1_Bon Iver_Eaux Claires 2015

Bon Iver

I got to the woods earlier in order to peruse the wares and marvels of Eaux Claries’ food and shops. Almost all of the offerings were from local proprietors, including the beer. There were a wealth of options to choose from, favoring any palate. A number of art installations scattered about the grounds drew in curious patrons in between sets. I was really stunned at how beautiful the location was, set amongst the forest and against the banks of the Chippewa. And thankfully, the rain held off and the day ended up being perfect.

One thing I was very enthused with was the demographics of the attendees. Music festivals tend to be populated with (post) college-aged people, but I saw many different ages meandering around, both young and old. A dedicated area for children under a shaded tent was provided, along with performances by Grandma Sparrow to entertain them. Well, that’s what was intended, but it seemed like a lot of twenty-somethings stopped to watch the bizarre, yet catchy show. Everyone I met was extremely friendly, varying from locals, to Minnesotans, to people from far far away. A favorite moment was overhearing a couple ripping on Terminal 5, and instantly befriending them (No hard feelings).

1_Elliot Moss_Eaux Claires 2015

Elliot Moss

I first headed to the Dells to watch Elliot Moss, another New York native, who absolutely killed his set. He only has a freshman album out, but everyone in the audience knew all the lyrics and were treated to a soulful show. I then headed back down the hill to catch Haley Bonar’s set, which suffered from some technical difficulties at the start, but came out to end strongly. I had heard from a local that Phox was a must-see, so I made it my next show. The band originates from Wisconsin, and actually recorded their first album at Justin Vernon’s home studio in Eau Claire. In addition to playing a set, their short film ‘Amor Fati’ premiered in an artful projection–a hybrid documentary and fictional narrative about the band’s beginnings. I have to say, I was very impressed with their show. They probably should have been booked on one of the larger stages at the festival. Afterwards, I stayed put to see Sylvan Esso, another crowd favorite. While their setup is fairly minimalistic, Amealia Meath’s sick dance moves had the audience on their toes.

1_Sylvan Esso_Eaux Claires 2015

Sylvan Esso

Finally, I had to make an executive decision one where to plant myself as Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver played back-to-back. The Flambeaux and Lake Eaux Lune stages themselves faced each other, so the crowd of people amassed somewhere in between. As the sun had set, the trees around the field were illuminated with color that actually interacted with the playing music. Bon Iver’s performance was an ethereal experience, from the production to the music itself. Once again, many artists from the past two days came on stage to collaborate in this final performance. Vernon had said that this was going to be his last performance for a while, as he chose to focus on the festival and other things.

Eaux Claires is what a music festival should be. It was efficient enough to be navigated easily, but loose enough to provide a unique and building experience. I have no doubt that it will be back next year, possibly adding an additional day onto the roster. I’ve been to a lot of festivals in my time, but this was one to remember.

Find some photos of the performances below.

Ragnar Kjartansson’s Forever Love:

Ragnar Kjartansson's Forever Love

No BS! Brass Band:

NO BS! Brass Band

Elliot Moss:

2_Elliot Moss_Eaux Claires 2015

Grandma Sparrow:

1_Grandma Sparrow_Eaux Claires 2015

2_Grandma Sparrow_Eaux Claires 2015

Haley Bonar:

Haley Bonar


1_Givers_Eaux Claires 2015

2_Givers_Eaux Claires 2015

3_Givers_Eaux Claires 2015

4_Givers_Eaux Claires 2015


1_Phox_Eaux Claires 2015

2_Phox_Eaux Claires 2015

Sylvan Esso:

2_Sylvan Esso_Eaux Claires 2015

Bon Iver:

2_Bon Iver_Eaux Claires 2015

3_Bon Iver_Eaux Claires 2015

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