These five artists is going to take the stage at Eaux Claires.
The inaugural 2015 Eaux Claires festival, organized by musical heavyweights Justin Vernon and Aaron Desner last year as a celebration of “togetherness and expression,” was a relative hit, attracting thousands to western Wisconsin to hear performances by Bon Iver, The National and Sufjan Stevens.
For its sophomore year, the festival will again feature some big-time names like Mavis Staples, James Blake, Beach House and Erykah Baduh. And, as is only appropriate given the festival’s regional focus, there will be a number of performances from some Midwestern acts as well. Here’s a rundown of some of the regional sets to look out for:
1. Bon Iver
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Bon Iver is without a doubt Wisconsin’s most well-known musical export from the past decade. The indie folk act has dropped two critically acclaimed albums, and its frontman Justin Vernon — the co-curator of the festival — has become a musical ambassador of sorts for the area. Now, the band has announced that it will be premiering its long-awaited third album at Eaux Claires — so expect a lot of buzz and media attention when the band takes the stage on Friday night.
This year’s festival will yield a collaboration between two seasoned instrumental performers. One is Nick Sanborn, the electronic artist who enjoyed a breakout year in 2014 thanks to the success of his pop music project Sylvan Esso. The other is Chris Rosenau, a guitarist who’s toured with Justin Vernon in the past as a member of Volcano Choir. The two, who are also part of the Milwaukee group Collections of Colonies of Bees, will meld their effervescent, looping sounds on Friday afternoon.
3. Midnite Express singers
The music of Native American tribes hasn’t exactly been historically well-represented at mainstream music festivals, so the fact that a group of Ojibwe, Sioux, Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Taos Pueblo, and Algonquin singers will be on the lineup at Eaux Claires is a pretty notable thing. The Midnite Express singers have been performing “old style” music since they first came together in Keshana, Wisconsin in 1998 (although they’ve since made Minneapolis their home base). The group will be performing on both days around the festival grounds.
sloslylove is a modern Wisconsin artist with an ’80s Los Angeles sound. Feng Meng Vue’s musical project, which he’s been working on ever since his teenage years in Eau Claire, specializes in a rich, rewarding synth pop that blends analog and digital, glamor and grit. For people who are still on a wave of ’80s music nostalgia that’s been propelled by the likes of movies like “Drive” and shows like Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” sloslylove is sure to hit a sweet spot. He’ll be performing midday Saturday.
For those in the mood for something a little more hard-edged, Appleton’s Tenement will fit the bill. The three-piece band is a pop punk outfit that’s received attention from the likes of Pitchfork and The New York Times for its dense, brash, playful music that at times incorporates jazz and even honky tonk into its sound. It’s that kind of inventiveness that’s earned the band comparisons to Husker Du, and even the Rolling Stones. Tenement’s performance will be Friday at midday.