Justin Vernon’s Gift to Us: Previewing 2016 Eaux Claires Music Festival

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Photo by Erik Lorenzsson

You can’t really understand Eaux Claires until you’ve experienced it. Last year was the inaugural year for this festival, curated by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and Aaron Dessner of the National. Vernon gave us little to go on in terms of what to expect; nothing much more than just a few videos and hope that we would trust him. We showed up in the thousands to see what he had in store, and not a single one of us left disappointed. We left with hearts full of joy, absolution, song, and a distinctive feeling of belonging. Vernon sang to us, he sang with us, and he sang with the other performers.

This year’s lineup was partially released via mixtape. Sent to the patrons who trusted and purchased their tickets early, each received a surprise package labeled “DEUX” with mixed recordings, B-sides, and spoken word – just a taste of what was to come. After that, we got the full lineup in a video. We were excited for the names we already knew, but also for the names we will get to know. (See my full lineup reaction here.)

As with last year, there are more surprises to come. There will be projects like the “Day of the Dead” tribute to the music of the Grateful Dead, a project curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National. As of now, Eaux Claires is the only time this project will be performed. Baroque, a project described as “a collaborative performance project,” will be presented by renowned sculptor Edoardo Tresoldi, Michael Brown, James McVinnie, and Griffin McMahon.

“It will feature a once-in-a-lifetime composition of organ music set within a massive baroque organ cuboid sculpture, created by Edoardo Tresoldi. Baroque, which redefines musical performance and fine art, is a true highlight of our 2016 art program.”

There will be readings, in which six authors around the festival grounds will spend 3 to 5 minutes in quiet environments, reading to an audience of no more than four. Joining these art collaborations are a number of local video artists, and artists who use their work to focus on the beauty and fragile state of the land around them.

The artists themselves are as diverse as their art. I’m excited to pair sex-crazed Tickle Torture, whose sets were described by a friend who sewed banana hammocks for the band as “a smelly orgy where everyone is painted gold,” with the loud, yet intricate and heartbreaking, Deafhaven. Also joining them are Little Scream and the ever-popular Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats.

All of this, just in one single weekend. Eaux Claires will bring together artists and patrons with the sweet platform of performance and collaboration that Justin Vernon created for all of us. Be sure to follow KXSU for coverage of the festival so you can read about how the collaboration unfolds.

Eaux Claires will take place in Eau Claire, WI, from August 12 to 13.

Find out more about Eaux Claires here: WEBSITE | TICKETS | FULL LINEUP


JULIA OLSON | LOST IN THE WOODS | Head Reporter

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