‘Bad Art,’ good music

The first annual Bad Art Music Festival brings local bands to the Pablo Center at the Confluence

Lea Kopke

More stories from Lea Kopke


Photo by Submitted

Local rock n’ roll group FMDown was the driving force behind the organization of the first annual Bad Art Music Festival.

The Eau Claire music scene is adding a new event to its yearly calendar: the “Bad Art” Music Festival.

What started as an album release concert for FMDown grew into the planned gathering of local bands inside the Pablo Center at the Confluence, Will Wall, FMDown member and event coordinator, said.

“At the time our latest album was coming together, we were looking for a vehicle to release the record with,” Wall said. “What happened then is the idea kind of snowballed a lot. It went from being a small show at The Mousetrap to a local event inside the Jamf Theatre (in the Pablo Center).”

After the initial conception of the idea, other local bands began to hear about it. Wall said several of the bands in the lineup share a building with FMDown, so word traveled quickly throughout the area.

“We were able to make this everybody’s show,” Wall said. “There hasn’t been a slew of local shows at the Pablo Center yet, and we were the first local musicians to schedule a show at the time we booked it.”

The bands themselves are not strangers to each other, as many of the musicians and bands in the Eau Claire area have intermingled over the years.

“We’ve all played together in various projects,” Wall said. “For example, Ghosts of The Sun used to be several different bands. We’ve played with D. Janakey several times. And Jim (Pullman) is a local staple ― he’s been around the better part of 20 years.”

Justin Terry is the drummer for Ghosts of The Sun, a band that is making its career debut at the festival. The band formed last winter out of a group of musicians who had known each other for two decades.

“We are right across the hall from FMDown’s studio,” Terry said. “Will, who’s curating the entire festival, is producing our album. He asked us if we’d be interested in having our debut at the art festival. We used that as motivation to get the album show ready.”

Ghosts of The Sun was originally going to debut their album at the show, Terry said, but decided to wait in order to give Wall time to focus on the album. Terry said the band is ready to get out and perform at the event, but then focus on the album over the winter.

“It’s darker and moodier than anything in recent years,” Terry said. “It’s a vision we all aligned on.”

FMDown’s new record, “Maybe we could get somewhere if we could just be somewhere else …” will be released as a 12-inch vinyl at the event. It’s the band’s first record on vinyl, but fourth record overall and was recorded by the band in their studio.

“It’s effectively another look back at the aging process,” Wall said. “Understanding that as you get older, you don’t necessarily get wiser. When you think you know something, it could be completely different. Good or bad, it doesn’t really matter.”

In addition to hosting a lineup of musicians, the festival will be featuring artwork from Steve Bateman, a local artist.

“We were going to make our own terrible art as a sort of tongue-in-cheek joke,” Wall said. “But then Steve asked and I accepted. I know Steve from being around the local scene. He’s a familiar face at a lot of local shows and has been onstage playing the harmonica and singing.”

The show itself will be held in the Jamf Theatre, which is the largest black box theater in the Midwest, according to the Pablo Center’s website. The flexibility of the theater is allowing for a unique festival set up, Wall said.

“There’s going to be a mainstage and a solo stage,” Wall said. “It’s going to be a ping pong style delivery. There’ll be merchandise available from all performers and the Bad Art installation will be in the foyer in front of the Jamf Theatre.”

The Bad Art Music Festival will take place Nov. 23 in the Jamf Theatre at the Pablo Center. Tickets cost $10 and can be bought online or at the door. The show is open to all ages and will feature Gash, The Gossips, D. Janakey, Ghosts of The Sun, Jim Pullman and FMDown.

Kopke can be reached at [email protected]