Eau Claire, Wisconsin is a long ways a way from Austin, but not too far away in terms of mindset: here, we call our city the Live Music Capital of the world, and in the Eau Claire is the Music Capital of the North. Nestled in the Chippewa Valley and overlooking the the river, we were treated to three days in the woods with 22,000 of our newly formed friends celebrating music, arts, and the spirit of the river valley. At the center of it all was the man who dreamed up such a festival: Justin Vernon, who, alongside Aaron Dessner, brought all of us together in essentially his backyard to experience something greater.
Read on for our recap of the inaugural Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival and see some pictures from the fest.
**Feature Photo Courtesy of Graham Tolbert
Sometimes a band needs a little bit of help to get off the ground, or rather with the case of The Lone Bellow, where to go once they have. On Then Came The Morning, they brought in The National’s Aaron Dessner to produce their sound, which makes for some interesting tracks and a bit of progress from their first effort they put out a few years ago.
The Lone Bellow have a bit of a mild alternative rock sound—one you would expect to hear from a band on the radio. This quality isn’t intrinsically negative, but it is apt; their folksy blend of acoustic guitar and harmonies doesn’t push a lot of boundaries sonically. In this baseness, they’ve found their niche—within this genre they’ve got some good numbers you’ll want to give a second or third listen. On the whole, however, the sound isn’t exciting enough to set them strongly apart from what others have already done.
Opener and title track, “Then Came The Morning” is about as boundary-pushing as you’ll find here. It’s a bluesy waking up track—the tempo is slow and rolling, as lead singer Zach Williams’ raspy vocals chime in with their emotive quality. The backing group vocals provide an interesting sweeping effect to the tune, the “oohs” and “ahhs” as well as the repetition of the chorus gives the whole number a balloon-like sound, giving the album a positive start. Other good songs seem to come when the band is doing bluesy sounding rock—take snappy number, “Cold As It Is” as an example. This song holds the vocals in the limelight, which freshens up the sound that The Lone Bellow have already developed. This number is a stomper and a catchy one at that, and one of the standout bright moments of the album.
By the end of the album, there is a feeling as if the songs are repeating themselves, within this genre it seems difficult to craft boldly different songs, and with thirteen altogether, the band doesn’t do themselves a lot of favors. Then Came The Morning is far from a bad record technically—the production is clear and there’s intricate craftsmanship abundantly placed all over—but I’m left wanting more edge and bite from this group. Maybe you’ll find you enjoy the mildness of The Lone Bellow, but I can’t seem to get fully behind what they’re putting out.