|ALL PHOTOS BY AMANDA KOELLNER|
Eaux Claires Troix: Squish-Squash the Muck
By Amanda Koellner
“Should clouds scrub the sun from the sky, we are willing to weather the wetness, squish-squash the muck, and raise our cheeks to the drench knowing the raindrops will not go solid, that the only ice in sight floats clinkey-clink in a cup.” Such reads a portion of the introduction to the program booklet for Eaux Claires Troix–the third installment of Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner’s dreamy festival tucked in the forest of the former’s hometown: Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Although the clouds did indeed demand to scrub that sun away over the course two-day fete, just as local writer Michael Perry penned in that accidental almanac, cheeks were raised–ponchos were also donned, bottles of wine slurped, and smiles exchanged as good vibes permeated the magical, albeit wet, playground that is Eaux Claires.
Beneath the drops, Vernon’s Bon Iver paid homage to “John Prine and the American Songbook” with a cast of characters that included Jenny Lewis, Mountain Man, Aaron Dessner, and the man himself–John Prine. Thanks to whatever gods there may be and the dutiful squeegee work of the crew, Sylvan Esso, friends of the festival whose new material is even richer and more hypnotic live, gifted an irresistible celebration of music (and dancing like not a damn person is watching). And the rowdy in everyone revealed itself as it poured during Danny Brown’s energetic performance, sending the main stage (and, hell, the entirety of the grounds given the set’s sheer volume) into pure party mode.
In sunnier times, The Autumn Defense (John Stirratt and Pat Sansone of Wilco) thanked us for joining them in “this supreme mellowness” as they performed tucked away in the woods on the tiny Obeaux stage; Mike Hadreas’ Perfume Genius proved he should soon be headlining; and Francis (of and the Lights) schooled the crowd in the art of dance. The clouds magically and mercifully broke for Paul Simon’s legendary performance with yMusic (during which he offered up classics such as “The Boxer”, “The Sound of Silence”, and “Mrs. Robinson”). Chance the Rapper’s jubilant celebration of life and sound remained mostly dry as well (“this fest ain’t like no other fest,” proclaimed the man who’s at just about every other fest). Between the onslaught of other incredible performances, myriad art installations hidden in the trees, and genuinely unmatched feeling that this event is wholly unique, at summer’s end Eaux Claires will yet again stand out among a saturated festival market as something special.
“The goal is to feel the way you feel this summer when you’re 95 years old,” said Leslie Feist during her Saturday afternoon set. It felt fitting, then, that the official program booklet pointed out the festival’s earlier-than-usual date. “Certain authorities will inform you that summer is not due until next Tuesday. We respectively–and joyfully–disagree: Welcome to Eaux Claires, where summer has begun … BECAUSE YOU ARE HERE.” And those that were will carry that merriment hopefully not just into the summer, but through the icy winter months, past the of relief of spring, back into Eaux Claires IV, and beyond. Maybe, just maybe, until we’re 95.