On Wisconsin … and Bon Iver!
A big part of the story of Justin Vernon, the focal point of the indie-rock band Bon Iver, centers on Wisconsin, his base of operations. And every time the state earns mention in Vernon interviews – which is pretty frequently these days, now that Bon Iver’s self-titled sophomore album is out and winning critical kudos – I well up a little with pride.
You see, I was born and raised in Wisconsin and, though I haven’t lived there for a long time, well … once a Badger, always a Badger.
Besides, Wisconsin isn’t one of those states that are overrepresented in the music world. Tons of artists come from the biggies like New York, Texas and California, of course, but think of all the greats who’ve come from little Mississippi! Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. And that’s just a start drawing from one genre, the blues.
Michigan had Motown, Tennessee has Nashville and Wisconsin has Green Bay – which as music hubs go, is a great football town. Grafton, Wis., happens to hold a place in recording history: some of the great artists of the late ’20s and early ‘30s recorded at a chair factory there, most notably Louis Armstrong. But that was a long time ago.
The biggest star to ever come out of Wisconsin may have been Liberace. Then there’s the Violent Femmes, the BoDeans, a significant percentage of Garbage … but before you know it you’re reaching for names. The Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame is pretty well stocked, but the likes of Concertina Millie Kaminski and Tuba Dan Jerabek never really made that crossover breakthrough.
So it’s pretty cool to read about how Vernon conceived Bon Iver’s wonderful 2008 debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, at his father’s hunting cabin up north and that the new album was recorded at April Base Studios – a remodeled veterinarian clinic an hour or so from where I went to school. It’s near Eau Claire. That’s Leinenkugel country!
So, go Bon Iver! And go Brewers!