Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon Throws A Festival In His Backyard

Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon is throwing a major jam this weekend in his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Located near the western middle of the state on Foster Farms, his (named after the French spelling) will host indie titans like Sufjan Stevens and acts as diverse as rustic troubadours Hiss Golden Messenger and the visceral psych-blues of Retribution Gospel Choir.

Photo: AP Photo
Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Great Stage Park, Manchester, Tenn.

In all, 41 bands will play during the weekend.

“I’ve always just wanted to put something together in my hometown and have friends and family and inspiring artists all in one place. It’s just an idea that I’ve had for a long time,” Vernon said in a recent interview.

Part of the appeal of choosing his town was the challenge it set.

“It’s not the obvious place to have a music festival of this ilk, a music and arts festival, we’re not really poised for that here on paper, but culturally we are extremely poised for it,” he said. “We’re really hungry people out here that don’t get to see everything out there in the world.”

The Grammy-winning artist hasn’t released a Bon Iver album since 2011 but is involved with other groups like Volcano Choir and has lately been focused on Eaux Claires. He talked about his music festival and more with The Associated Press.

AP: Are you trying to emphasize collaboration between the lineup?

Vernon: Yeah. We’re going to try to have a lot of different options for people, not just to come in and play and get up kind of thing, encouraging artists to collaborate, having people come up and play on everybody’s sets, doing interesting things, doing additional performances, not just their normal on-the-day-of-their-show stage music festival set but also smaller shows. Additional performance spaces we’re curating and stuff like this.

And there will be visual art and film, too?

Yes. There will be bands that made their own documentaries about themselves. There is other film scoring . weird things happening . a lot of visual arts . a lot of performance artists from around the world as well, doing a lot of things.

How did you go about choosing the performers?

Picking my favorites I guess. We just went with the people who are the coolest ones to us. We didn’t go by really anything. We were just like, “Hey, who’s our favorite?” and we asked them.

Who are some of the people playing?

I got my favorite band of all-time the Indigo Girls to play my favorite album. It’s just kind of dream-worthy stuff. Melt Banana is playing. They’re one of my favorite bands from Japan, super intense stuff. Liturgy is reuniting this summer. We got them. I don’t know man. Marijuana Deathsquads’ set is going to be a pretty full-live, late-night-action bananas situation.

Photo: John Davisson
MagnoliaFest, Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park, Live Oak, Fla.

Will there be a different approach with how the performers and audience interact?

Yes. But to answer that question correctly, we are going to have the normal stage. We are going to have the best PA that you can get in the world. But it is still going to be a stage like you see at any other music festival. I just think in general our thesis is to continually challenge what that normal circuitry of an audience and performer is. And that is sort of what our other performance spaces are that we are putting on the grounds that are very non-traditional, kind of circular places, tents and other things.

What have you been up to musically?

I’m just kind of at the studio tinkering on whatever. I got friends working here, friends coming in and out, coming through on tour. We just kind of jam.

And Eau Claire is where you still live?

Yeah. I live at the studio.