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).
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.
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