Opening Letters

Giving (And Receiving) the Gift of Music

an overflowing calendar and a profusion of tickets makes this fan thankful for the Valley’s scene

Bonni Knight |

Savannah Smith
Savannah Smith

‘Tis the season to think of music! But I’m not talking about the fa-la-la-la-la stuff (although, I love that, too). I’m talking about the get-up-off-your-couch and go catch the live music scene. The other morning, I was just doing my usual wake up, sip coffee, and check social media thing when I saw a great concert mentioned, so I grabbed a couple of tickets. Then another one popped up, and I bought a couple more.

Suddenly, I realized, “I have six shows in six weeks at six different venues!” Do you have any idea how amazing that is? Do you?

Everyone knows that the Eau Claire music scene has gained a national reputation, but have you been paying attention lately? All kinds of diverse music is going on all over town! Musicians and venues are working hard to validate our rep as the Music Capital of the North. I’m all in – and you should be, too!

When Eau Claire, city and county, passed the referendum in 2014 to support the Confluence Project, many of us were expressing our support for the performing arts and our burgeoning creative economy. Now, it’s time to step up and step out.

And since it’s the season (and now I am talking about the fa-la-la-la-la stuff!) why not give the gift of tickets to a show? So many venues doing great shows, and it’s not just music. We’ve got strong local theater organizations, storytelling shows, and a great comedy scene.

It’s becoming more and more trendy to give experiences, not stuff. I mean, think about it. What do you remember most? Things or time spent? And if you give the right tickets to the right person, it could be like buying yourself a present, too. (Wink, wink!)

These shows were affordable, ranging in price from free to $30. So now you’re giving music and an experience, and at decent prices! And there’s something for everyone out there. If you’re wondering how to find all these shows, start at our Volume One events calendar online. But following a couple of venues or your favorite musicians on social media could narrow things down for you.

I love music. I use it for everything: to comfort, to console, to uplift, to celebrate, to inspire, to transport me, and to keep me present. This holiday season, I’m thankful to live in a place filled with gifted musicians. What a gift!

My 2018 Eau Claire Winter Music Sampler: Six Shows at Six Venues in Six Weeks

1. Tallest Man on Earth at the Pablo Center • Nov. 19, 8pm, $30 • I’ve been a huge fan for a few years, but never had the chance to see Kristian Matsson perform live. This was also the first show officially booked in our state-of-the-art, brand new Pablo Center at the Confluence, so I actually bought these tickets in March. Tallest Man’s music is passionate and fraught with deep lyrics. He’s not tall at all, but his music is big enough to fill your heart.

2. Stage Fright 9 at The Metro • Nov. 21, 7:30pm, $12 • This re-enactment of The Band’s last concert, immortalized in the film and album The Last Waltz, is an annual tradition. Local musicians unite to recreate an epic night of the best music from the ’60s and ’70s. This show speaks to me as a local music fan but it sings to my baby boomer soul.

3. Hartman/Sunde/Leonard/Lester at Red’s Mercantile • Dec. 5, 8pm, $8 • Shane Leonard, Jon Sunde, Courtney Hartman, and Ben Lester are debuting their first-ever joint tour. This will be an evening of singer-songwriter material, played together in the round. Becca Cooke (aka Red) has only hosted a couple of other concerts so this will be a unique experience. Following their gig at Red’s, the group heads out to Minneapolis, Bangor, and Viroqua, before finishing in Madison.

4. Savannah Smith at The Local Store & Volume One Gallery • Dec. 8, 7pm, free • Savannah is a singer/songwriter whose pure voice and alluring lyrics will truly charm you. Accompanying herself with guitar or ukulele, her combination of original songs and a few select covers will warm your heart on a cold winter night.

5. Ben Shaw and Bri Murphy at Pine Hollow Studio • Dec. 14, 7pm, $15 • Ben Shaw’s vocals and lyrics hit me right in the heart, so this ticket was a no-brainer. Bri is a local girl gone to Nashville, where she writes and performs her beautiful songs. With a touch of country and a gorgeous voice, Bri will make the trek to the secluded studio worth your while.

6. Pat McCurdy at The Plus • Jan. 3, 8pm, $6 • I’ve been a huge Pat McCurdy fan for years. I’ve jumped up on stage and danced with him! He plays original tunes, mostly humorous, and crushes the cover song game. His music and improv skills are fantastic. He hasn’t played locally in a few years, so I’m excited to welcome him back!