In the infant days of August, I didn’t expect to be plotting a road trip to Wisconsin. But here we are, days shy of the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival, and I’m following a dotted line on my map of the Midwest. It slants down across the Saskatchewan-North Dakota border and across Minnesota, towards the small Wisconsin town after which the festival is named.
Following the success of last year’s festival, which featured the likes of Sufjan Stevens and the National, Eaux Claires is finding itself under an increasingly bright spotlight. Justin Vernon, co-founder and lineup curator of Eaux Claires, has been the subject of a recent wave of publicity following the announcement that his project Bon Iver will perform their upcoming album for the first time this Friday.
Although it’s hard to pick favourites in a star-studded lineup, here are a few artists to look out for this weekend.
Eau Claire-based sloslylove has all of the 80s sequencer vibes you could dream of (and more). Look no further for music to nighttime drive or slow dance to, alone in a crowded room.
Currently touring off the back of 2016’s The Colour in Anything, James Blake embodies smooth, modern soul music, with his brand of tightly produced electronic R&B that highlights both his composition and vocal finesse. Blake and Justin Vernon have been longtime collaborators, first working together on 2011’s “Fall Creek Boys Choir”, and more recently on Blake’s “I Need a Forest Fire”. Fingers are crossed that these two will be sharing stages over the course of the weekend.
The Staves and YMusic
Everyone has said it, but it warrants repetition: the voices of the Staveley-Taylor sisters are haunting. Some might say angelic, some would say uncanny, for the unity of their harmonies runs gene-deep and audiences can feel it. The sisters first collaborated with YMusic last year, the sextet known for adding their classical dynamism to the likes of José Gonzales, the Tallest Man on Earth, and Bon Iver.
This is glittery, clicking noise music that defies sense. Specializing in rhythmic songs that undulate with looping vocals, Tickle Torture is the psychedelic-tinged R&B of Minneapolis-based artist Elliott Kozel. The prospect of a live Tickle Torture show is equal parts thrilling and terrifying. File under: Glass Animals, Prince, and Villagers…with a twist.
A quartet with a remarkable breadth of work under their belt, So Percussion performs classical and contemporary compositions, collaborating with WNYC’s Radiolab, Bryce Dessner of the National, and choreographer Shen Wei, to name but a few notable projects. This group has been credited with reimagining modern percussion ensembles, and can be counted upon to give a dynamic live performance.
Honorable mention: unforeseen collaborations.
The inaugural Eaux Claires found artists popping up unannounced to perform off-the-cuff collaborations that ended up being highlights of the festival (think: the National plus Bon Iver plus Sufjan Stevens). Look for unexpected guests onstage, proving to us the value of spontaneity in live music.