Music Events

Return to the River: Bon Iver, Erykah Badu, James Blake, Vince Staples Head up 2016 Eaux Claires Lineup

Eric Christenson |

After last year’s Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival – with its “22,000 beating hearts,” its raucous overnight thunderstorms, its Sufjan Stevens choke-ups, its grand displays of collaboration, its jaw-dropping lineup of artists of all kinds sharing the same patch of riverside grass – you might wonder how one follows up something magical like that.

The way you do that – to this writer – is with a sophomore year lineup that is, in a way, even more unpredictable, even more collaborative. You do that with a lineup that scatters plots all over the spectrum of genre, foregoing it completely. You bring back some artists we loved last year, you throw us new ones to drool over, ones we need to Google. And then you bring it all to our doorstep, along the banks of our Chippewa River for us to enjoy among friends and family.

And that’s pretty much what festival organizers Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Aaron Dessner (The National), and creative director/Chippewa Valley resident Michael Brown are doing. You can’t just get named one of the “Top 10 Festivals in North America” by folks like Consequence of Sound for nothin’ – and a lineup that includes the likes of Bon Iver, Erykah Badu, James Blake, Beach House, Vince Staples, and Bruce effin’ Hornsby surely ain’t nothin’.

The lineup comes via a wintry video (below) with plenty of gorgeous drone footage of the icy Chippewa River and the booming voice of Chippewa Valley author and Eaux Claires narrator Michael Perry saying, "Even in this, the dramatic monochromatic, you can feel the color of sound, hear the listening ears, know one day the earth will unfreeze its frozen fist, let slip life again."

General admission tickets go on sale on Friday February 12 at 10am CST on Knowing that, take a look at the lineup for yourself:

WATCH: Eaux Claires Announcement 2016

"Togetherness and Expression"

“Our mission for Eaux Claires is to create a deeply meaningful experience of togetherness and expression. We feel like everyone, whether interested in the fashion of popularized music or not, will be entertained, moved, and surprised by our festival,” Vernon said. “The inaugural edition proved that Eaux Claires can inspire and generate power beyond just the big names. We believe that every single artist will bring an equal amount of importance and uniqueness to the culture we've created. We're excited to grow in that spirit and push ourselves forward every year, to grow with our audience and celebrate art in all of its forms.”

Honestly, this is a lot to digest. But it looks like they’ve got the genres of rock, hip hop, dance, blues, country, R&B, folk, metal, chillwave, classical, glam, and soul covered.

Bruce Hornsby and his band The Noisemakers are going to perform Hornsby’s legendary album The Way It Is in full, and an all-star cast of musicians going by Day Of The Dead will resurrect some classic Grateful Dead tunes in their first and only scheduled performance.

Bon Iver at Eaux Claires 2015, photo by Lee Butterworth
Bon Iver at Eaux Claires 2015, photo by Lee Butterworth

Eau Claire’s own Sloslylove, a prolific synthwave producer, is featured here as well as Eau Claire comedian Jacy Catlin – notable for his absurd and uproarious internet presence.

This will be UK producer James Blake’s only North American show currently scheduled in 2016, while Chippewa Valley native Phil Cook returns to present his “Southland Revue,” a special performance of the classic American songbook with Amelia Meath (Sylvan Esso), Vernon himself, and more.

The Midwest is certainly greatly represented here again, too, by the likes of legendary Chicago soul singer Mavis Staples, as well as by Wisconsin punk rockers Tenement, and by the off-the-wall theatrical and sexual glamor of Twin Cities-based acts Har Mar Superstar and Tickle Torture.

Tons of international musicians are included in this lineup too, like Irish singer Lisa Hannigan, Japanese electronic-pop group Cornelius, Indonesian artists Senyawa in a rare North American performance, and Native American Ojibwe drummers/dancers Midnite Express.

Eaux Claires 2015, photo by Lee Butterworth
Eaux Claires 2015, photo by Lee Butterworth

In other news, the festival has responded to criticisms about the first year’s food service with specialty food vendors, better organization, new food choices, catered meals, and tons of beers options (like Leinie’s, Lagunitas, some homegrown suds courtesy of Eau Claire brewery The Brewing Projekt, and a custom Eaux Claires beer by Danish brewer Mikkeller). They’ve also relocated and doubled the size of campgrounds this year, with a shuttle going back and forth to the festival mere minutes away.

Again, two-day general admission ($169) and two-day enhanced Chippewa passes ($300 and includes catered meals each day and complimentary premium beer) go on sale tomorrow, Friday Feb. 12, at 10am CST at So be on top of it, and snap ’em up!

All in all, year two is shaping up to be more than capable of living up to the bar set by its inaugural year, and it should, in fact, surpass it. We’ll be on top of any developments and news about the festival in the coming months – namely we’re hotly anticipating details on the audio, visual, and performance art aspects of the festival, curated by creative director Michael Brown.

But for now, relish in the 2016 lineup, start building your must-see lists, and we’ll join you there … again.

Eaux Claires 2016 – Full Lineup

Alpha Consumer
Andrew Fitzpatrick
Beach House
Bon Iver
Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers performing “The Way It Is”
Buke and Gase
Cornelius performing "Fantasma"
Day Of The Dead
eighth blackbird with Bryce Dessner and Bonnie “Prince” Billy
Erykah Badu
Francis and The Lights
Har Mar Superstar
Jacy Catlin
James Blake
Jenny Lewis
Jon Hopkins
Jon Mueller
Kill The Vultures
Lisa Hannigan and Aaron Dessner
Little Scream
Mavis Staples
Midnite Express
My Brightest Diamond
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Phil Cook's "Southland Revue"
Prinze George
Richard Reed Parry/ Quiet River of Dust
Sam Amidon
Sarah Neufeld
Shabazz Palaces
So Percussion
Taggart & Rosewood
The Staves and yMusic
Tickle Torture
Thomas Wincek
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Vince Staples
William Tyler