Last year's Eaux Claires festival was frequently dampened by rain after it moved to mid-June. / Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune
Justin Vernon has always prided himself on being a musical experimentalist, and his hometown festival seems to have the same attitude about scheduling. The Bon Iver guru and his team have moved their Eaux Claires Music & Art Festival to yet another new weekend for its fourth year, July 6 and 7, 2018, which pits it against downtown Minneapolis’ biggest annual music fest, the Basilica Block Party.
Those dates -- obviously tacked onto the Independence Day holiday break -- were announced in the usual cryptic/coy Eaux Claires fashion via social-media over the past two days, centered around a poster with etched-out names and a 29-minute sound collage. The audio clip features a mash-up of music and recorded messages, with musicians and fans saying how much they love the musical camp-out along the Chippewa River in Eau Claire, Wis.
Advance tickets for Eaux Claires 2018 are now on sale via EauxClaires.com at $155 for two-day general-admission or $300 for the Chippewa level (don’t call it VIP!). A hyperpoetic message on the festival’s home page said the lineup and other info will come out “drib and drab”-style over the next few months. Here’s part of that note:
“We’re excited about the names. But we’re gonna drib and drab it out, let it flow like smoke, because we want this festival to fly or fall on feel. It’s not about the bands, it’s about the collection of art and artists reacting with the collection of you. We’re less interested in telling you what it is than you making it what it becomes.”
Curated by Vernon with his pal Aaron Dessner of the National, Eaux Claires was held the third weekend of July in its inaugural year, 2015. Then it moved to mid-August in 2016, opposite the nearby Summer Set dance festival in Somerset, Wis., where ticket sales were noticeably lower that year. This past summer, it was held the same mid-June weekend when Rock the Garden is usually in Minneapolis, but Vernon agreed to headline RTG when it changed dates to mid-July (RTG will return to its regularly scheduled Saturday next summer, June 16).
While the Basilica Block Party and Eaux Claires are very different aesthetically, the Catholic church party and the Vernon church party do somewhat cross over when it comes to the types of acts they book. Both festivals had Wilco as a headliner in recent summers, for instance, and some of last year’s BBP acts such as the Shins and Death Cab for Cutie could have easily fit the EC mold.
The pseudo-poster for Eaux Claires 2018