matters more. It carries more weight. It was incredibly important to me to build a season that is worthy of that energy and that effort.”
St. George Jones and her team have put together a truly stellar first season that will be bring exceptional artists, dancers, musicians, comedians, puppeteers, and even dinosaurs to Eau Claire – most of which, it seems, would never have been able to happen in this city without a place like this. Between the multiple stages, art galleries, and other artistic and educational spaces that fill the building, world class music and art is gonna be pouring out of this thing on a regular basis from here on out.
St. George Jones said her goal with this first season was to honor the rich traditions of the Chippewa Valley’s performing arts scene, while pushing boundaries to bring audiences out of their comfort zone to experience some shows that are unabashedly unique.
"You can have tradition and still have innovation,” St. George Jones said. "Those two things can happily exist side by side. And sometimes that’s when the most exciting things happen."
So without further ado...
Pablo Center exterior copper work. (Image: Lee Butterworth)
The Pablo Center’s programming, from dance to drums, from ballet to country, from jazz to puppets, and everything in between. (Note: Rental shows and some touring productions are not included in this list and will be announced at a later date.)
Cloud Cult • September 28, 2018 • RCU Theatre • The common thread through what Cloud Cult does as a creative collective is their uplifting message; a continual celebration of life and love and catharsis through music.
Whose Live Anyway? • October 3, 2018 • RCU Theatre • 90 minutes of hilarious improvised comedy and song all based on audience suggestions featuring cast members Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Jeff B. Davis, and Joel Murray.
Phantom Tollbooth • October 13, 2018 • RCU Theatre • Enchantment Theatre Company is bringing this fantastical, captivating story to the stage. Using puppets, masks, magic, inventive scenic effects and original music, the wonder and adventure of the story comes alive.
Ganavya Doraiswamy •October 18, 2018 • Jamf Theatre • Vocalist, scholar, and composer Ganavya Doraiswamy has carved a niche for herself at the nexus of South Indian vocal styles and contemporary music. With an anchor in jazz standards that she has translated to Tamil from English, she showcases a linguistic command over her two mother-tongues.
Tony Jackson • October 26, 2018 • RCU Theatre • Tony Jackson is one of the most gifted singers ever to grace country music. On the first-time and lesser known songs Jackson mints his own classics, and with such memorable excursions as “Drink By Drink,” “Old Porch Swing” he shines as a keen-eyed songwriter in his own right.
Ailey II • October 27, 2018 • RCU Theatre • A company of 12 on-their-way-to-the-top dancers and a repertory of works by emerging talents fresh out of the rehearsal room. The Ailey II dancers travel year-round to share their “off-the-charts energy” (The New Yorker) with audiences around the world – with a tour schedule unlike any other second company.
Kate Lindsey / Baptiste Trotignon • November 1, 2018 • Jamf Theatre • Inspired by their 2017 album of the same name, Thousands of Miles is born out of an encounter between mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey and jazz pianist Baptiste Trotignon. Closing the distance between classical music and Broadway, between the old and new worlds, between opera and jazz.
Cassel / Block • November 9, 2018 • Jamf Theatre • Together, these dynamic performers – Hanneke Cassel and Mike Block – present a diverse and exciting show featuring traditional and original music drawing from their Celtic, Americana, and Classical backgrounds.
The Oak Ridge Boys • November 26, 2018 • RCU Theatre • Every time they step before an audience, the Oaks bring four decades of charted singles, and 50 years of tradition, to a stage show widely acknowledged as among the most exciting anywhere. And each remains as enthusiastic about the process as they have ever been.
Blind Boys Of Alabama • January 25, 2019 • RCU Theatre • Hailed as “gospel titans” by Rolling Stone, the Blind Boys first rose to fame in the segregated south with their thrilling vocal harmonies and roof-raising live show, launching a 70-year recording career that would see them rack up five Grammy Awards (plus one for Lifetime Achievement), enter the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, collaborate with everyone from Mavis Staples and Stevie Wonder to Prince and Lou Reed, and perform on the world’s most prestigious stages.
Edgar Meyer • February 9, 2019 • Jamf Theatre • Edgar Meyer has formed a role in the music world unlike any other. Meyer’s unparalleled technique and musicianship in combination with his gift for composition have brought him to the fore, where he is appreciated by a vast, varied audience.
Kodo Taiko • February 23, 2019 • RCU Theatre • The taiko: a traditional Japanese drum with limitless rhythmic possibilities. Kodo’s mission is to explore these possibilities, and in the process forge new directions for a vibrant living art-form. Thunderous, primal, and powerful.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar• February 24, 2019 RCU Theatre • This critically acclaimed production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show created by Jonathan Rockefeller features a menagerie of 75 lovable puppets. The production faithfully adapts four stories by author/ illustrator Eric Carle: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, 10 Little Rubber Ducks, The Very Lonely Firefly and of course, the star of the show – The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium Adventure • March 8, 2019 • RCU Theatre • Take your family on an all new adventure – this time to the bottom of the ocean. Erth shows are at the forefront of family entertainment, using actors, technology, puppets, science and imagination to create an amazing visual experience that connects young audiences to the real science of paleontology.
La Caverne (The Torch Sisters) • March 22, 2019 • Jamf Theatre • Late night, playful and sexy; Eau Claire’s own Torch Sisters invite you to their first evening-length work, La Caverne, a breathtaking blend of aerial artistry, flow arts, and burlesque paying homage to Maud Phillips – a.k.a. Violet Leigh – Eau Claire’s “Mad Poetess of the Cave.” Inspired by the outspoken turn-of-the-century poetesses’ love affairs, writings, and rebel spirit the Torch Sisters present a variety show like no other.
Air Play •March 27, 2019 • RCU Theatre • Ride the wind and dream with Air Play, a modern spectacle that brings to life the very air we breathe. Flying umbrellas, larger-than-life balloons, giant kites floating over the audience, and the biggest snow globe you’ve ever seen will make you gasp in wonder and laugh until it hurts.
Brooklyn Rider • April 10, 2019 • Jamf Theatre • String quartet Brooklyn Rider offers eclectic repertoire in gripping performances that continue to attract legions of fans and draw rave reviews from classical, world, and rock critics alike.
Aaron Diehl • April 11, 2019 • RCU Theatre • Pianist Aaron Diehl is one of the country’s most sought after jazz virtuosos. Diehl’s meticulously thought-out performances, collaborations, and compositions are a leading force in today’s generation of jazz contemporaries, spearheading a distinct union of traditional and fresh artistry.
Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo • April 17, 2019 • RCU Theatre • Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo have established themselves as an international dance phenomenon. Playful, brilliant, entertaining, high art and high camp; this company of professional male dancers performing the full range of the ballet and modern dance repertoire is unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
Farewell Angelina •April 19, 2019 • RCU Theatre • An all-female country group featuring four powerhouse vocalists, dynamic songwriters and badass multi instrumentalists. Together Farewell Angelina’s magic blend of a multitude of stringed instruments, two blazing violins, and unique harmonies have taken Nashville by storm, and that enthusiasm is now spreading – thanks in part to live shows that bring down the house.
The Pablo Center’s live music program is called Set List, where they plan to bring some nationally-renowned musicians to Eau Claire for one-of-a-kind performances. More show announcements are on the way, but here are three already-announced Set List shows.
Phil Cook• October 20, 2018 • Jamf Theatre Ray LaMontagne • October 29, 2018 • RCU Theatre The Tallest Man On Earth • November 19, 2018 • RCU Theatre
CONSTITUENT GROUPS & SHOWS
Shows produced for the Pablo stage by the Chippewa Valley’s arts community.
Eau Claire Children’s Theatre Cinderella • Nov. 16-18, 2018 The Giver • Jan. 4, 2019 Dragons Love Tacos • Feb. 8-9, 2019 Disney's Beauty and the Beast • March 15-17, 2019 Peter Pan • July 24-28, 2019
Volume One True North • Nov. 16-17, 2018 Hullabaloo • June 1, 2019
Master Singers America, My Home 2018 • Oct. 14, 2018
UW-Eau Claire A Grand Night for Singing • Nov. 8-9, 2018 Holiday Concert • December 9, 2018 She Kills Monsters • December 11-16, 2018 The House of Blue Leaves • March 7-9, 13-17, 2019 Confluence Dance Project • Apr. 4-5, 2019 Don Giovanni • May 9-12, 2019
Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra October Concert • Oct. 6, 2018 December Concert with Special Guest Chippewa Valley Jazz Orchestra • Dec. 8, 2018 February Concert • Feb. 2, 2019 March Concert • March 2, 2019 May Concert • May 18, 2019
Eau Claire Chamber Orchestra A New Era • Sept. 29, 2018 Baroque Treasures • Nov. 10, 2018 Family and Friends • Jan. 26, 2019 Norwegian Conference with special guest The Master Singers • March 23, 2019 American Dreams • May 4, 2019
Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild Fun Home • Oct. 4-7, 2018 Mamma Mia! • Apr. 25-28, 2019 Footloose the Musical • June 27-30, 2019
Chippewa Valley Jazz Orchestra Wayne Bergeron • Oct. 19, 2018 WISCO In The House with guest artists Andrew Neesley & Mel Flannery • Feb. 23, 2019 Trombone-orama with special guest Andy Martin • May 3, 2019
Exhibitions running at the Pablo Center’s two free, open-to-the-public art galleries highlighting the best of regional and national artists across a variety of media.
James W. Hansen Gallery Homecoming: The Confluence of Art Annual Exhibition • September 22 - October 19, 2018 We Went To The Woods: Artwork inspired by the wild outdoors • October 26 - December 7, 2018 Luminis Artis: The Art of Light • December 14, 2018 - January 25, 2019 Give The Best That You Have In You: UW-Eau Claire Alumni Art Exhibit • February 1 - March 15, 2019 Fabulous Florals & Fine Art • March 20-24, 2019 Then: Founding Artists of the Chippewa Valley • March 29 - May 17, 2019 Now: Emerging Artists of the Chippewa Valley • May 24 - July 12, 2019 Footprints/Memories: Eco art and the global canvas • July 19 - September 6, 2019
Graham Avenue Walking Gallery An Artist Forever: Highlights of the Laurie Bieze Permanent Art Collection • September 22 - November 9, 2018 A Seat At The Table: Women Artists of the Chippewa Valley • November 16, 2018 - January 18, 2019 Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra: Student Art Exhibit • January 25 - March 15, 2019 Fabulous Florals & Fine Art • March 20-24, 2019 Everything You Can Imagine Is Real: An exhibit of high school student art • March 29 - May 31, 2019 Reflected Light: GO Paint and the Art of Plein Air Painting in the Chippewa Valley • June 7 - August, 2019
BOX OFFICE & TICKETING
Tickets for the 2018-19 season will be available for purchase via the Pablo Center website on Thursday, August 23 at 10am. Visit PabloCenter.org for more information, a full listing of events, and to order tickets when they go on sale. Tickets will only be available for purchase online for the time being. The box office will officially open on Saturday, September 22. For questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
PABLO CENTER GRAND OPENING
Grand Opening Celebration • September 22, 2018 • 12pm - 5:30pm • Free and Open to the Public A day and night of community, art, and gala celebration. The Pablo Center opens its doors with a day of free public performances, where you can explore the building, grab a bite to eat from local food trucks, visit the art galleries, and enjoy music and dance by some of the Chippewa Valley’s best.
Rare Treasures • September 22, 2018 • 7:30pm • Tickets Available Online August 23 The RCU stage is the setting for Cabinet of Curiosities, a theatrical and musical celebration of the nature of wonder. Terrene is a Pablo Center commissioned world premiere work pairing images by designer/sculptor/puppeteer Chris M. Green with the music of UW-Eau Claire resident composer Chiayu Hsu. The second half of the program is called Firebird, a lush puppet and dance masterpiece telling an epic tale of good and evil, integrating light, puppetry, and Stravinsky’s thrilling music played by the Chippewa Valley Symphony Orchestra directed by Nobuyoshi Yasuda.
The brown recluse – a one-third-inch-long spider with a violin-shaped marking near its head – recently made headlines for apparently biting some Chippewa Valley residents. While this bite can lead to swelling, pain, and even necrosis (tissue death), fortunately the species is rare in Wisconsin. It is one of only two venomous spiders in Wisconsin, the other being the northern black widow.
Two species of rattlesnakes – the timber rattler and the eastern massasauga – are native to Wisconsin. Fortunately for you ophidiophobes, both critters are usually found only in southwestern Wisconsin and both are fairly rare: Massasaugas are actually an endangered species and Timber Rattlers are most frequently found playing minor league baseball in Appleton. And while they are venomous, they are rarely deadly: There’s been only one rattlesnake-related death in the state since 1900.
When it comes to bites, you’re far more likely to be targeted by ticks than snakes. The worst is the tiny black-legged tick – a.k.a. the deer or bear tick – which often carries Lyme disease. About 40,000 cases of Lyme have been identified in Wisconsin since 1990. Ticks can carry other nasty infections, too, including babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and spotted fever rickettsiosis. If you’re headed into the underbrush, spray down with DEET, wear long pants and sleeves, and check your bodily nooks and crannies for the critters.
Fun fact: More than 50 mosquito species call Wisconsin home! Unfun fact: Their females are looking for their next "blood meal," and it could be you! Besides their annoying bites, mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus and La Crosse encephalitis. In rare cases, both ailments can be deadly, which is all the more reason to generally avoid these bloodsuckers.
The white-tailed deer is actually one of Wisconsin’s deadliest animals. According to the Department of Transportation, there are at least 20,000 vehicle/deer crashes annually, 15 to 20 percent of which cause injury. In 2017 alone, nine people died as a result of these crashes.
One of the most unique tributes to the State Theatre was created with technology unimaginable during the days of vaudeville and silent film when the theater was built. Braedon Laundrie, a 19-year-old Eau Claire native and UW-Eau Claire sophomore, recently posted to Facebook a 2-minute, 30-second virtual walk-though of the theater built with the video game “Minecraft.”
Inspired “mostly just out of boredom,” Braedon decided three or four months ago to create a detailed model of a real-world location. He selected the State because he’s spent so much time there onstage, backstage, and in the orchestra pit. Braedon’s first State Theatre memory is from 2004, when he saw his father, Tony, perform in the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Braedon was soon acting himself – a personal highlight was flying over the stage in the ECCT’s “Peter Pan” in 2006 – and for the past few years has played drums in the orchestra for numerous ECCT and Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild productions.
Relying most on memory, Braedon used the world-building video game to create the walk-though, meticulously creating a three-dimensional rendering of the theater’s marquee, lobby, balcony, stage, orchestra pit, dressing rooms, and more. The hardest parts of the project, he says, were getting the scale correct and making the virtual lights work. (Within the walk-though, a player can raise and lower the house and stage lights.)
Braedon figured his creation would only interest a few theater friends, so he was surprised when it started gaining thousands of views on Facebook and grabbed the attention of local media outlets.
“It is sad that the State is closing, but with the Confluence opening it provides a lot of opportunities that might be more fun than the State,” he said.
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.
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 • 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.com • Dust 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)
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
“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)
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: 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)
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.
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.”
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."
Nearly 4-in-10 deadly car accidents in Eau Claire involve alcohol, says a USA Today article that ranks the drunkest cities in the United States. Eau Claire came in second in this not-so-favorable piece, which takes into account how many adults drink heavily or binge drink, how many driving deaths involve alcohol, median income, and an estimated number of restaurants and bars in the area.
The article reports that 26.2 percent of adults in Eau Claire meet the Centers for Disease Control’s criteria for drinking to excess. This includes binge drinking (drinking enough to reach a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration), heavy drinking (typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week for men, or 8 drinks or more per week for women), alcohol use by people younger than 21, and alcohol use by pregnant women.
According to USA Today, Wisconsin is home to nine of the top 20 drunkest cities, with Green Bay coming in number one. In Green Bay, alcohol is involved in half of all deadly car accidents. For more information on CDC definitions concerning alcohol, check out the CDC website.