Project enables musical opportunity

Story by Taylor Kuether, Managinf Editor

According to senior and Laarks frontman Ian Jacoby, all-ages venues in Eau Claire have always been hard to come by, but he hopes the Confluence Project will change that.
“I think the plans for that sound great,” Jacoby said.
The Confluence Project, which was proposed last spring, entails retail space, a conference center,
plenty of performance space, dorms and potentially even university art, music and theatre classrooms.
The project, which will ultimately be nestled at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers downtown, is a joint venture between public and private entities that will aim to serve both the Eau Claire community and the university.
For Jacoby and other local bands, the project will provide a much-needed venue for local music enthusiasts of all ages.
“I think it’s really important for us to have a legitimate all-ages venue,” Jacoby said.
“For us, a lot of our fans are not 21 yet, so it’s been hard for us. People are upset when we pay at House of Rock or (other) bars.”
Jacoby said the downtown location of the project is also an asset.
“That would be good because it also sort of bridges the gap,” Jacoby said.
“You feel a sort of divide between when you’re 18-19 and living in the dorms and when you sort of
branch out and become part of the Eau Claire community. I even feel this way and I grew up here.”
Junior and Women’s Chorus member Hillary Crusan had similar sentiments
“It will bring the community in more because it’s not an on-campus venue,” Crusan said. “I also think it will make
Eau Claire more of a destination for performers and bring more opportunities to local performers.”
While local bands will benefit, the university will too.
Chair of the Music and Theatre Arts department Vanissa Murphy said the university’s current facilities for music and theatre performances are “getting very tired and old.”
“We see this as a fabulous opportunity to not only update the ability for us to have a venue in which to perform that is state of the art,” Murphy said. “Along with that, we find that the opportunities for collaboration with the community are also very, very exciting. I don’t know anyone who has expressed any kind of negative opinion, we’re very excited about it.”
While most view the project as a positive, Jacoby cautioned that there is a slight downside.
“It’s a little bit scary to me that we’re definitely going to be spending that money on (the Confluence Project) and they’ll have to make some cuts other places,” Jacoby said. “It’s just sort of something to be aware of.”
Adding another positive to the list, Jacoby also noted the Confluence Project could bring in touring bands.
“There aren’t really very many bands that we could have in Eau Claire that could fill up the (1,098-seat) State Theatre. If you can’t do that, then it’s hard to justify bringing them to play here,” he said.
He also said if the Confluence Project could provide a venue where 400 people could enjoy a show, it would be ideal.
“That would get so many up-and-coming bands, coupled with the fact that we have a lot of really good home-grown bands here,” Jacoby said. “Not just indie bands, but all kinds of bands would come to this town.”