Eaux Claire 2018 Preview, or Previewing a Festival With No Lineup
I’m of multiple minds when it comes to music festivals. On one hand, the whole premise pretty much runs counter to my usual belief that if you are further away from the artist than realistically would allow you to hit them with a thrown baseball you should just stay home and watch YouTube videos of the band. I’d rather see a band I like less in a smaller club/local venue than a band I like more in a theater or arena. Just my preference.
But as I’ve gotten older and have significantly less time and energy to see as many shows as I used to and would like to, festivals or block parties actually allow for consuming large amounts of music, and often bands I may not get out to see otherwise.
So into this conundrum came the Eaux Claires Fest a few years back. It was on the smaller side, crowd-wise and within a breezy drive of the Twin Cities, both pluses for me. While the music at the core of the festival has never lined up totally well with my musical taste, I found the first two years of the festival to be incredibly enjoyable. The headliners were fine, the side stages had some great artists I really liked and the whole festival was run as well as you could reasonably expect.
Usually before a festival I run a “bands I’m excited to see” post to preview the fest, but that isn’t in the cards this year.
The organizers of Eaux Claires have added another wrinkle by deciding to not release the lineup of bands performing before people arrive at the festival. I didn’t think it would work, but it seems beyond nerds with too much time on reddit doing internet sleuthing, they have held firm on keeping the lineup a secret and making people commit to music writ large instead of a laundry list of bands. It seems clear the National are playing, as well as one of Justin Vernon’s projects. But beyond that it is a thicket of rumors, with many of the bands falling on the indie-folk side of things (as expected) with a few exciting possibilities (including Pussy Riot, Chicago rapper noname and footwork queen Jlin) that would hit the spot for me.
The big question is whether a big fish is landed to “headline” as has been the case in the past few years. Patti Smith, Tom Waits and Arcade Fire have all been rumored in different parts of the internet. That would cause an extreme case of FOMO for lots of people, and probably mollify any lingering concerns for those on the wooded grounds. But what if the focus of the festival is experience and not a splashy lineup? Can we handle that in our “we need to have big moments to put on our Instagram” culture? That’s a hefty bet for organizer to make.
My biggest “what if” involves if, when the rubber hits the road, the crowd is disappointed and allows that disenchantment to be obvious? Will the organizers get points for trying something different, or anger from people dishing out decent amount of money for a lineup they may not like? It will be interesting.
We’ll be there live-blogging as much as phone connections allows, so you’ll at least know our two cents as things unfold.
Writer / co-founder