Right around the same time that the idea of this website was first getting tossed around, a trip to my homeland of Eau Claire was also in the works. Both started materializing on Saturday, May 8th, when we witnessed how vital the Eau Claire music scene is. Though we were excited for all the bands we would see that day, I had only seen two of the six play before. I knew I had seen jamie yanda in his element already – an intimate house show full of his friends and band mates – but I wasn’t sure how he would do all the way on the other side of the state in Eau Claire. Two things I didn’t realize about Jamie: 1. He has friends everywhere. Which should come at no surprise, considering his friendly, outgoing nature. 2. If you give him a guitar, he will play. Not only will he play, it will sound good. On the other hand, I had seen Vacation Dad a bit out of his element before. I could just tell that a sparsely populated Project Lodge was not quite the place for his uber-dancable electronic tracks and elated yelps encouraging all sorts of debaucherous behavior. The ridiculous show I bore witness to that night was a testament to this inference. As for the rest of the bands, we had heard nothing but good things about all of them, so the three hour drive up to Eau Claire, though beautiful, was filled with anxious anticipation.
Our Eau Claire counter-parts, the valley, played host to the afternoon show. Intended to be held in the lovely Owen Park on the banks of the Chippewa river, cold weather moved the location to the nearby UWEC Fine Arts building. After only a slight delay to allow more confused concert-goers to make it to the new location, cedarwell began playing. I was amazed. Simple and elegant, Cedarwell seemed to me to be everything a band should be. Erik G. Neaves sang lead lines exciting a range of emotions, with Jared Beckman’s back up harmonies accentuating every note. This same synergy was present in their instrumentation, with Jared’s simple drum set up matching the pace and timbre of Erik’s guitar. They ended with the beautiful “Lake Millec as a Singular Lover”, including the audience in singing the final refrain.
As I said earlier, Jamie Yanda playing creates emotional ballads with only his guitar and voice. However after only a couple of songs, Jamie’s fierce strums proved too much for his guitar strings, and having packed light for this trip, was in need of a replacement guitar. Feathe’s Alyssa Reiper cautiously offered up hers, the sight of Jamie’s raw energy when playing guitar moments early playing out in her imagination with her own guitar. After promises to be gentle on it while Thom Fountain sped off to go grab his guitar, Jamie serenaded us with some softer tunes to carefully avoid breaking any more strings. After Thom’s guitar couldn’t quite match Jamie’s powerful voice, I ran off to grab my guitar from my car in hopes that it could suffice where two others couldn’t. By some miracle it did, and Jamie was able to finish off his set strong with a guitar he could play comfortably.