(Original photos by Amanda Wicks)
Half the fun of Eaux Claires—the festival co-curated by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner in Eau Claire, Wisconsin—is the surprises that pop up throughout each day. In addition to a lineup featuring Friday night headliners like Chance the Rapper, Sylvan Esso and Bon Iver playing a specially curated set of John Prine songs with John Prine himself, Francis Starlite (he of the famous dance-heavy “Friends” and “May I Have This Dance” music videos) taught the latter’s choreography to a crowd. Or that The Staves, the English sisters with siren voices, performed an intimate set of Paul Simon songs on a petite stage lying back in the woods. Or that Justin Vernon, Aaron Dessner and friends played a 30-minute set of jams (as People’s Mixtape Vol. 1) to officially kick off the festival’s third year. Eaux Claires trades in a currency of exclusivity. It offers the lineup appeal needed to ensure advance ticket sales, but goes beyond those expected sets in order to cultivate an experience that relies on that old turn of phrase, “You just had to be there.”
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