2016 Music Festivals

take some of the biggest names in the music industry, and make a weekend of it

V1 Staff, Eric Christenson, photos by Luong Huynh, Caitlyn Berlin

Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival

Fans got into the spirit with the no bs! brass band as the band paraded around the grounds at last year’s eaux claires music and arts festival.
Fans got into the spirit with the No BS! Brass Band as the band paraded around the grounds at last year’s Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival.

Last year’s Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival (pictured above) was shrouded in mystery all spring. “Is Kanye West gonna be there?” “The name seems kinda confusing...” “What’s all this art stuff all about?” “Seriously, WHERE’S KANYE?!” It wasn’t until they opened the gates on the first day of the festival that we could get the full scope of everything (and ... no Kanye) that had previously only been brewing in the brains of Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Aaron Dessner (The National), and creative director Michael Brown. Various art installations lit up the grounds with delightful weirdness while musical acts from nearly every conceivable genre took to the stages and wowed Chippewa Valley audiences with sounds you don’t hear around here that often. Now in year two, Eaux Claires looks to capitalize on its inaugural successes with an even more bombastic lineup of musicians: R&B queen Erykah Badu, thundering UK producer James Blake, soft rock legend Bruce Hornsby, hazy indie rock darlings Beach House, alt-metal heroes Deafheaven, fierce rapper Vince Staples, and psych-rock heavy-hitters Unknown Mortal Orchestra make up merely a few of the highlights on this year’s crazy lineup. And of course, we’ll get a headlining set from Bon Iver as well the only live performance of the Day of the Dead, an enormous, star-studded tribute to The Grateful Dead. Catch more great music, thrilling art, and good vibes here in year two. Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival • Aug. 12 & 13 • Foster Farm, Crescent Ave., Eau Claire • eauxclaires.com

Blue Ox Music Festival

Pert Near Sandstone played at sunset during last year’s Blue Ox. This year they’ll pluck around on both Friday and Saturday night.
Pert Near Sandstone played at sunset during last year’s Blue Ox. This year they’ll pluck around on both Friday and Saturday night.

“The rain was almost unbelievable. WE got almost six inches of rain over the course of three days. if you want people to remember the first year that’s the way to do it.” – Jim Bischel, president of Blue Ox and Country Jam

Bluegrass, for being a somewhat niche genre, has a passionate and fun-loving audience all over the globe. So it’s no surprise that the Blue Ox Music Festival, which also made its debut last year, is quickly gaining fiery support in the area and reverberating across the country as one of the best music festivals for the entire genre. Seriously, the caliber of acts the organizers (who also put on Country Jam later in the summer) have been able to bring through our humble community is astounding, and it’s crazy to think that it all almost got washed away last year. Mid-weekend, powerful summer rainstorms picked up and unleashed a torrent on Blue Ox’s first-ever crowds and turned the Whispering Pines Campground into a Woodstock-level mud pit. “The rain was almost unbelievable,” said Jim Bischel, president of Country Jam and Blue Ox. “We got almost six inches of rain over the course of three days. If you want people to remember the first year, that’s the way to do it.” Bischel remembers last year quite fondly, and that’s because of the music and the atmosphere. Now this year, with the direction of Minneapolis pluckers Pert Near Sandstone, Blue Ox is primed to really show you what this festival is capable of. This year’s lineup is basically a Who’s Who of the bluegrass genre – and then some – with the likes of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Sam Bush, Railroad Earth, Blitzen Trapper, and Greensky Bluegrass. Not to mention the return of the Grammy-winning Del McCoury Band – who through some stroke of magic from the music gods will be joined this year by members of the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band. There will be enhanced lighting, better sound, a bigger stage, and Bell’s Brewery is the main beer distributor this year. Blue Ox is still smaller in scope than most of the other festivals in the area, but by perennially bringing in astounding acts like these, it will be well-known as one of the best bluegrass festivals in the country. In the meantime, it’ll be our little secret. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain again, OK? Blue Ox Music Festival • June 9-11 • Whispering Pines Campground, Eau Claire • blueoxmusicfestival.com

Country Fest

 A couple of country fans couldn’t resist a selfie at Country Fest last year.
A couple of country fans couldn’t resist a selfie at Country Fest last year.

As far as country music festivals go, we’re blessed to have two amazing ones in our proximity. This year, Cadott’s Country Fest is celebrating its 30th anniversary of bringing huge country stars our little corner of Wisconsin. It’s a big year for the festival, which has grown into something truly special in the heart of the Dairyland. This year, the headliners are ripped right from the top of the country charts with Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, and Sam Hunt bringing their down-home stylings to delighted country fans from all over the state. The 30th anniversary celebration boasts o ver 50 bands, and if that doesn’t satisfy you, maybe the huge variety of food vendors, interactive games, carnival rides, photo booths, and good times will. But you should stay for the music. Country Fest • June 16-19 • Cadott Festival Grounds • countryfest.com

Rock Fest

If you’re going to rock out at Rock Fest, make sure your hair game is on point.
If you’re going to rock out at Rock Fest, make sure your hair game is on point.

Rock Fest in Cadott is nothing short of a celebration of the hardest, most badass music that exists today. Heading up the festival is Slipknot, who are gearing up to unleash some pure metal punishment on local crowds. Catch special performances by huge bands like The Hollywood Vampires (made up of Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, and actor Johnny Depp), Marilyn Manson, Alice in Chains, Five Finger Death Punch, and Rise Against. There’s no shortage of capital-R Rock at this annual party. And if this is your thing, this year the festival is adding other stuff to mix including freak shows, sideshows, and tattoo parlors. Rock fans are clamoring for tickets (the initial presale sold out in under two hours), so get yours quick or run the risk of missing out on Rock Fest in the flesh. Rock Fest • July 14-16 • Cadott Festival Grounds • rock-fest.org

Country Jam

Gary Allan brought some good times to last year’s Country Jam.
Gary Allan brought some good times to last year’s Country Jam.

Arguably the Chippewa Valley’s biggest party of the year, Country Jam is back for their 27th year (30th if you count the first three years when it was called Shake, Rattle, and Roll). This year, the festival grounds south of town will light up with country music’s biggest stars swinging through Eau Claire for three days of cowboy boots, beer, and the Chippewa Valley sunshine. This year is headed up by Jason Aldean, ACM’s Entertainer of the Year, plus a slew of unbelievable huge acts like The Band Perry, Florida Georgia Line, Jake Owen, and Clare Dunn. “It’s a hugely popular genre of music for one thing, and the events are fun,” said Bischel. “It’s high-energy and a fun crowd. Even if you’re not particularly fond of the music, it’s still a really fun experience.” Country Jam • July 21-23 • Country Jam Grounds, Crescent Ave. • countryjamwi.com

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