Eaux Claires music festival returns for year deux

The Eaux Claires music festival returns with exclusive and returning acts


Beach House, Vince Staples and returning musicians S. Carey and The Stave will perform at this year at the Eaux Claires music festival after a successful first year.

When he’s not working at Apple Base, winning Grammys or hanging out at Racy’s, Justin Vernon is busy getting people excited for his brainchild, Eaux Claires music festival.

Vernon made anyone who didn’t preorder tickets regret it with a package filled with goodies for music fans and a special message.

“Year two. The thing that’s different this time is you’re bringing it back to life,” starts off a letter in the package. “You believed in us and decided to join us this summer without any knowledge of the lineup or enhancements at hand.”

The message came with a mixed tape, in cassette tape form, loaded with unreleased and exclusive tracks from performers.

Vernon, Eau Claire native, UW-Eau Claire graduate and lead singer of Bon Iver, brought the Eaux Claires music festival to the Chippewa Valley last summer on July 17 and 18 and returns with a new lineup set for Aug. 12 and 13.

The lineup was released on Feb. 11 with new headliners including Beach House, Vince Staples and some returning artists such as S. Carey and The Staves. The festival has rounded up some exclusive acts such as Erykah Badu and James Blake, who has no other U.S. tour dates in 2016.

Bon Iver had their first performance since 2012 last year at Eaux Claires for the finale, playing a few new songs and eliminating rumors they had broken up.

“Our mission for Eaux Claires is to create a deeply meaningful experience of togetherness and expression,” Vernon said on the Eaux Claires website.

Freshman Zach Tronson said he thinks Vernon’s mission was successful last year.

“It felt like a very community oriented sort of deal,” Tronson said. “I know a lot of it was mix and matching different musicians to get a different sound so I really liked that whole part of it. It was very cohesive.”

Tronson said last year he was very impressed with the lineup from last year and enjoyed artists like Lizzo and Sylvan Esso.

“I tried to look up as many people as I could,” Tronson said about this year’s lineup. “But it’s so low-key, it’s ridiculous. It’s everything from metal to just percussionists.”

Sophomore Mack John said she’s more excited for the artists she doesn’t recognize.

“I made a playlist on Spotify and was listening to all the new ones and got to hear a lot of really cool music that I’d never even heard of before,” John said.

John is an employee for Visit Eau Claire and was in charge of promoting the event on Instagram, running contests to give away apparel.

“The sense of ‘wow, all these people came to my hometown’ and also knowing the river was right there made it really special,” John said. “My dad and I used to canoe along the river when Country Jam was happening just to try to listen to the music from the river.”

There were three main stages last year on the festival grounds, with Lake Eaux Lune and Flambeaux in the largest space. To reach the third stage, attendees had to walk up a hill through the woods.

“I liked the voyage from the lower stage area to the top, just seeing people and taking a break, getting into nature was really cool,” John said about the setup of the festival.

At night the forest was lit up. There were windows with charging stations for guests throughout a path in the woods.

Over 22,000 people attended the festival for its debut in 2015. Artists like The Staves loved Eau Claire so much that they created the music video for their song “Horizons” in Eau Claire.

Last year festival goers had their fingers crossed for a surprise appearance from Kanye West because of past collaborations with Justin Vernon. But, even without a surprise Kanye performance, both Tronson, John and thousands of others plan on returning to the river for the 2016 festival.

In the words of Justin Vernon, “We’ll join you there.”