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Prex Claires Rocked Downtown

Posted July 11th, 2017

  • Credit: The Oxbow Hotel

On Thursday, June 15th Downtown became the scene of an amazing night of celebrating the kickoff to Troix, the third edition of the Eaux Claires Music Festival. Eleven venues held some type of music or art performances led by Oxbeaux, the Summer Concert Series, and the Baroque.

From early morning when people started to arrive until the end of the night, you could feel the love for the excitement that has come to Eau Claire thru the Eaux Claires festival, thanks in large part to Justin Vernon. The Oxbeaux was a great first year event that featured Vernon and the Shouting Match as closing act. The other music guests were also excellent choices and kept the crowd engaged. Mike Schatz, Executive Director of Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. (DECI), praised the organizers of Oxbeaux for proving we can support big street music events in our downtown. He also recognized Kyran Hamill of his staff and Scott Morfitt of Blugold Radio for creating Prex Claires a “non-event” event. Venue owners were encouraged to line up their own music and art performances that night. Schatz also noted the work of the City staff in preparing the parking aspect of so many people coming to the downtown that night and the police support provided. “It was a great test to see if downtown could handle the parking needs of thousands coming at once,” Schatz said. Another example of support for the night was the willingness for the City’s special event committee to call a special meeting, which allowed Visit Eau Claire to move forward with the lighting of and music performances at the Baroque art sculpture. It takes significant collaboration to pull off a special night like we had.

Schatz said one of the coolest offshoots of the Eaux Claires festival has come through all the articles recently written. We learned about how Justin Vernon and other musicians got started, as well as the different bands they played in leading up to Bon Iver fame. We also heared about the history of the music scene and the role the Joynt and House of Rock played in creating the culture. Another article explored the Eau Claire influence on the Interstate 94 and Minneapolis music scene. It was a great way to document how Eau Claire got to be the music capital of the north.

Schatz was asked by one reporter if he had known fifteen years ago that downtown’s revitalization was going to happen the way it has. “I knew we had an underutilized riverfront, a great university, and an excellent policy of investment in park space and bike trails. We had to lead with public sector investment and convince developers to comeback to downtown. What my crystal ball did not show was the significant role that people like Justin Vernon, Zach Halmstad, Nick Meyer, and others would have in giving back to their community. I just wish they had told me what was coming back when they were in high school. I would have worried a lot less through the years”.

Downtown’s future is certainly bright and events like Prex Claires show how by collaborating and working together we can continue growing our reputation as a great place to live and hear music.