Eaux Claires: A Collaborative Music + Art Festival in Northern Wisconsin

Contrary to popular belief, Wisconsin has a lot more to offer than great cheese and the Green Bay Packers. Since 2015 homegrown musician Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and co-founder Aaron Dessner (The National) have been hosting the Eaux Claires festival, a one-of-a-kind music and art gathering in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Photo By: Alisha Bube

Eaux Claires: A Collaborative Music + Art Festival in Northern Wisconsin

Contrary to popular belief, Wisconsin has a lot more to offer than great cheese and the Green Bay Packers. Since 2015 homegrown musician Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and co-founder Aaron Dessner (The National) have been hosting the Eaux Claires festival, a one-of-a-kind music and art gathering in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Eaux Claires IV: 2018

The choice to keep the 2018 lineup under wraps until the day of the festival elicited mixed reviews, but it didn’t keep thousands of music lovers from turning up for the fourth-annual two-day festival on the forested banks of the Chippewa River. The theme of this years’ festival seemed to be collaboration — it’s hard to recall a show where there wasn’t a cameo appearance by at least one other artist performing at the festival.

Festival Co-Founder Justin Vernon

Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) performing Friday night with Big Red Machine.

Festival Co-Founder Aaron Dessner

Aaron Dessner performing Saturday night with The National.

Oxbeaux Stage

The largest of the cabin-like woodland venues, Oxbeaux was an ideal spot to escape from the afternoon sun.

The JANNETTE Stage

An intimate A-frame stage in the forest with a modified piano built by Andy DuCett and Chris Kallmyer.

POP(UP)

Gabriela O’Connor and Jason Van Yperen’s illuminated balloon installation hovered above the forested trails beyond the stages. During the day it was an interesting addition to the woodland trails, but once the sun went down it transformed the forest into an eerily enchanting scene.

Phoebe Bridgers

L.A.-based singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers performing an afternoon set on the FLAMBEAUX stage.

Music Box Outpost

An instrument disguised as a tiny house, this interactive structure from New Orleans Airlift Collective allowed an endless stream of festival goers to explore their own improvisational skills while exploring the makeshift public stage.

FLAMBEAUX Stage

One of the most stunning aspects of the 2018 festival was the intricately crafted 360-degree platform stage designed by Erlend Neumann.

Pussy Riot

The Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot hit the main stage Saturday evening, performing their political-centric set to an energized crowd.

The National

Rock band The National playing Saturday night on the FLAMBEAUX stage.

The Trees Stage

Light breezes rustled the leaves, and birds sang along as music resonated from speakers dispersed high in the trees of the surrounding forest. Captured above is Ben Lester’s performance at this ambient stage built by Andy DuCett and Chris Kallmyer.

Julien Baker

Singer and guitarist Julien Baker did a passionate solo set on the main stage Friday afternoon followed by a number of collaborative performances throughout the duration of the festival.

David Longstreth

David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors doing a solo set on the Oxbeaux stage.

Mouse on Mars

Mouse on Mars wrapped up Friday’s main stage festivities with a live collaboration of their Dimensional People album.

Player-Fence Deux

The Player-Fence was an interactive display from PuMP comprising more than 100 aluminum chimes that could be played via iPads, mallets or more creatively with sticks from the surrounding forest.

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Utilizing steel and concrete to build these modern monolithic sculptures, Concrete Pig created an abstract representation of the word EAUX.

Kevin Morby

Musician and songwriter Kevin Morby performing Saturday afternoon on the main stage.

Big Red Machine

Vernon and Dessner’s new band Big Red Machine playing Friday night on the FLAMBEAUX stage. Shortly after which they announced the debut of their new album.

The Hunting Blind

A secret stage tucked away in the forest hosted an unscheduled lineup of DJs throughout the weekend.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

There may be a bit of bias since this is the town I grew up in, but as far back as I can remember Eau Claire has had an amazing artistic culture bolstered by the university, renowned art/music/performance programs for all ages, and a community always willing to show its support. The collaborative spirit of Eaux Claires festival extends to their partnerships with area businesses ranging from a limited run beer from local brewery The Brewing Projekt to partnering with EC-based Ambient Inks print shop and Knorth design studio to handle the festival branding and merch.

Oxbeaux + Prex Claires

If you get to town before the festival kicks off, be sure to check out Oxbeaux or Prex Claires, two music events that take place in downtown Eau Claire the night before Eaux Claires begins. They give visitors a great opportunity to explore local venues and the city beyond the festival grounds.

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