Its homegrown music scene is only getting bigger
Vernon’s Eaux Claires fest, now on its third year, has been a powerful driver in putting this city of 68,000 in the cultural limelight. At his start, Vernon was playing to tepid crowds in musty local haunts like the Stones Throw, House of Rock, and Downtown’s Acoustic Café before seeking a bigger indie hub in Raleigh, North Carolina, along with brothers Phil and Brad Cook (now of Megafaun). But Eau Claire has continued to spawn an impressive list of bands that have made a national mark: Gayngs, The Daredevil Christopher Wright, S. Carey, Peter Wolf Crier, Laarks, and Arms Aloft, to name a few.
Eaux Claires, likewise, follows a festival tradition that includes the older-skewing Rock Fest, Country Jam, and Country Fest. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s jazz program attracts a prestigious lineup for its annual Eau Claire Jazz Festival. You’ll find free genre-spanning outdoor concerts multiple times a week throughout the summer, with plenty of spaces to hear locals play; though House of Rock is closing its doors this month, the town has gained spaces like The Local Store’s art gallery, hotel stages, and outdoor nights that are thriving with the support of the city.
Vernon’s vision for Eaux Claires is to celebrate that city while amping up its cultural offerings. Headliners are big-name acts like Chance and Paul Simon, but there’s also a dedication to local artists, local businesses, and collaborative performances that highlight Wisconsin’s surprising wealth of artistry (at least, it’s surprising to outsiders).