Live Blog: Eaux Claires Fest Day 1 (Friday)
12:49 – on the shuttle to the grounds. Presumably the guessing game about the lineup will be over soon. Will be interesting to see where it lands. Lots of angst on the interwebs.
12:53 – young folks on the bus (damn kids!) really hoping for Chance the Rapper.
1:06 – in the door. Not a huge crowd at opening gate. Blazed through. Got my beer wrist band and water bottle filled, so important stuff happening.
1:08 – got book with lineup. No big names. No surprises (at least if you had sluethed leading up to fest). No set times or stages in the festival book. Ok?
1:10 – fest book is sponsored by bank. Art is best when linked with capitalism, imho.
1:12 – two kids by me read linuep and soaked in bands for first time, and said in unison “this is it?”
1:14 – contra last couple, many seem to not even care lineup and just want beer and merch. Will be interesting to see how folx react to random performances.
1:18 – bathrooms are clean, booths are stocked. Lineup issues aside, they run a good fest here.
1:29 – line for water, good job kids. Stay hydrated.
1:39 – looking over lineup and having a “this could be cool or this could fallen totally flat” moment. Intrigued to see how it lands. No big names, and a large chunk of bands you could see on a Wed night in Minneapolis. Will crowd dig?
1:46 – sitting by side stage (House of IV) listening to beautiful piped-in ambient music while drinking beer and sitting in shade. Digging it.
1:59 – Native American drums and singing to open the fest. Really wonderful.
2:05 – people brought hammocks and already set up and sleeping. Why pay for a music fest to sleep in a hammock?
2:09 – gonna be honest. The excitment of surprise is kind is cancelled by not knowing who certain bands are on the schedule. People are on the grounds, maybe a little more info?
2:15 – Overheard: “I’ve been to this festival like five times.” This is year four.
2 28 – Waited in line for book reading by Hanif Abdurraqib reading from his outstanding book of essays. small house, only 7 people at a time. Amazing.
2:37 – mad max style tower with bells and drums people can play. Cool?
2:41- walked through the woods. Buggy and crowded. A solo Hiss Golden Messenger set drowned out by a separate stage of noise music. Good plans > cool idea
2:46 – people are lost in the woods, hot and getting cranky. Someone just said, in dripping sarcasm. “Sooooo many surprises.” Feeling some negative vibes.
2:51 – woods are hot, crowded and buggy. No idea how Dirty Projectors play there later.
3:00- Bonny Light Horseman on main stage noodling. Justin Vernon and a bunch of recognizable faces.
3:22 – listening to a poet. Mostly to sit in the shade.
3:25 – Dirty Projectors are supposed to play on small stage up in the woods. No idea how that will work. It is going to be a riot.
3:31. – some rambling, bright folk pop from Wye Oak on stage in the round. Crowd growing and their whimsical sound seems to be right in this fest’s wheelhouse.
3:35 – after not knowing of Swamp Dogg before this week, I’ve now seen him twice live in 36 hours. Weird world. Still cool. Same lineup that is half locals as at the Metro on 4th of July (see previous post). Bigger crowd, and people are digging the punchy, soulful funk.
3:41- Justin Vernon sitting in on keyboard as well. This really is an eleborate summer camp for him.
3:51 – Swamp Dogg is great. Reminds me of first hearing Sonny Knight. How did I not know of this talent all these years? This is a swampy, funky set that the crowd is eating up.
4:02 – this iteration of the festival is wild. I’ve never been to an event people paid to get into that seens to care less about those people’s experience.
4:14 – more corporate sponsors than i remember in the past. Once stage is sponsored by vans. Ugh.
4:32 – Julien Baker solo on guitar and keyboard (with looper) crafting lush folky pop. Weird to hear it in afternoon under the sun. Still a small crowd here. Wondering if more are coming?
4:46 – oh man, DJ Spinn from teklife on a random tower djing with The Era and a crew of footwork dancers. I’m here for this! So so good.
5:02- ventured into the woods to hear Quiet River of Dust (Richard Reed Perry from Arcade Fire) playing with gal from Little Scream and Dessner bros from The National. Bugs are biting but this is pretty cool. Brittle thematic folk. Reed Perry said solo LP out in the fall.
5:09 sounds like Neutral Milk Hotel.
5:16 – getting food and realizing how few people are here. A shell of past years. Explains lack of headliners (or vice versa).
5:32 – free wine, whiskey and beer samples, oh my.
5:42 – Most members of Policia playing what seems like an improv set in the woods. Spoken word, singing, ambient electronic. But like everything hard to get to, crowded, buggy and not-great sound. Getting old fast.
6:15 – Like Richard Perry, Dirty Projectors dealt with feedback and unsteady songs, except with higher stakes (and a much larger crowd).
6:19- David playing songs from forthcoming Dirty Projectors record solo acoustic. Cool, but another vanity set in a wrong space.
6:24- the “dirty projectors” set was solo acoustic set that somehow was both too quiet and feeding back. It is unforgivable how poorly planned and executed this is. They don’t seem to care. If you are in front row (or an artist behind the stages) this is probably cool. Everyone else?
6:32 – for a festival trying to be about community, it sure is hard to feel engaged and know what is going on.
6:37 – on “in-the-round” stage I think it is Francis and the Lights dude, but who knows because they named the band “friends” on the lineup. I mean, if you liked them why would you want a heads up they are playing?
6:52 – pizza
7:03 – serpentwithfeet solo set was really solid up on side stage. Not sure if it is a thing, but would love to see them with full band (not just backing tracks).
7:22 – walked past two interesting conversations. First was on merits of circumcision. Second was about right time, vis a vis a day of music, to take schrooms. Not a ton of people here but the usual interesting conversations.
7:41 – low and marijuana deathsquads playing same time later but somehow no band on main stages right now. What the hell?
7:52 – Phil Cook joined by a local all star cast for some rootsy americana. Fest skimped on the video screens for main stage this year so can’t say exactly who. Music/artists are great, but everything feels half-baked.
8:13 – Phil Cook still talking and playing. If this was at the turf it would be perfect. But as one of main sets on biggest stage??
8:17 – bros flipping frisbee are like peacocks flashing feathers, except dumber. Everyone notices how cool we are, right? RIGHT?
8:31 – Gordi and Julien Baker on noise tower making some loops. Pretty cool, but again sound is muddy and crowd doesn’t seem to understand. Despite talent across the board, this feels like a house of cards that is collapsing for everyone.
8:41 – honestly this is cool but sounds like it is coming through a broken speaker. IF YOU AREN’T GOING TO HAVE BIG NAMES, MAKE SURE THINGS AT LEAST RUN WELL!!!
9:01 – Serengeti rapping now. Some sort of Guinness record attempt coming up. Sounds like if Macklamore tried to sound like Crescent Moon.
9:15 – done. Crowd is ambivalent. Another gap where no music is happening. Why is this such a mess?
9:44 – Big Red Machine are up on stage in tbe round. Looks really beautiful. Sounds like Bon Iver outtakes if the National were his backing band (which it kind of is…).
10:04 – Big Red Machine are the only music playing, so a captive audience. Processed drums? Check. Auto tuned vocals? Check. Overwrought songwriting? Check. Big Red Machine will appease Bon Iver fans, for sure. Crowd seems to want to like it.
10:22 – you can play the giant drum tower. no experience necessary, as proven by most people.
10:35- also a bell set in the woods that people can beat with sticks. Sounds both terrible and wonderful.
11:02 – just played video games while listening to bonkers, blown-out Psymun set. Wild.
11:08 – wow, that was the most banging Psymun set I’ve ever seen. Epic sounding.
11:13 – Mouse in Mars looks/sounds like an imitation of Marijuana Deathsquads, except for on the big stage. Horns, electronics, auto-tune and thumping drums.
11:22- crowd doesn’t seem to know, or care, about Mouse on Mars. Can’t believe how few people are watching “headlining set” on the “main” stage. It’s almost awkward.
11:33 – back to Psymun set in the woods. Corbin now singing. Came out from behind screen. Someone behind me said “oh it’s a real singer!”
12:02 – Iron Boy sing to open Low set in the middle of the woods as the clock strikes midnight. No matter the frustrations today, this is goddamn magic.
12:17 – Low, in this setting, posses magic both light and dark. Stunning.
12:34 – marijuana deathsquads sound gigantic. Usual squad plus at least stef (pos) and a Dessner brother cranking out riffs side stage. Yes!
12:38 – really wish I could have seen whole MDS and Low sets. Both were amazing, as usual.