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Who’s playing Eaux Claires? Officially, no idea. Unofficially? There have been hints.

by Maia Jacobson

June 21, 2018

Last November, the following statement was made on the Eaux Claires festival's website and Twitter account: "We’re excited about the names. But we’re gonna drib and drab it out, let it flow like smoke, because we want this festival to fly or fall on feel. It’s not about the bands, it’s about the collection of art and artists reacting with the collection of you. We’re less interested in telling you what it is than you making it what it becomes."

So for the past seven months, festivalgoers have been speculating on the lineup possibilities for the fourth year — especially after the festival confirmed that there would be no official lineup announcement. It's been teased with two, 20+ minute long podcasts that have had their names shortened to "Please Listen 1" and "Please Listen 2" on the Eaux Claires subreddit, where some intense lineup brainstorming has been taking place.

The most popular thread in the subreddit is one titled "Eaux Claires IV Band Hints, Summarized," and it's exactly what it seems. A concise thread of the individual speculatory threads on each of the "Please Listen" podcasts and a list of bands and performers deemed "locks," "virtual locks," "strongly hinted," "potential," "doubtful," and "nope," complete with links to evidence for each placement, though sometimes the evidence isn't much.

To be absolutely clear: we're reporting speculation here. Even if an artist seems inevitable, there's no guarantee...and there are sure to be surprises no one considered. One lineup that has been announced is the Oxbeaux II Block Party, taking place in Eau Claire on the festival's eve. Hiss Golden Messenger, S. Carey, Chastity Brown, and Orchid Eaton. Will any of them stick around for the festival itself? Maybe.


Acts considered among this year's definites are The National, Big Red Machine (Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner's new project), Kevin Morby, serpentwithfeet, Wye Oak, Phoebe Bridgers, Sharon Van Etten, Gordi, Moses Sumney, Francis & the Lights, Anaïs Mitchell + Josh Kaufman, Phil Cook, Field Report, DJ Spinn/The Era, and Ho99o9.

Most of the evidence for these bands are one or more of the following for each band; explicit tour date information on their individual tour schedules, being featured in one or both of the "Please Listen" podcasts, Twitter interactions with Justin Vernon (@blobtower) where he confirmed their place on the bill, and an occasional account of a personal interaction with the artist giving their confirmation.

Strongly Hinted

Significant possibilities this year include Sufjan Stevens/Planetarium, Julien Baker, Pussy Riot, Jlin, Trever Hagen, John Shade, and Noname. All of these artists are either featured in the one or both of the "Please Listen" podcasts or they have some other form of confirmation on social media or tour lists, though nothing secondary.


Potentials on the lineup include Low, Father John Misty, Aero Flynn, and Patti Smith, all of which are supported by a single ambiguous tweet or audio clip in one of the podcasts.


While many artists have been brought into the discussion, Kendrick Lamar, This Is The Kit, and Arcade Fire are all listed on the thread as doubtful lineup possibilities. Kendrick was confirmed as too expensive by Vernon; This Is The Kit is featured in a podcast, but they explicitly said they wouldn't be playing; and while Arcade Fire loom large on a lot of people's speculatory lists, the Summerfest Twitter account says that the only band's Wisconsin date this year is at Summerfest.


Grizzly Bear, Poliça, Radiohead, Ray LaMontagne, Neko Case, Courtney Barnett, Phantogram, Borns, Jason Isbell, Jeff Rosenstock, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Ben Howard, and Yeezy are all definite, confirmed nos on the lineup this year. Whether it's being booked elsewhere during the festival, or explicit confirmation from Vernon on Twitter (i.e. "he's def not gonna coming" regarding Kanye), festivalgoers almost certainly will not see any of these bands playing this year.

While nothing in this list has been officially announced, the guessing game continues on the thread and it's being updated regularly with more bands announcing their summer tours and Vernon staying active on Twitter. Like the Eaux Claires statement said, "This is not the comfortable way of doing things," but, "the most important detail is you. You: willing to walk into a mix of art and sound and big and small and through the abstract science of the benevolent crowd, turn it into Eaux Claires."

The Current's Mary Lucia and Brian Oake have made their own speculations about the lineup. Be warned, they haven't been watching Justin Vernon's Twitter account quite as closely as the Redditors have.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.