Bon Iver brothers to open arts center

Story by Thom Fountain

While most of us were clinging to the final days of our winter breaks by sledding, ice skating and sleeping in until Jeopardy aired, Justin and Nate Vernon of the Eau Claire sensation Bon Iver decided to try and change the face of Eau Claire culture in one fell swoop. The Vernons’ master plan (which seems to be mostly Nate’s doing) is to convert a currently abandoned building on South Barstow Street (the muraled one along the river) into an all-things cultural center including a large-scale music venue, audio and video studios and community workshops.

Now as awesome as this could be, let’s not get ahead ourselves. There is no guarantee this will happen and the project is still completely up in the air. If it does go through, this could be the final nail in the coffin of boring Friday nights in the area, but it needs to be executed perfectly. Luckily, Mr. Vernon (and the other Mr. Vernon), you have adoring, opinionated fans such as myself to guide you in the planning and construction process of this project. Here are some things to keep in mind:

First and foremost, for God’s sake keep this venue all ages, all the time. I understand the financial benefits of having a bar and venue that are one in the same, but if you truly want to make this a cultural Mecca, you need to extend that invitation to those who aren’t of age. In my time at UW-Eau Claire I have found countless freshmen and sophomores who are clueless to the burgeoning (and now exploding) music scene Eau Claire has to offer. Part of this is their lack of motivation to get off campus. But I believe the lack of a major, full stage, all-ages venue (besides the Grand Little Theatre) in town is a major contributor.

We have the House of Rock, the Mousetrap, and I’d put money on the Stone’s Throw reopening in the coming year. We also have some fantastic all ages venues such as Infinitea (112 E. Grand Ave.) and Acoustic Café (505 South Barstow St.), but their space and functionality to host a full band is lacking at best. I’ve been listening to Laarks for some time now, but despite their fairly regular show schedule in the area I’ve only been able to see them once because I am not of age.

My second suggestion is to be as diverse as possible in the line-ups that take the stage. In an interview with Volume One magazine, Nate Vernon said they hoped to book larger, nationally touring bands in the venue, many of which would be passing through on their ways to and from Minneapolis. Eau Claire bands have a lot to offer, but not everything. A community that shows this much potential has the basis necessary to have more than just a folk-rock scene, but we need a jumpstart. Already bands like Farms and Laarks are starting to buck that trend.

If the new venue was able to book hip-hop acts from the Minneapolis area such as P.O.S or Brother Ali (please, we’ve had enough Afroman), experimental rock groups like Solid Gold, or any number of metal and hardcore bands that would be passing through, the community could become more well- rounded. Instead of having a great folk scene, we could be known for a great music scene.

My final hope for the brothers Vernon, that I’m sure is simply a reiteration, is keep it local. Bringing in outside acts is great, but have a local band open. Keep prices as low as possible and offer student discounts and local coupons. Collaborate with local press like Volume One, WUEC, Student Radio Initiative and us here at The Spectator to provide opportunities locally. Use this building as the thread that can sew every great thing in this city together.

A lot of us are pulling for this to happen, so if it does, let’s make sure it’s perfect.

Thom Fountain is a sophomore liberal studies major and the Currents editor at The Spectator.