Exit the suburbs of New York, and enter the long, straight roads banked by endless fields of crops and forests. Not a few hundred miles from my destination, I already saw hints of festival-goers on the road and at rest stops. Cars packed with people and things, “Eaux Yeah!” painted on the rearview window. We were all descending upon the little city of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Eaux Claires is the brainchild of Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon, an Eau Claire native himself, and Aaron Dessner of The National. Being the inaugural year of the festival, expectations were tall and wide. We were not disappointed.

Many festivals today have become so large that they’ve lost sight of what the experience should be about. Maybe it’s selling out, maybe it’s an inevitability of the medium. So many things try to promote authenticity, but end up merely emulating it. Eaux Claires didn’t have this problem. The very foundation of the festival was about collaboration, with multiple artists bring other artists onto the stage to perform with them. I’ve been to other, larger events where the sets have become carbon copies and non-engaging. No, this was as refreshing as the clear waters of the Chippewa River.

1_Spoon_Eaux Claires 2015

I started off my day with The Lone Bellow, the alt-country/indie folk band from Brooklyn. It was sort of impromptu, but I was very impressed with their set. I then caught Sturgill Simpson before camping out at the Lake Eaux Lune stage for The Staves, Spoon, and finally The National. This was pretty much the universal idea in the crowd. Once again, The National put on a powerful, raw show that had the audience traveling through a range of emotions. During ‘I Need My Girl’, a very quiet moment in the set, I noticed a nearby man turn around and drop to one knee in front of his girlfriend. I’ve seen a lot of things in festival crowds, but never a marriage proposal…it was a perfect moment. Continuing with the theme of collaboration, Matt Berninger brought out multiple artists throughout the set: Sufjan Stevens, Justin Vernon, members of The Staves to name a few. I’m not sure how much planning went into this, but it worked out beautifully. Afterwards, I walked through the woods to the Dells stage, hoping to catch Boys Noize, but found it so packed that I abandoned the idea.

1_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

I left the grounds feeling completely satisfied with the first day, and praying that the following day’s rain would hold off.

Find some photos of the performances below, as well as shots throughout the festival grounds.







The Lone Bellow:

1_The Lone Bellow_Eaux Claires 2015

2_The Lone Bellow_Eaux Claires 2015

3_The Lone Bellow_Eaux Claires 2015

Sturgill Simpson:

1_Sutrgill Simpson_Eaux Claires

2_Sutrgill Simpson_Eaux Claires

The Staves:

The Staves_Eaux Claires


2_Spoon_Eaux Claires 2015

3_Spoon_Eaux Claires 2015

4_Spoon_Eaux Claires 2015

5_Spoon_Eaux Claires 2015

The National:

2_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

3_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

4_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

5_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

6_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

7_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

8_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

9_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

10_The National_Eaux Claires 2015

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