13 Takeaways from the Eaux Claires Reddit AMA

Eric Christenson, photos by Luong Huynh

Bon Iver at Eaux Claires 2016.
Bon Iver at Eaux Claires 2016.

Last weekend, the creative team behind the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival – Justin Vernon, Michael Brown, Aaron Dessner, and Michael Perry – took to Reddit for an AMA (or “ask me anything” – a freewheelin’ Q&A message board with Reddit users) to discuss the upcoming festival’s third year on June 16 and 17 here in Eau Claire. The questions ranged from pointed, to thoughtful, to batsh*t crazy, to completely off-topic, to grateful, to excited fans looking for cool stuff to do Eau Claire. We sifted through the discussion, and here’s a few choice quotes:

Michael Brown, on utilizing the festival grounds in different ways

"Discovering the woods last year was a revelation. It just shows that we're constantly learning what can be accomplished in this place. l have explored these grounds endlessly and there really are some magical places that are definitely in future plans (the river?!?), but your safety, proper site planning, and the experience for every person in our audience is a massive focus for us (see Fyre Festival for examples of what not to do), so we take these decisions very seriously and attempt to only embark on an idea if we know that it can implemented correctly.”

Justin Vernon, on how he does Bon Iver while also managing a whole festival

"I'm just a musician who says things and then a bunch of talented people ignore half of it and do the other half and BAM presto! :)))))”

"Our dream is for all of downtown Eau Claire to engage with the festival and start booking shows on Thursday night. Even Wednesday night! There are so many venues in town. – Eaux Claires Artistic Director Michael Brown

Michael Brown, on the days leading up to the festival

"Our dream is for all of downtown Eau Claire to engage with the festival and start booking shows on Thursday night. Even Wednesday night! There are so many venues in town. But for sure there's going to a Pre-Show "oxbeaux" concert at the oxbow hotel. And I know there's another after show on thursday night planned at Pizza Plus (get those tickets now, because I think its going to be an insane show).”

Justin Vernon, on the possibility of developing more side projects

"sometimes, you don't want to go through the whole label and PR rigamarole... so ill just wait till we figure out what to do with all that music this year”

"I love the music in Eau Claire these days. We have so many studios, a COUPLE good places to play, and most of all Heart. But I hope people open up and allow themselves to fail and get better.” – Justin Vernon

Justin Vernon, on the Eau Claire music scene of today

"I love Eau Claire. Always have, always will. Ive lived there for 35 years. I spend time other places but I always come home. I could list 1000's of things about it which are perfect and resonate with me so deeply. The ONLY thing about itself, is that it can be unaware of certain things. I was in the music scene here for 10 years before I left for a year. In coming back, I noticed that there was so many things I would've loved to learn that I couldn't in Eau Claire. Musicallly, Otherwise. I love the music in Eau Claire these days. We have so many studios, a COUPLE good places to play, and most of all Heart. But I hope people open up and allow themselves to fail and get better.”

Justin Vernon, on whether or not Kendrick Lamar will do a surprise set

"I won't lie, we can't get Kendrick! But he is certainly OUR guy right now. as in, the Earth's guy. I can promise many other surprises tho. More than any other year.”

Michael Perry, on how his voice is so “naturally golden”

"Mostly what you're hearing is too much coffee, too little sleep, and some tricks I learned from an old-school radio pal of mine named Al. I also used to do a lot of open-mic poetry readings and grew up listening to a lot of preachers, farmers, and loggers. Somewhere in there you get what you hear. 'Course we all know that the rumbliest voice of all belongs to JV…"

"We are concentrating very hard on being different ; not for being different sakes, but trying to find out what only WE can do." – Justin Vernon

Justin Vernon, on Eaux Claires being labeled an “anti-festival”

"I hope we never used the word "anti-festival'... a) I don't think we have done enough to separate ourselves enough from festival life to be able to say that... b) being ANTI-something can mean you're putting energy where It doesn't need to be. c) we are concentrating very hard on being different ; not for being different sakes, but trying to find out what only WE can do. Each Day, Each Plight an opportunity to find more out about your worth and uniqueness. Basically, we plan on getting more and more separated from the Noise every year while approaching our own unique identity more and more.”

Michael Perry, on how Bon Iver influences his work and vice versa

"JD gave me an early mix of Bon Iver, Bon Iver and I listened to it over and over many nights in a row after midnight while writing a book called "Visiting Tom." Wound up structuring an entire chapter around the album and the image of fireflies, even though I never named JD or BI. I also made a "Bon Hiver" joke in one of my other books. So, yep. I'm grateful we crossed paths a long time ago."

Justin Vernon, on whether or not it’s OK to smoke weed at Eaux Claires

"Weed is ok. Its a plant. Most of us know that now. Just wait till we ban Beer! just kidding. :)”

Michael Brown, on why Eaux Claires has been scheduled on a different month each year

"With specific curation, unique creative projects, multiple factors, such close ties the university schedule (the festival's backbone are university students), and so many artists involved, we have to be more flexible than your typical music festival, hence the moving dates for I, II, and III. I'd love for you guys to make a thread about this on the Eaux Claires sub-reddit and see if there's consensus amongst you all, because we're right there with you in the desire to settle in to one weekend!”

Michael Perry, on cultivating Eau Claire’s sense of place for newcomers

"Mostly I try to shut my mouth and just listen. Whether it's at an actual meeting, or walking alone by the river, or standing in the middle of several thousand people. Then at some point I shut myself away and free-write. Then try things out loud. And then, ultimately, just hope against hope that the words work. I think the greatest lesson I've learned thanks to this festival is: Trust the audience. Take a chance, and most often they will take it with you. I'm grateful to be a part of this thing."

Michael Brown’s take on the Fyre Festival hijinx that recently made headlines

"Come to Eaux Claires."

That's it. You can always read the whole thing yourself right here.

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