Monday, Dec. 10th, 2018

Eaux Claires: Organizers Set Sights on 2020 Reboot Right in the Heart of the City

OUT OF THE WOODS. Attendees check out art installations at the 2018 Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival. Organizers are set to bring the next fest right into downtown Eau Claire.
OUT OF THE WOODS. Left: Phoebe Bridgers performs at the 2018 Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival. Right: Attendees check out art installations. Organizers are set to bring the next Eaux Claires fest right into downtown Eau Claire.

In recent weeks the founders of the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival have met in Eau Claire and New York City to plan the next phase of the internationally attended event, which has been curated by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner of The National, along with creative director Michael Brown. Held over the last four years at Foster Farms just outside of Eau Claire, the two-day festival has gone a long way toward putting our small city on the world’s cultural map with unique collaborative performances, ambitious art installations, and thoughtful integration of its wooded surroundings – earning press and recognition around the globe.

Usually by this time of the year, dates would have been set for next year's event and early ticket offerings would have been up for grabs, so the delay has caused speculation on what the future may hold. Well, the answers are now coming into focus.

According to Vernon, Dessner, Brown and others involved with the festival, 2019 will serve like something of a “gap year” – a planning and reset year, really. Early discussions have begun with the City of Eau Claire on an entirely new iteration of the event, one that would relaunch in the summer of 2020 right downtown. This new incarnation would utilize new and existing downtown spaces, such as the Pablo Center at the Confluence, Haymarket Plaza, Phoenix Park, private venues, and some of the community’s other nooks and crannies. Scroll down for a statement from the organizers.

But why the change? According to Brown, the festival – or really any art-focused event like it – must be relieved of the financial pressure to be commercially viable in order to grow, which unfortunately is counter to what the previous location demanded. “The harsh reality is that a large outdoor music festival either needs very large attendance – 20,000 or more – or exorbitant ticket prices to be financially sustainable, neither of which fits our vision and goal for the purpose of this festival in Eau Claire, WI.”

Moving the event into the heart of the city is an effort to create something with longevity and creative purpose. It’s to plant deeper roots in the community, increase the impact on the local economy, and make the festival more accessible to the public overall. This new model would likely make passes for the festival considerably more affordable, while adding more á la carte-style options (adding on specific shows in some of the larger venues), allowing attendees to craft their own experience.  


NEW VIDEO! Look Back: Eaux Claires IV (2018)


Clearly a lot of logistical exploration will be needed before a move to downtown could be approved by City staff and council, but minds are open. Eau Claire City Manager Dale Peters is supportive of the concept, noting that, though at a different scale, the “52nd Street” aspect of the annual Jazz Festival, which incorporates multiple indoor venues and closes traffic on Barstow St. in April of each year for outdoor fun, has been considered a success. “This concept for Eaux Claires promises to build on that success and grow it, just in a different season and with a different focus of music,” said Peters. “We’re excited to work with the organizers to make it a successful event for the community, the participants, and the musicians.”

While a move downtown may seem unusual when most of our large-scale local music festivals take place in nearby farm fields, a downtown-based event was actually founder Justin Vernon’s original concept for the festival before it launched on the Country Jam grounds in 2015. Now, four years later, with new venues to work with downtown – such as those inside and around the Pablo Center – that concept is actually possible. In fact, on some level it’s been happening through the community-based “Prex Claires” aspect of the event – where multiple venues have hosted gigs the Thursday night before the festival over the last two years. A move to downtown would be a return to the original inspiration, getting closer to the organizers’ overarching mission of fostering a creative community, pushing for challenging programming, and finding growth through those aims.

Thankfully, the coming gap year won’t be devoid of activity from the Eaux Claires crew. Organizers will host a week-long residence program in the fall to help design and plan the downtown version of the festival. The week will end with a presentation of the plans and a day of music in the Pablo Center and around downtown. Throughout the year, an Eaux Claires-based music series will be presented at the Pablo as well. The festival is also working to hire a full-time director and additional full-time staff that can focus on the event year round.

Notably since last year’s festival, Pablo Properties – an organization quickly becoming a household name in Eau Claire – took on partial ownership of Eaux Claires, which has helped allow some flexibility and creativity in the model for the event moving forward. As the lead donor to the Pablo Center (thus the name), Pablo Properties is also the creator of the Lismore Hotel and a partner in the Oxbow Hotel, among other projects. In November they were selected to work with the City of Eau Claire on redevelopment of a block-and-a-half of prime downtown space with a community-focused shipping container park, as well as office and retail space and a new Eau Claire Children’s Museum. Much of that project is scheduled to open in 2020, perhaps some in time for a new Eaux Claires event.

It’s clear that interesting things are on the horizon for not only Eaux Claires, but for downtown Eau Claire overall. Brown summed it up well: “The real reason this thing is living on is because individuals want to see it be used to build up a community and a region. It’s a doubling-down on the mission to help build up Eau Claire.”

Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival: A Statement From the Organizers

As winter deepens here in Eau Claire, WI, we at Eaux Claires wanted to reach out before it gets too cold and update you to the many conversations that we have had over the past couple of months.

In the last four years we have grown together as patrons and organizers; these experiences are perfectly focused within our own collected memories, and feel something like going through four years of high school - the growth, the mistakes, the energy, but most of all the searing, stumbling beauty of becoming one’s self.

After our Senior year, we find ourselves wanting to move out, change things, and take stock of who we've become. In order to manage this transition, we are going to take a year off.  While it will be hard for us to break the chain of momentum and the positive impact the festival has had on our community, we have fresh, clear ideas of how to make it even better. But we aren’t just changing locations, we're bolstering our philosophies. We want to celebrate EVEN MORE about this REAL TOWN we call home by extolling and imagining things we haven't seen or experienced to date.

Ultimately, we want a better experience - not just for us, but for everyone. Is that too vague? We’re not trying to do that anymore, so here...

No Eaux Claires V in 2019. It will happen in 2020, and it will be more focused, fun, and internal. We will have a couple of public events in the coming months hosted at Pablo Center at the Confluence. These events will incorporate performance and dialogue about the direction we plan on taking the festival throughout the coming decade.  Looking forward to seeing you there.

-EXC Founders and Organizers, 12-10-18

Comments 3

Tuesday, Dec. 4th, 2018

Blue Ox Music Festival Releases 2019 Lineup

The Blue Ox Music Festival is celebrating its fifth birthday in summer 2019 (June 13-15)  amongst the trees of Eau Claire’s Whispering Pines Campground, and today they dropped a lineup of musical acts that have become downright mainstays at the bluegrass fest, and some exciting newcomers. Blue Ox remains one of the finest roots festivals in the country, and the top-billed acts for next summer cement that reputation. 

Familiar names and faces are all over this thing: Pert Near Sandstone of course will perform two nights as is tradition. Acts like Railroad Earth, Sam Bush, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Del McCoury are perennial favorites making their return to the Wisconsin woods. Trampled By Turtles are a big get, bringing the full band to Blue Ox after Dave Simonett’s turn with Dead Man Winter a few years back (and their own upcoming night at The Pablo Center in January). The Dead South are another notable addition. Area favorite Charlie Parr will be there, as well as Eau Claire’s own Them Coulee Boys. For the fest’s big anniversary, it’s definitely not one to miss.

Blue Ox 2019 Full Lineup

Pert Near Sandstone (two nights)
Trampled By Turtles
Railroad Earth
Sam Bush Band
Del McCoury Band
The Infamous Stringdusters
The Dead South
The Earls of Leicester feat. Jerry Douglas
Billy Strings
Peter Rowan’s Carter Stanley’s Eyes
Charlie Parr
Pokey LaFarge
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Jeff Austin Band
The Larry Keel Experience
Fruition
The Lil Smokies
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
The Lowest Pair
Them Coulee Boys
The People Brothers Band
Old Salt Union
The Wooks
David Huckfelt
Feeding Leroy
Cascade Crescendo
Dusty Heart
Barbaro
Grassfed

It’s all slated to go down June 13-15 at Whispering Pines Campground. Tickets and camping passes are on sale now at blueoxmusicfestival.com so go snatch ‘em up!

Add a Comment »

Saturday, Dec. 1st, 2018

VOTING ENDS DEC. 11: Best of the Chippewa Valley

VOTE NOW! Voting is now open in our 2019 Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll! We've got lots of categories across 9 different sections. Feel free to jump around and vote on the stuff that's important to you. Voting ends at midnight on Dec. 11.

AND REMEMBER: You still get to add options for others to vote on!

VolumeOne.org/bestof

Comments 2

Monday, Nov. 26th, 2018

UPDATE: Eau Claire City Council Votes to Allow Urban Chickens

Your sassy new neighbor?
Your sassy new neighbor?

UPDATE: On an 8-2 vote, the Eau Claire City Council approved an ordinance on Nov. 27 that will allow city residents to keep up to five hens to produce chickens for their own family's use.


The Eau Claire City Council is poised to consider a change in city ordinances that would allow for the keeping of chickens on residential properties within city limits. The last time chicken legalization was discussed by the council was in 2010, and the measure failed in an 8-3 vote. Acting President Andrew Werthmann was one of the three supporting votes at the time, and he is the only remaining member of the council who was involved in the vote.

“This is really about us becoming a more self-sufficient community.” – Andrew Werthmann, Eau Claire City Council

Werthmann has been collaborating with property managers, the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, the Eau Claire City-County Health Department, and a pro-chicken group called Eau Claire Leaders for Urban Chicken Keeping (ECLUCK) to draft an ordinance that takes the needs of all involved parties into account. It considers the results of other community’s adventures in allowing urban chicken keeping, he said.

“This is really about us becoming a more self-sufficient community,” Werthmann said. He believes chicken keeping is an avenue to food security, a tool to defend against the rising cost of living, and a way to improve access to healthier food. Werthmann has also mentioned the potential of urban chicken keeping to reduce tick populations in the area.

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance was scheduled for Monday, Nov. 26 – the day this issue of Volume One went to press. The council was slated to vote on the matter on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

The updated ordinance would allow Eau Claire residents to keep up to five hens per year, with an explicit ban on roosters. Once an application for a poultry license is made, the city would notify all owners of property within 100 feet of the applicant’s property. Owners of abutting property would have the option to object to the issuance of a license, which would be determined by the city. 

The ordinance would also establish guidelines for raising and slaughtering the chickens in a sanitary, safe way. This includes creating standards for storing food, building and maintaining coops, circumstances of slaughter, and providing a minimum of space for each bird. A fee that will cover the cost of associated city inspections would accompany the application for a poultry license. In subsequent years, poultry owners would need to apply for renewal of the license, likely at a reduced rate, Werthmann said. As the ordinance is currently written, city and health department staff would have the power to enter a building, structure, or property associated with a poultry license whenever they deem it necessary to determine compliance with the poultry ordinance.  If passed, the ordinance will take effect Jan. 1.

“Growing our own food is in our DNA, it’s in our culture,” Werthmann added, speaking to Eau Claire’s history with agriculture.

Comments 2

Wednesday, Nov. 21st, 2018

Pablo Properties Picked to Build on Block 7, Liner Sites Downtown

Click for a biggie.
Pablo's liner building site "container park" concept. Click for a biggie.

The City of Eau Claire Redevelopment Authority has picked Pablo Properties as the developer for two sought-after downtown plots. The RDA voted unanimously Wednesday morning to sign a memorandum of understanding that gives Eau Claire-based Pablo Properties 90 days to reach an agreement with the city on developing the so-called Block 7 and liner sites on North Barstow Street.

Last month, Pablo Properties was among three development groups that presented plans for the properties. (The others were Commonweal Development and Merge Urban Development Group.) Pablo’s plans for Block 7 – which is currently a surface parking lot across from The Livery – include 125,000 square feet of Class A office space, a new home for the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire, first-floor retail space, a public plaza, and underground parking. The liner site – which is located in front of the new downtown parking ramp – will be transformed into “The Stacks,” which Pablo describes as “a container park that offers low start-up investment opportunities with shared infrastructure to dining, service, and retail businesses.”

Click for a biggie.
Block 7 (top) and the liner building site (bottom). Click for a biggie.

After meeting for roughly two hours in closed session Wednesday morning, members of the RDA reconvened to vote. Several of them voiced praise for the plans that had been presented to them by developers on Oct. 23. “It’s one of the stronger groups of proposals the RDA has seen,” said longtime RDA member Jeff Halloin.

“I found their creative use of space and design to be a compelling vision for this area of downtown,” added member Tom Kemp of why he favored the Pablo proposal.

Click for a biggie.
Block 7 concept with Children's Museum and office space. Click for a biggie.

In a statement, Pablo Properties said was was excited to move forward. “We have big plans that fill gaps in our community,” said Julia Johnson, a partner in Pablo Properties. “It was nerve-wracking to know that if we were not selected, we might not find a better spot to build these plans.”

In addition to providing Class A office space downtown – which is something sough-after by businesses – Pablo’s proposal also includes a small grocery store, Johnson said.

Pablo Properties, which also built the Jamf office building overlooking Phoenix Park and redeveloped the Lismore Hotel, is a venture founded by Johnson, Zach Halmstad, and Jason Wudi.

An integral part of their downtown proposal is the development of the liner site which will become The Stacks, “a dynamic container park for entrepreneurs and community gatherings.” Pablo’s plans go on to describe The Stacks as “a series of rentable repurposed shipping containers, targeted for retail, café, or service use.” Inside a perimeter built of shipping containers will be a “year-round patio space with seating and event space for outdoor movies in the summer and an ice rink in the winter.”

 

Click for a biggie.
Liner building site "container park" concept. Click for a biggie.

 Pablo Properties’ timeline is aggressive: Construction would start next year and be finished by 2020, and the total project would be worth $32 million. According to the memorandum of understanding, Pablo will seek tax increment financing from the city for the project.

In addition to allowing 90 days to reach a final purchase and development agreement between Pablo and the RDA, the memorandum of understanding allows for a 90-day extension if the parties agree.

Comments 3

Tuesday, Nov. 13th, 2018

Pablo Properties Purchases Racy's, The Nucleus

Racy's
The Racy's half of Racy D’Lene’s Coffee Lounge and The Nucleus Café

A pet-welcoming, art-sporting Water St. breakfast, brunch, and coffee hotspot has new ownership as of Tuesday this week. Pablo Properties purchased Racy D’Lene’s Coffee Lounge and The Nucleus Café at 404 Riverside Ave. and 405 Water Street on Nov. 12. If you’re a regular, fear not for your brews and tasty breakfast cocktails: the new ownership says they’re not in it to mix things up.  “We do not intend to make any significant changes,” Zach Halmstad, Pablo Properties partner, said. “The staff, menu, prices, and environment will all stay the same.” However, the company does intend to explore expanding the use of local and sustainable ingredients and improving employee benefits, according to a press release.  “When we were approached about taking it over, we were excited for the opportunity to be the next stewards of this institution,” Halmstad said. “We are excited to welcome the employees to the Pablo Family and to continue the long tradition of feeding and caffeinating Eau Claire.”

Comments 18

Monday, Nov. 12th, 2018

Good Times, Bad Art: A one-day music fest at the Pablo for locals, by locals

EVERYBODY’S SHOW. FM Down (above) are the minds behind the Bad Art Music Festival, at which three local bands – The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and FM Down themselves – will be releasing new music.
EVERYONE'S SHOW. FM Down (above) are the minds behind the Bad Art Music Festival, at which three local bands – The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and FM Down themselves – will be releasing new music.

‘We are the musicians, the performers, and the appreciators of the Chippewa Valley music scene. And this is our festival.”

That lines comes near the end of a promo video (see below) for the upcoming Bad Art Music Festival, which will take place in the Jamf Theatre at the Pablo Center Nov. 23. Of course the “bad art” part is tongue-in-cheek: The art taking place that night will in fact be objectively “good.” But the whole point of the one-night fest is for it to be a musical bill stacked with locals, organized by locals, and championed by the local music scene itself. It’s a pretty iconic team-up from some of the best in the region.

The inaugural Bad Art fest comes from the minds of local rock band FM Down, who plan to release a full-length LP at the show, and they’re not the only ones. As circumstance would have it, two other bands are releasing records that night – The Gossips (a new collaborative project between songwriters Nici Peper and Brian Bethke) and Ghosts of the Sun (an alt-metal super group of sorts featuring members of No Loving Place, Mors Mortis Machinato, and Orenda Fugue). The full lineup is a good taste of some of the best music happening in town: FM Down, Gash, D. Janakey, The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and Jim Pullman. And artist Steve Bateman is creating a visual “Bad Art” gallery to display at the show as well.

For Will Wall, a member of FM Down and co-organizer of the fest, the Pablo is a picturesque setting for something like this, and he finds it encouraging that independent events like this that are 100 percent ideated and executed by locals can happen there.

“The best way to utilize the room was to have it be not just our show, but everyone’s show,” Wall said. “We have a tremendous amount of talented local musicians and bands in this area, and we figured it’s time to do something to bring us all together in the new arts center, to deliver something unique.”

The FM Down record, Maybe We Could Get Somewhere If We Could Just Be Somewhere Else, tackles themes that the band has made its bread and butter: Getting older, some social commentary, and the unsettling speed at which the world is changing. It’ll also be their first album pressed to vinyl.

“It’s something we all enjoy doing,” Wall said. “And all of us have this itch that can only be scratched by writing, recording, and performing new music.”

Really, the same can be said for each band featured at the fest.

For Peper’s new project The Gossips, the partnership with Bethke came together magically. Both songwriters in their own right, they’ve each been a big part of the music scene for a long time. And their collaboration came about magically.

“It’s that crazy, swept-off-your-feet, ‘Does anyone know where we’re going?’ kind of feeling,” Peper said. “For example, there’s a point in the album where the song literally created itself – it was raining, I started reading while Brian was playing guitar and it was done in 20 minutes. We were wide-eyed. Spooked.”

The Gossips’ record Flagship is eight tracks of musical bliss and a dreamy collaboration. Or as Peper put it, it’s like “if your life were a large banana leaf and you soaked it in nectar and let it dry, then crushed it up, mixed it with pixie dust and then shook it up in a pop bottle.”

That’s the way the scene works sometimes. Musicians that are on their own path team up, and results can be glorious. That’s the nugget of an idea Wall and the gang are working with for the Bad Art fest: that by doing it together, collaborating, and support each other, amazing things can happen.

It’s no secret that incredible music is constantly being created in basements, rooms, and studios all over town. When you combine that energy with that big beautiful arts center on the river, it just might bring us all together in ways we never knew we could. Like a confluence or something.

The Bad Art Music Festival is Nov. 23 in the Jamf Theatre at the Pablo Center on the Confluence featuring FM Down, Gash, D. Janakey, The Gossips, Ghosts of the Sun, and Jim Pullman. Tickets are $10 and you can purchase them online at pablocenter.org. FM Down’s Maybe We Could Get Somewhere If We Could Just Be Somewhere Else will be available on most streaming platforms Nov. 16 and the physical release will be at the Nov. 23 show. The Gossips’ Flagship and the new EP by Ghosts of the Sun will be available at the Bad Art fest.

Add a Comment »

Wednesday, Nov. 7th, 2018

Fire up the Big Red Machine for Colbert Thursday Night

Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner.
Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner.

Following a memorable show at this summer’s Eaux Claires and the August release of their critically-acclaimed self-titled record, Big Red Machine – the collaborative project from Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner of The National – will bring their talents to national TV this week. On Thursday, Nov. 8 the duo will play their first ever televised performance on Late Night with Stephen Colbert alongside guests Billy Crystal and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

It follows a busy fall for Vernon, who performed a Bon Iver set at a Tammy Baldwin rally in Madison in October, and another big one last weekend at the Paris iteration of the Pitchfork Music Festival.

So tune in to CBS at 10:30pm/CST to catch the performance. Smart money says it’s at the end of the program.

You can stream the Big Red Machine record at www.37d03d.com, or buy a physical copy at The Local Store.

Comments 4

Monday, Nov. 5th, 2018

TUESDAY! VOTE! TUESDAY!

WHEN: Midterm/General Elections will be Tuesday, November 6. Polls are open between 7am and 8pm.

WHERE: Your polling place will vary depending on where you live. To find your polling place, go to myvote.wi.gov, click on “Where Do I Vote?”

WHAT ELSE? The website can also help you find out if you’re registered to vote at your current address, show you a sample ballot for your district, and more. You can even register to vote online.

Add a Comment »

Friday, Nov. 2nd, 2018

New Think Eau Claire Campaign Aims to Recruit Talent

A new community campaign is encouraging prospective residents to think about everything that Eau Claire has to offer – from a high level of civic pride to a low cost of living. The Think Eau Claire campaign is aimed squarely at recruiting workers and their families to relocate to the city. In addition to serving as a tool for employers looking to recruit talented people, Think Eau Claire is designed to tell the Eau Claire story to companies that may be interested in locating here as well.

The campaign is built around a website – ThinkEauClaire.com – launched this week by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce and Volume One. The website is anchored by a video that expounds on Eau Claire’s assets – human, natural, economic, and artistic. ThinkEauClaire.com also features an illustrated and fact-filled guide to the city as a place to live, work, and raise a family; resources to help potential Eau Clairians find jobs and homes; and stories from people who have relocated to the community.

“Eau Claire is not a place to simply live, but a place that will genuinely reward you if you give to it,” said Wesley Escondo, who moved to Eau Claire from Chicago in 2012. “From the beauty of our landscape to the warmth of the residents that live here, Eau Claire has given my family and I a sense of pride in belonging that we didn’t feel in previous towns or cities.”

The Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce decided to create Think Eau Claire after hearing from employers large and small alike that they were facing challenges in attracting employees from outside the Chippewa Valley. In addition to serving as a general recruiting tool for Eau Claire businesses, the website and video can be customized for specific local employers who want to promote the benefits, opportunities, and cultures of their own workplaces. That can even include shooting video and interviews at individual companies to depict the cultures of their organizations. Royal Credit Union is the first local employer to do so, and will soon launch its own individualized version of Think Eau Claire. Businesses interested in customizing the website should contact Scott Rogers at the chamber at (715) 858-0616 or rogers@eauclairechamber.org.

ThinkEauClaire.com was unveiled this week during the Workforce Solutions Summit at the Pablo Center at the Confluence, an event aimed at attracting and retaining a talented workforce to Wisconsin and the Chippewa Valley. In addition to the primary website, the initiative includes Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn pages as well.


This post was produced through a partnership
with Think Eau Claire ... Learn more!

Add a Comment »