Growing up in NYC, in a pretty urban area, means the only exposure to grass and an abundance of trees was the yearly visit to Central Park or the meticulously manicured patch of green in front of the nosey neighbor’s front yard. When Eaux Claires Festival was announced, I knew I would have to camp out in the middle of the woods. I was overly excited about the whole thing. I bought tons of bug spray. I looked up “how to avoid getting Lyme disease” on Google. BRING IT ON, WISCONSIN!
I arrived at the Whispering Pines campground on a grey, rainy day and everyone couldn’t have been more cheerful and happy about it. After settling in and learning the basics of pitching tents and how to tie a serious knot, my friends and I made our way past the banks of port-a-potties to the Campground stage where we were promised a bit of pre-festival entertainment. What a nice gesture. Eaux Claires was already winning my heart.
The campground festivities were organized by Heather Cook, a delightful woman that I had the pleasure of speaking to, on more than one occasion this past weekend.
To kick things off, Haley Bonar fronted a lively punk band called Gramma’s Boyfriend, that launched the festival into a frenzy right at the rain finally stopped falling and left pools of mud in its wake. When I first walked closer to the stage, with the hood of my rain poncho barely covering the top of my afro puff, I was wondering why Haley decided to wear a plaid shirt that was about 5 sizes too large for her frame. All was revealed, literally, when the shirt came off and Haley wore nothing but a flesh colored bodysuit, with what looked like a pair of boobs, a uterus, and ample amount of pubic hair made out of multi-colored felt. The crowd laughed like 5th graders, myself included.
Up next, bringing a lot of country to the woods was Michael Perry, noted author and festival narrator, along with his band The Long Beds, and special guest, Phil Cook sitting in on guitar. I honestly had no idea this man was in a band, so I was happy to see him onstage enjoying himself and the crowd warmed to his homegrown tunes immediately, with a few people splashing up mud with their boot stomping.
Finally, Phil Cook along with his band The Guitarheels, took the stage, joined by guest Amelia Meath from Sylvan Esso. Now, Phil alone has tons of soul, and a strong gospel influence in his music that you cannot help but love. Coupled with Amelia’s set of pipes from the Gods and this performance rocked that tiny stage into oblivion. What a winning combination. I wouldn’t mind hearing a full album from them. Phil even managed to give 2 of his band members the spotlight, allowing them to take a lead and sing. In the crowd, Amelia’s bandmate Nick Sanborn watched enthusiastically and gave Amelia a huge hug once their set had ended. Such a great moment to watch.
Afterward, the tunes kept blaring from the speakers, while people either danced, took respite in the nearby Camp Store that was open 24 hours, thank goodness, or headed back to their tents. My friends and I chose the latter and hung around the campfire, grilling brats and drinking hard cider. Not a bad way to start the weekend. Music, friends and the gorgeous woods of Wisconsin.
Article: Lesley Keller