Festival brings the blues to Eau Claire for the 50th year in a row

Barstow St. came alive on Friday and Saturday with various local music acts as part of the 50th annual Eau Claire Jazz Festival

More stories from Faith Hultman


Photo by Faith Hultman

In the shadow of the greats: Various local artists performed at Pizza Plus on Friday night, recreating and adding to the music of the great jazz musicians who came before them.

52nd Street: Manhattan’s thriving center of jazz in the heyday of of post-prohibition, or Barstow Street Friday and Saturday?

Fortunately, you didn’t have to make that decision, because the answer was both.

The magic of jazz transported Barstow Street to a different era last Friday and Saturday, as Eau Claire’s Jazz Festival kicked off its 50th year. The street came alive with lively music, tango dancers and running children, as community members came together to celebrate jazz in all its forms.

Inside the various buildings lining Barstow Street were a variety of musical artists, from high school students to professionals.

On Friday night some musical groups sought to raise money for summer camps or other organizations, while some hosted bake sales along with their musical performance. Other musicians simply played to a rapt and silent audience.

Rowdier crowds could be found in venues such as Pizza Plus, where audience members ate and chatted as various musical artists performed a multitude of instruments, from the bass to the baritone saxophone.

On the streets, artists performed to crowds of jazz enthusiasts, some of whom opted to showcase their swing dancing skills, or simply stand and watch.

While some members of the crowd were seasoned jazz lovers, others were new to the genre.

Cailyn Mikunda, a sophomore communication sciences and disorders student, was at the festival for the first time on Friday night. She enjoyed the festival and said she would recommend it to anyone looking for something unique to do on the weekend.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Mikunda said. “I like swing dancing, but I don’t know a lot about jazz music. It’s been really interesting though.”

Her favorite performer was The Shillelagh Lads, an Irish band.

“They played like everything, there was accordion, guitar, banjo, everything,” Mikunda said. “It was a little weird because they’re Irish and not at all jazz, but it was really cool.”

Two To Tango, a ballroom dance club from UW-Eau Claire, performed on the street Friday night to the music of various local artists who utilized the space of The Eau Claire-Stream, which is a trailer that folds out to a stage.

Confetti was launched into the air on the top of every hour, adding to the fun-loving atmosphere and celebrating the art of jazz.

Rebekah Anderson, a junior student at Eau Claire majoring in art education, appreciated the diversity that Jazz Festival offers.

“I think it’s a really unique experience,” Anderson said. “It is a great opportunity for people to celebrate the diversity of people that create music.”

It was her first time attending the festival, although she said she has grown up listening to jazz music. She said she appreciates the various styles jazz music has to offer, and the many ways that artists can express themselves through jazz.

“It’s kind of associated with free spirited improvisation,” Anderson said about jazz music. “It’s very fluid. It can be both loud and dissonant, and smooth and soft, which is really interesting and unique.”

Anderson said that she would definitely recommend the Eau Claire Jazz Festival to anyone looking for an interesting musical experience.

There were over 40 bands in 15 venues on Friday night, according to the Eau Claire Jazz Festival website, and Saturday was filled with performances from various high school jazz bands.