Thursday, Jun. 8th, 2017

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Throws Eau Claire Some Love

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, Jun. 6th, 2017
Thursday, Jun. 1st, 2017

2 More Magazines Hype Eau Claire in Advance of Eaux Claires Fest

Two more magazines have profiled Eau Claire (like here and here and here), this time targeting people who'll be in town for the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival (June 16 & 17). The big music fest has drawn a lot of new attention to the area, causing some publications to look closer at the Chippewa Valley as a travel destination, and these are no exception. 

Milwaukee Magazine's profile, straightforwardly titled "Heading to the Eaux Claires Music Festival? Here's Your Guide to Eau Claire," does a ton of name dropping, plugging The French Press, Milwaukee Burger Company, The Classic Garage, Bijou Bistro, Leinenkugel's Brewery, Autumn Harvest Winery, UW-Eau Claire, the Chippewa River State Trail, the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market, and The Oxbow Hotel. They even list a number of non-Eaux Claires events happening that weekend.

Meanwhile, Madison Magazine featured Eau Claire in its post 7 Wisconsin Area Road Trips, mentioning the Acoustic Café, Sculpture Tour Eau Claire, the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market, the Chippewa River State Trail, Northwest Park, Lazy Monk Brewing, The Brewing Projekt, Lowes Creek County Park, Infinity Beverages, and more. 

Seems like articles like these have been popping up more and more – and there's sure to be more on the way.

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Wednesday, May. 31st, 2017

Well, This Is Embarrassing

The Washington Post today (among others) is talking about a recent bit of data from Google Trends. In honor of the National Spelling Bee (happening this week), Google wanted to find out what words the people in each of our 50 glorious States of the Union have trouble spelling. 

To do this, employees looked at Google searches of “how to spell ______” in each of the states from Jan. 1 to April 30 this year. Whatever word filled that blank most often in each state became denoted as that state’s “most misspelled word.” – Washington Post

And as the Wa-Po is unfortunately careful to point out, "People in Wisconsin, for example, most frequently searched for how to spell Wisconsin."

Wow. Well, if it's any consolation, Minnesotans appear to struggle when spelling  "beautiful." (It isn't.) Remember people, when you spell "Wisconsin," you've spelled it all. 


NOTE: We removed a correction to this article, because the correction was inaccurate. More on that here.

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Thursday, May. 25th, 2017

Fairfax Pool Opens for Season on May 27

Dive into summer as Fairfax Pool opens for the season Saturday, May 27.

The outdoor pool will be open from 2 to 6pm May 27, Saturday and May 28, Sunday, and then from noon to 6pm Monday, May 29, before resuming its regular season schedule.

Eau Claire Parks and Recreation will be selling discounted season passes through Friday, May 26. All passes are being sold 10 percent off their regular rates.

Tuesday, May 30 through Sept. 3, Fairfax Pool will operate under its normal hours:

➜ 11:30am to 7pm Mondays through Fridays
➜ 11:30am to 6pm Saturdays
➜ 1pm to 6pm Sundays

Without a pass, daily admission fees are $4.25 per person or $3.75 per person for groups of 15 people or more.

Picnic pavilion rentals are available at $10 an hour for birthday parties, family picnics, reunions, meetings or just to secure a shaded place for your group. After-hour pool rentals also are available for $225 for groups of 100 or fewer, adding $2 for each additional person, up to $525 for groups of 300 or more.

Passes can be purchased in person from 8am–5pm weekdays at the Parks and Recreation Administrative Office, 915 Menomonie St. or at Fairfax Pool, 4200 Fairfax St. For more information, contact Eau Claire Parks and Recreation at 715-839-5032.

 

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3 Takeaways: Fitbit Names Eau Claire One of America’s Fittest Cities

As they (apparently) do every year, international fitness gizmo manufacturer Fitbit had researchers look at data from over 10 million Fitbit users nationwide, taking into account the following metrics:

• Duration of sleep per night
• Daily Reminders to Move goals met
• Daily steps
• Daily active minutes
• Resting heart rate

And they’ve used that data for a ranking of the Fittest Cities in America. And as it shakes out, Eau Claire came in at number 3. Some takeaways:

1. Wisconsin did OK!

We had 3 Sconnie cities in Fitbit’s top 6 “fittest” cities ...

1. Duluth, MN
2. Appleton, WI
3. Eau Claire, WI
4. Boulder, CO
5. Bellingham, WA
6. Madison, WI

2. Eau Claire sleeps the bestest

With an average of 7 hours, 6 minutes and 43 seconds per night, Eau Claire’s Fitbit users slept the most of all cities in the study. Here’s a somewhat hilarious graphic:

3. We were #4 in steppin' out

“Fitbit users in Appleton, Wisconsin are the highest steppers, averaging 8,208 a day, and Green Bay, Wisconsin took the second slot. Two cities in Minnesota also made the top 10: Duluth, No. 3, and Rochester, No. 8.”

1. Appleton, WI
2. Green Bay, WI
3. Duluth, MN
4. Eau Claire, WI
5. Boston, MA

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Monday, May. 22nd, 2017

Is Eau Claire the “best small town” in Wisconsin?

Phoenix Park, Eau Claire
Phoenix Park, Eau Claire

Here’s yet another internet list on which we find the fair city of Eau Claire.

Thrillist’s recent rundown of THE BEST SMALL TOWN TO VISIT IN ALL 50 STATES explores America’s small towns as inexpensive travel destinations, saying, “They’re ideal for young kids and retirees, two groups who favor the chiller things in life: short walks, sunny parks, uncrowded beaches, unhurried conversations. Small-towners also dig on taffy, chicken-fried steak, old-timey train stations, historical markers, quirky festivals, driving barefoot ... nodding hello to strangers, and other things that never really go out of style.”

Take that as you will.

Most towns on this list have populations in the 500-20,000 range, but Eau Claire took the Wisconsin spot despite its 67,500+ citizenship.

To no one’s surprise, Thrillist cites Justin Vernon and the upcoming Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival as reasons to visit. But they also mention our new downtown hotels, favoring The Oxbow for its locally sourced food and unique amenities. They also namecheck Phoenix Park and Lazy Monk Brewing while praising our trails and waterways. Here’s the full blurb on Eau Claire:

Wisconsin: Eau Claire

Population: 67,680

Eau Claire is a hair over our 60k population cap, but it's still one hell of a spot to spend a low-key weekend. Bon Iver frontman and Eau Claire native Justin Vernon chose this city to set up camp for the Eaux Claires Music Festival -- head there in June to see the likes of Feist, Wilco, and Chance the Rapper. Two hip boutique hotels just opened downtown, our favorite being the The Oxbow, with locally sourced grub at The Lakely, a stage, and an art gallery -- plus, every room has a phonograph with free vinyl records to rent at the front desk. But don’t hole up in your room. Surrounded by lush farmlands, Eau Claire earned its name for its crystal-clear waters, so take advantage of the stunning river trails and over 1,000 acres of parks. At the relatively new Phoenix Park, you can hit the farmers market, then cross the river to Lazy Monk Brewing for craft beer flights (the rye IPA is awesome). -- D.N. and Josh Mellin, Thrillist contributor

Travelers looking for a small town twofer are in luck as nearby Stillwater was the pick for Minnesota.

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Friday, May. 19th, 2017

Eaux Claires Goes Huge on 2017 Art Installations

The Big Eaux will return to Eaux Claires in 2017.
"The Big EAUX" will return to Eaux Claires in 2017.

The Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival is just about four weeks away, and they just announced their mind-bending slate of visual arts, performance pieces, sound installations, artistic collaborations, and literature events that will happen at Troix on June 16 and 17. Getting a glimpse like this at some of the experiential works the curators have planned is making the festival more real than ever.

This year, we’re seeing festival mainstays like The Banks evolve into different landscapes, new works from artists featured at Eaux Claires past like VNESSWOLFCHILD, Chuck-U, and Chippewa Valley native Davy Sumner’s sound installation work. We’ll get to see tons of wild new ideas play out, including some seriously large-scale sculptures, live painting, murals, dance performances, new stages with new designs, and a "Mom Booth,” where a bunch of real moms (even some of the artist’s moms) will hang out and talk to fest-goers and give hugs and motherly life advice. And lest we forget “The Big EAUX” installation by Eau Claire’s Antic Studios greeting you on the way into the grounds. Plus, we’ll get to see the work of Eau Claire artists Holli Jacobsen, who’s creating a “Moss Cave” in the woods, and Kevin Michael Scheid, who will make tons of balloon art and release them during musical performances.

If you head over to the www.eauxclaires.com, you can see the full digital presentation of the lineup (and also learn more and buy tickets). Here’s the arts lineup in full:

"Partitioning”

Artist: Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels (New York, NY)
Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels is an Australian-American sculptor who makes large-scale installations inspired by fantastical blueprint drawings.

“Fluid Process"

Artist: The Pickup Music Project (Boston, MA)
"Fluid Process" is an interactive sound sculpture that makes music with falling water.

“Tremolos"

Artist: Intermedio | Eric Blyth, Sam Ferris-Morris, Justin West (Cincinnati, OH)
“Tremolos" is a multichannel speaker installation that explores the physical expression of amplitude modulation.

“no [space] for time"

Artist: Concrete Pig (Minneapolis, MN)
This installation eludes any sense of reality we are accustomed to. Another world altogether, scratches in film, media consumed, past forgotten. All in an illusion where rocks float to the surface.

“SOURCE"

Artist: Erlend Neumann (Hudson, NY)
This sculpture exemplifies Neumann’s sculptural approach of minimal yet complex forms which can have multiple arrangements which work with the physical and the negative space.

“Sparreaux"

Artist: Erlend Neumann (Hudson, NY)
Expanding on the work displayed in Neumann's “SOURCE" installation(s), The design for the “Sparreaux" stage is a take-off from the classic tweeter design found in loud-speakers. The intention is to create a structure which is beautiful and can assist in the projection of sound naturally through its form.

“The Banks”

Artists: Michael Brown and Clearwing Productions (Eau Claire / Milwaukee, WI)
The next evolution of the "The Banks" continues the creative initiative set out from the first two editions of Eaux Claires. The mission of this performance space is to alter how audience and artist interact with an emphasis on incorporating experimenal video and audio elements to produce a unique viewing environment. For Troix, "The Banks" will be an experimental venue-in-the-round that is set amongst the woods and encourages audiences to move around the performance area and experience impromptu sets from multiple vantage points.

“The Ampools”

Artists: Michael Brown and Carl Faber (Eau Claire, WI / Portland, OR)
Lighting designers Carl Faber and Michael Brown have been collaborating together since their introduction at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2005. Expanding on their work from previous editions of Eaux Claires, "The Ampools" is a site-specific lighting installation that encompasses the entire festival grounds. This year includes more area to discover in the woods as you explore Eaux Claires at night.

“The Big EAUX"

Artist: Antic Studios (Eau Claire, WI)
Returning for its third incarnation at Eaux Claires, "The Big EAUX" is a 3D-mapped art installation by Antic Studios - a local production company widely known for intricate stage designs and stunning visual content.  Standing at close to 8' tall and 40' wide, the installation is a perfect reminder of our place and time over the weekend.

“Mom Booth”

Artist: Andy DuCett (Minneapolis, MN)
Ask about life’s big questions, get a hug or some help with your homework, and grab some sunscreen from Mom. Staffed by real moms from the local community, including mothers of artists at the festival, the "Mom Booth" is an opportunity to engage with the familiar notions of motherhood and see how they change from person to person.

“The Woods: A Way of Seeing Things" from 2016.

“The Woods: A Way of Seeing Things"

Artists: Krista Stout, Sol McCormick, and Joseph Stout (Minneapolis, MN)
Making its second appearance at Eaux Claires, "The Woods" is an invitation to see things. It's an invitation to look past the meadow's mown grass to where things are a little shadier, a little more secret, a little wilder. 

“Crickets"

Artist: Chris Kallmyer (Los Angeles, CA)
One thousand live crickets are amplified throughout the Eaux Claires woods. Installed in their natural environment, the crickets create a sound that points to memory, the passage of time, and the poetics of place.

“The Living Room"

Artists: Andy DuCett and Chris Kallmyer (Minneapolis, MN / Los Angeles, CA)
An Upper Midwestern living room planted in the Eaux Claires woods. Come take a nap, watch the trees from the couch, or listen to some sounds on our vintage stereo console. If you're lucky, those sounds may just be impromptu listening sessions of unreleased music from our artists and friends.

“NEON FOREST GALAXY”

Artist: Kristina Rolander (Milwaukee, WI)
For Eaux Claires III, Kristina will create an immersive stage design uniting art, audience, and performer in a heightened sensorial experience. With diorama-inspired structures, hanging elements, and handpainted backdrops, the musicians will perform inside a custom-made environment. By utilizing specific paints, the colors will transform under different lights, from day into night. The stage design itself will never change, however one’s perception of it will. The final piece will be a truly site-specific work, infused with the spirit of the surrounding forest, prairie, and land. 

“Eddy Currents"

Artist: Davy Sumner (Los Angeles, CA)
Eddy Currents is a mechatronic percussion instrument, named for a shared phenomenon between loops of electrical current and analogous circular motions in rivers. Steel spheres are propelled by electromagnetic forces to create abrupt attacks and granular decays as elements in a spatialized, chaotic composition. Residual energies from the coiled magnets are funneled to create underwater eddies that visually echo and sustain the electrical pulses of the music

“WORMS"

Artist: VNESSWOLFCHILD (Detroit, MI)
A roaming and evolving performance art project taking form in different shapes and configurations throughout the festival. The less you know, the better your interpretation.

“DECORUM"

Artist: John Mark Creative (Minneapolis, MN)
John Mark is a Choreographer and Creative Director whose clients include Lizzo, Har Mar Superstar, Weird Al Yancovik, Tickle Torture, the Afghan Whigs, Little Scream, the New Pornographers, and many more. “DECORUM," an original dance series for Eaux Claires, is inspired by PSA's from the 1960's and other questionable guides to life.

"Balloon Artist"

Artist: Kevin Michael Scheid (Eau Claire, WI)
Kevin Michael Scheid inflates balloons of different shapes and sizes during concerts, as a form of performance art. He sets them free over large crowds in hopes of encouraging participation, while creating wonderment and spreading joy. All are invited to interact with, play, and have fun with the balloons throughout the duration of Eaux Claires III.

“Crescent Field”

Artist: Kelie Bowman (Brooklyn, NY / Sunset, SC)
Kelie Bowman's current body of work explores the ephemeral qualities of light by shifting depth and distance in a still medium. "Crescent Field" portrays multiple landscapes at once as if looking through a kaleidoscopic horizon. These large-scale murals encourage a considered connection to our environment and speak of shifting landscapes, rising waters, and exploring the vastness of space and nature.

“The Driftless Area: Trapezoidal Study"

Artists: Burlesque Public Works Division (Minneapolis, MN)
This installation will be a base layer consisting of three walls, separate yet together, which will become a composition built up of layers of painted and physical typography and signage. 

“We Were Seeds"

Artist: Landon Sheely (La Crosse, WI)
Classically untrained and foolishly optimistic, Landon Sheely hopes to hearten the viewer, often using childlike form and idealism, typically through print, but also making common use of any medium that doesn’t require patience or precision.

“Live Painting by Justin Orvis Steimer"

Artist: Justin Orvis Steimer (New York, NY)
Justin Orvis Steimer will live-paint during the festival in reaction to the music being created around him.

“Where Peggy-O Meets Mandolin Rain"

Artist: Casey O’Connell (San Francisco, CA)
This mural was orignally created during Eaux Claires 2016, with its completion following the close of the festival. Troix marks the first time this work has been made accessible for public viewing.

“CHUCK-U Coloring Wall"

Artist: Chuck-U (Minneapolis, MN)
Chuck-U is a prolific illustrator and artist making his second appearance at Eaux Claires. He draws strange creatures in strange environments in a style that can be described as “very linesey” as in, he uses lots of lines. At this year's festival Chuck will be creating a site-specific work that encourages audience and participants to help fill in the lines and color the wall as the piece evolves.

“The Poetry of Eleanor Perry Smith"

Artist: Eleanor Perry Smith (Denver, CO / Milwaukee, WI)
Eleanor Perry-Smith is a performance poet and writer. Her work blends classic verse with contemporary grit.

"Eaux Claires Literary Program"

Narrator: Michael Perry (Eau Claire, WI)
Writers: Dean Bakopoulos & Alissa Nutting, Mary Cutrufello, Guante, Daniel José Older, Patti See
This year fest features lots of writers, and again they will meet fest-goers in a quiet place. And in the spirit of collaboration and crossover, the writers will all appear and pop up in other contexts throughout the grounds.

“Moss Cave"

Artist: Holli Jacobson (Eau Claire, WI), with Lang Jacobson, Elizabeth Harclerode and Dagmar Beckel-Machyckova
"Moss Cave" is a sheltered bed of moss that encourages visitors to stop, rest, listen, and return to the festival with renewed energy.

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Tuesday, May. 16th, 2017

The Great Pagoda Rescue

Salvaging the pagoda in May 2014.
Salvaging the pagoda in May 2014.

The saga of a quirky piece of Eau Claire’s architectural history took a positive turn recently when a local business offered space for the storage and repair of the iconic roof topper from Woo’s Pagoda Restaurant.

Chippewa Valley Door Co. in Chippewa Falls responded to a public plea from the Chippewa Valley Museum for indoor storage space for the 18-foot pagoda structure, which has been kept outside since 2014 when it was salvaged before the well-known Chinese restaurant was demolished. Another business, Live in Eau Claire, has offered to restore the pagoda, but it needs adequate indoor space in which to do so.

Chippewa Valley Door Co. is offering the use of a building with 14-foot doors and 20-foot ceilings, providing plenty of vertical space for the pagoda, said owner Rob Bearrood. The company, which installs and services garage doors, recently purchased the building that houses the Chippewa Herald, 321 Frenette Drive, Chippewa Falls.

Bearrood said he decided to offer the space after hearing media reports that the Chippewa Valley Museum would cease pursuing restoration efforts unless indoor storage was found. Chippewa Valley Museum Director Carrie Ronnander – who set that ultimatum in April – said she was excited by the offer. “It still has to go all the way through,” she noted, “but we’re much further along than we were before.”

Eau Claire construction firm Market & Johnson has offered to move the pagoda, but a date hasn’t been set.

Since it was salvaged in May 2014, the pagoda has been stored outdoors next to Banbury Place on Galloway Street. However, it has deteriorated because of exposure to the elements. Live in Eau Claire had previously offered to repair and display the structure at the Local Lounge, its restaurant on North Clairemont Avenue. A recent fundraising dinner at the Local Lounge netted $3,000 for the restoration project, which will cost an estimated $15,000, Ronnander said.

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Friday, May. 12th, 2017

It's True: Eau Claire's House of Rock to Close This Summer [UPDATED]

The House of Rock (Photo: Jesse Johnson)
The House of Rock, 2013 (Photo: Jesse Johnson)

One of Eau Claire’s longest running music venues, the House of Rock is closing this summer, they announced Thursday. The Water Street rock club's owner Steve Geitz – who also owns The Grand Illusion and The Brat Kabin – is selling it to local developer John Mogensen at the end of July. The space will be converted to two rentable commercial spaces (which could mean a lot of different things from stores to restaurants) with apartments above, but neither will be licensed as bars. Until then, shows will continue through July and the House of Rock aims to “close it out in style.”

"I’ve owned The G.I. since ’88 – I’ve been doing it for 30 years next year. I was 24 then, and I’m 54 now. Back then, 50 seemed so old. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about, downsizing one way or another," Geitz said. "John Mogensen and I have been talking for years, if not decades. This just seemed like the right time to do it. It’s been something that’s been really tough to do. This is a tough decision to make, but it’s the right one for me at this time."

The venerable Water Street venue has long been home to Decadent Cabaret, which will find a new home next spring, and has seen countless crazy nights of memorable live performances from almost every conceivable genre – from metal to hip hop to blues to folk to burlesque to improv. If you get a look at the green room behind the stage, the wall is spackled with the hundreds and hundreds of signatures, stickers, and messages from the bands that have played a show there.

Decadent Cabaret 2017 at the House of Rock. (Photo: Kelsey Smith)
Decadent Cabaret 2017 at the House of Rock (Photo: Kelsey Smith)

For Geitz, watching the House of Rock go is a bitter pill to swallow, but in terms of the Eau Claire music scene, he hopes the club's closure will spark some enthusiasm into fostering a new space for the diversity of artists that took the House of Rock stage week after week.

"It’s my hope that there will be some energy and creativity generated for people to come up with another idea," he said. "I hope venues realize that the bands are there, and you should treat them as well as you can, because they’re your bread and butter."

The House of Rock has no doubt been an extremely heavy presence in the Eau Claire music scene over the last 17 years, and tons of local artists developed their sound on that stage. One of the venue’s long time sound engineers, Danno said the House of Rock, which opened in 2000, will always have a special place in the heart of the local arts scene.

"I've been with Steve since the place opened and we have hosted some amazing shows over the years. It's fun to think back to the early '00s when the bands would just come out to enjoy the music and have a good time together, whether they were performing or not,” Danno said. "I got to see the birth of a lot of good projects along the way. Through the good times and the lean times, Steve always wanted to make sure there was a stage for the bands to play on and for live music to thrive. I hope someone seizes the opportunity to build the next stage that bands like Smack Davis, The Kingsnakes, Easychair, The Nicotines, Dinner With Gregg, or the Jim Pullman Band can come to life on – that someone like Justin Vernon experiments musically on, one that hosts some of the very first performances of Charlie Parr or Trampled By Turtles.”

The House of Rock at heart was a collaborative effort between the bar, the bands, booking agents, staff, managers, door people, artists, and more – and Geitz was quick to acknowledge the work that his crew put into the club.

"So many people have made the House Of Rock work – performers, my managers, my staff, all the sound techs, Danno’s been my sound tech since the beginning, different booking agents, Joey Gunderson, Nick Carroll ... having these people being on the same page and having them work together has been really rewarding," Geitz said.

The House of Rock, 2017 (Photo: Andrea Paulseth)
The House of Rock, 2016 (Photo: Andrea Paulseth)

Jon Olstadt has performed at the House of Rock since the club first opened – first with Venison and now with the Drunk Drivers. He’s seen tons of artists come through and perform on that stage, and he praised Geitz for fostering an important cornerstone of the Eau Claire creative community.

"I can’t think of a local performer or band that didn’t play there. The House helped make Eau Claire music what it is today. I’m proud to call Steve a friend and appreciative of his help as a supporter and collaborator. He deserves a huge debt of gratitude for his contributions to our community,” Olstadt said. "The closing of House of Rock leaves a huge hole in this town’s lineup of music venues. There was nothing like it here. As we watch our city move towards building an arts based creative economy, the closing of a venue like this illustrates the work that remains.”

Olstadt is working on one last musical mega-bash to say goodbye to the club in late July. Until then, the House of Rock will keep hosting shows over the next two months, slinging drinks, and letting the good times roll.

Photo: Lee Butterworth
2016 (Photo: Lee Butterworth)

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