Photos: Eaux Claires IV kicks off with a sense of wonder

Eaux Claires IV
The Flambeaux stage at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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No, the camouflaged line-up didn't help Eaux Claires IV sell tickets. Wandering the festival grounds on Friday, you might notice smaller clumps of crowd than ever before. You'd be able to walk through the main field without dodging too many people, and when night falls, you'd look around and wonder where everyone went. (Many left after Big Red Machine.)

But let's be real — this is a good thing. Not necessarily for the organizers' pocketbooks, but certainly for the people at Eaux Claires, who can step right up to the bar or cluster around a tricked-out piano (the "Jannette") without elbowing too many neighbors. Food and bathroom lines do start to drag later in the evening, but for the most part, folks have plenty of room to breathe.

Crossing paths with those exploring the woods, you might notice that everyone at the fest actually looks relaxed. In the woods, they've found monkey bars, light-up balloons, Adirondack chairs, and/or a secret ninth stage — the Hunter's Blind, a quasi-rave zone where Minnie Blanco, Astronautalis, Purple Orange Beach (a new P.O.S project), and many more DJs got speakers thumping. In the field, art installations and a stage in the round offer fresh ways to enjoy music. The line-up has never been the point.

Wonder is the point, and that's why a few artists are slotted to play "Music Box Village," a twisty house where the stairs are drums, the balusters are guitar strings, etc. (Every element is mic'd and loopable.) That's why Hanif Abdurraqib, author of the fantastic essay collection They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, gets onstage with Julien Baker to read sections of a piece he wrote about her music. That's why Low play a seething set in what's basically a shack in the woods — it begins around midnight with a song from Native vocalists, and it simmers through a handful of tunes, including crowd favorite "No Comprende" (from Ones and Sixes, the 2015 album they recorded at Justin Vernon's studio April Base).

There aren't that many time conflicts to negotiate, and there's always a patch of grass to rest on. That's a festival worth experiencing.

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20 Photos

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    Julien Baker performs at Lake Eaux Lune at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    L-r: Chris Bierden, Drew Christopherson, Mark McGee, and Channy Leaneagh perform at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Chris Porterfield of Field Report performs at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    L-r: Phil Cook, Tamisha Waden, Amelia Meath, and Chastity Brown perform at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Hanif Abdurraqib reads to festivalgoers at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak performs at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    An amp connected to the Trees stage at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    P.O.S performs as Purple Orange Beach at the Hunter's Blind at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Festivalgoers at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    serpentwithfeet performs at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Members of TU Dance perform at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Francis Starlite climbs the Flambeaux stage at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Festivalgoers at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Big Red Machine perform at Flambeaux at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Justin Vernon performs as part of Big Red Machine at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Festivalgoers watch Mouse on Mars at Lake Eaux Lune at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Festivalgoers dance at the Hunter's Blind at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Alan Sparhawk performs as part of Low at the Oxbeaux stage at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    Low perform at the Oxbeaux stage at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)
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    The Flambeaux stage shoots light into the night at Eaux Claires IV (Emmet Kowler for MPR)

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