Justin Vernon

In case you missed it, Kanye West named Justin Vernon as his “favorite living artist.” Recently, Vernon performed at the Sydney Opera House, and will be at his own Eaux Claires music festival this weekend (August 12-13). If you’re going, you will not be disappointed. In Sydney, an acapella version of “Heavenly Father” was captured and is incredible. Especially because Vernon is standing with a group, in a circle, backs to the audience. There’s light clapping and thumping on chests. There’s Vernon in a t-shirt and a ball cap that says, “My Other Truck is They Might Be Giants.” Everyone else is in black. Everyone else an instrument. Vernon puts his whole self into this song. It’s all that matters. I wasn’t there, but I’ve watched the videos from Sydney non-stop for weeks. I did see Bon Iver a few years back. I had just moved to New York City: still impressed with the lights. I got in touch with the guys from Jagjaguwar, who I knew from my time in Bloomington, Indiana. I ended up with front-row seats at Madison Square Garden. It was one of the best nights of my life. The point is, I agree with Kanye. Vernon is the kind of musical genius that makes everyone he works with better; you can just see that. People like Vernon are rare. You recognize them because you love their music, of course, but also because they’re constantly trying such new things that at first you wonder, “Can he do that?” Can he sell out the Sydney Opera House and perform in a t-shirt? Can he keep singing that way? Can he work with Kanye? Can he switch from jazz to metal to harmonica within a single song? Yeah, he can. Spend some time with the Sydney Opera House videos. If you can, get to Wisconsin. Watching Justin Vernon is as phenomenal as watching an Olympic athlete. So do both.