Bon Iver Frontman Announces New Music Festival

Courtesy of Nate Ryan/MPR
Courtesy of Nate Ryan/MPR

It was proposed last month and now it’s official: Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon will be welcoming folks to a new music and arts festival this summer at Foster Farm, near his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The Vernon brainchild is called The Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival, and it is set to take place on July 17th and 18th. The festival, as is indicated by its name, will not be an all-music affair. It is being configured to team tunes with elements of film, dance, culinary art, and visual/light installations.

The lineup is unknown at this time, but there will be three stages to perform on. Renowned lighting and stage designer Michael Brown will lead a team in designing the festival grounds. Brown has collaborated with Vernon in the past and will coordinate the visuals and lighting that fest-goers will experience throughout the two-day event. In recent years, Brown has worked with a number of popular acts like The National, Grizzly Bear, Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker, as well as Vernon’s bands, Bon Iver and Volcano Choir.

The event is expected to draw up to 25,000 people per day to the three stages. The proposed numbers are encouraging to both fest-goers and the local economy. As Bob McCoy, president and CEO of the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce told local TV station, WEAU, the event has the potential to bring “eight or nine million dollars” of tourism money into the area. “It’s a very major economic impact,” McCoy said. “Looking at what Justin wants to do, and having somebody like that; you can look around for a long time trying to find somebody that will bring that kind of venue and that kind of magnitude into the community, and it falls in your lap. It’s really kind of cool and he’s a pretty awesome guy. He’s made some investments in the community.”

Vernon has long been a champion for the Eau Claire area. He has stayed in his hometown and built his recording studio, April Base Studios, in the nearby town of Fall Creek. The studio has become a destination for musicians, and so has Foster Farms. The name might sound familiar to country music fans because it is the same farm that hosts the annual event, Country Jam. The vast, remote, wooded setting is approximately 90 minutes from Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2 hours from La Crosse, Wisconsin and 3 hours from Madison, Wisconsin.

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