The third Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival has come and gone in the blink of an eye.
Kicking off Friday afternoon and coming to an end Saturday night, the festival delivered — despite the rain — what was a weekend full of art, food, music and most of all, community.
Past the main grounds and stages, the woods of the festival contained more than just music. There were multiple art installations dispersed throughout, including sculpture, paintings and interactive pieces like monkey bars and a netted wall where people could pull worded feathers out of a bag and arrange them on the wall to make phrases.
But what really matters is the music, after all, and the lineup for the festival was jam packed with artists both well-known and those not so well-known, giving festival goers a taste of discovery and one of familiarity.
Below are some of the acts that stood out from the weekend.
Francis and the Lights
This set was full of alt-R&B beats and intense dance moves. There was plenty of room on the stage for Francis to run back and forth between verses, busting out moves for both sides of the crowd. Near the beginning of his set, he even sang a stripped-down version of the national anthem, though this gave a hint for perhaps the weaker aspects of his voice. The rest of the set was fun, yet left people wondering if he was actually singing, or just mouthing over his back tracks.
Bon Iver Presents John Prine & The American Songbook
Bon Iver, whose frontman Justin Vernon happens to be one of the founders of the fest, arranged this act inspired by John Prine, an influential musician and expert in songwriting. Prine’s music is rooted in Americana, which gave the set its country, folk taste. During the tribute to Prine, there were multi-colored balloons being tossed around, to which Vernon candorly responded with, “Those balloons are pissing me off to be honest. We don’t need balloons.” The music was surely enough for him, and Prine didn’t come out until very late in the set, and as soon as he came out, it down poured, creating an even more dramatic effect.
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Chance the Rapper
The Chicago native’s set ended Friday night, and boy was it filled with energy. Chance was very confident in his set, and wasn’t afraid to tell it to the crowd. The show was complete with people’s favorite numbers, as well as bursts of confetti and smoke. But it didn’t end there — Francis and the Lights hopped back on stage to sing “May I Have This Dance,” complete with choreographed dance moves with Chance. Just when the audience thought that was it, Justin Vernon hopped on stage to join in another choreographed dance.
Held on Saturday afternoon, Spank Rock made it clear that it is never too early in the day for some fun rap music. Hailing from Baltimore, he provided the audience with club beats and dirty rap, accompanied by DJ Delish and female rapper Amanda Blank. If possible, Blank raised the level of dirty to a whole new level, and the crowd loved it. On top of that, there were male and female choreographed dancers, a saxophone group and Native American drum group, all adding to the party atmosphere and group dynamic.
This performance offered sturdy, yet gentle piano-driven songs underneath artist Mike Hadreas. Bursts of heavy, synth beats often protruded between the gentle piano, keeping audience members on their toes. Hadreas donned what looked like a tailored body suit, but ripped and frayed on the top, also sporting body-bending dance moves. Known for his deeply personal lyrics about topics such as sexuality and abuse, the whole set was riddled with emotion. Handras thought so too, as he kept telling the audience “I’m into it, I’m feeling it.”
The Detroit rapper’s set was a hoot, to say the least. Danny Brown laid down fire with his set, causing audience members to jump up and down and never stop. His highly unique rapping voice was as entertaining as always, and heavy bass beats highlighted him. He repeatedly stood center stage, holding up the rock sign and sticking his tongue out between songs, attesting to his humor. Towards the end of his set, it once again started to downpour. But instead of people cowering and reaching for ponchos, the rain only served to pump people up even more.
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Perhaps one of the most heartfelt performances of the weekend came from this renowned artist, who was accompanied by yMusic, an instrumental ensemble from New York. The group’s instruments and skill gave nothing but a beautiful, serene highlight to Simon’s songs, including those like “The Boxer” and “The Sound of Silence.” During a break, a fan screamed, “I love you Paul!” leading Simon to humbly respond with, “I love me, too.”
As one of the final sets of the festival, it served as a nice, chill way to send fans on their way back home. This indie rock group offered songs from their extensive playbook, which dates back to 1995. They played favorites like “Jesus, etc.” and “Art of Almost,” causing wild applause and dedicated fan singalongs. All of these were spiced up by impressive and profound solos from the guitarist.