Last updated on July 4th, 2023 at 06:47 pm
Last weekend, beneath the pines outside of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the 9th iteration of the intimate Blue Ox Music Festival was held. This year felt extra special since it was the first time the festival officially sold out. The three days combined three different stages, filled with artists covering a dynamic range of Americana and Bluegrass music.
The shortest of the three days always starts with a jolt to your system. Suddenly you’re engrossed in nonstop music and the enchanting festival grounds. Fan favorites The Lowest Pair and Them Coulee Boys charged up the crowd before standout Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country returned to add more fuel to the night. The Infamous Stringdusters seemed to have fairy dust floating around them during their entire set, with a swarm of bugs making for some spectacular photos.
A loaded lineup of sensational artists from front to back came on Friday, with Jason Dea West, Yasmin Williams, Joshua Ray Walker, and Mama Said Stringband. Standout newcomers Rainbow Girls played two sets, charming Kyle Tuttle into a game of paper-rock-scissors onstage. Perennial favorites Sam Bush Band, Barbaro, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, and Pert Near Sandstone capped off the evening before Mike Gordon jammed out on the Main Stage.
The most bittersweet of the days with the end near, Saturday added a swarm of charismatic artists with Virtual Band Contest winners The Spine Stealers performing, Long Mama, Jerrika Mighelle, and The Foxgloves delivering excellent sets. Over on the main stage Big Richard, Charlie Parr, Sierra Hull, and Charley Crockett were nonstop topics of conversation as each earned a ton of new followers. After a rain delay, The Avett Brothers filled the night with stadium rock and an Americana fest of favorites.
Blue Ox succeeds as a music festival that remains intimate in size while delivering talent beyond its scale. The regional Backwoods Stage continues to develop artists; The Foxgloves, Feed The Dog, The Last Revel, and Mama Said Stringband have all played that stage in the past, and are now featured on the Saloon Stage. At the same time, the Main Stage has evolved into featuring more inclusive artists, more diversity, and more variety, always opening your eyes to new music.
In each of the three years Music in Minnesota has covered this festival, we’ve savored the memories, experiences, and opportunities in bringing you these images and stories from the pines. We hope this collection of photos brings you back to this past weekend or inspires you to join us next year in discovering more music together.