Cloud Cult bid farewell (for now) at the Cabooze

Categories: Concert Review
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Photos by Stacy Schwartz
Review by Carl Atiya Swanson

A parking lot between two biker bars might seem like and incongruous place for an environmentally-committed band like Cloud Cult to play their last local show of 2009, but with the energy and attention that the band brought to the stage, no-one in the Cabooze parking lot was paying much attention to the Harleys outside. The reason for the band's hiatus is a happy one; frontman Craig Minowa and his painter wife Connie are expecting a baby very soon. Craig said from stage that the child is due in about five weeks, but didn't drop any hints on gender or names. While the miracle of birth is generally regarded as an uplifting event, this birth is especially touching for the Cloud Cult family. The unexplained death in 2002 of the the Minowas' son Kaidin was a trauma for the couple and the band that has resulted in music that deals with tragedy and perseveres in joy, an emotional impact that has won them a devoted following.

Cloud Cult opened the set with a cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." With it's imagery of hazy dreams and traveling, it is an appropriate tune for the Cloud Cult catalogue and live, the heavy electronica of the looping beats underscored Craig's vocal fidelity to Dylan's melody. As violinist Shannon Frid and cellist Sarah Young layered in vocal harmonies, the folk tune took on the textured complexity that marks the best of Cloud Cult's work. The first really big cheer of the night came when Connie joined Craig at the front for a harmony part on "Love You All." Despite being almost eight months pregnant and very visibly so, Connie seemed sprightly in a simple black dress and moved around her canvas easily, creating an image of a woman holding a guitar.
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Photos by Stacy Schwartz
The show maintained a constant energy, from the more upbeat power of "The Grandson of Jesus" to the denser jams of "Happy Hippo" that saw the swirling lights turned to reds and whites and the fog machine working overtime as Craig hammered away at the keyboard. Arlen Peiffer (part of a recent City Pages article on local drummers) played most of the set alternating between a focused grimace and a wide smile, while bassist Shawn Neary got a nice cheer when he held the glockenspiel up to the microphone ("Giving up on the traditional stand," Craig noted approvingly later) during "Brain Gateway." The friendly chemistry between the band was obvious and Craig noted during an interlude that even though he had called a rehearsal for 8 in the morning, a time when most musicians would still be contemplating their pillows, the members of Cloud Cult instead, said "Yeah! Now we can have cold press coffee!"

Ending the set with a solid threesome of recent tunes from 2007's The Meaning of 8 and 2008's Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) (despite the title, there was no mention of Wednesday's weather in the Twin Cities), the circle began to close with Connie joining in the chorus of "Take your Medicine," a song that includes the lyrics "We found/Beautiful babies/Sleeping in our ribs/Get them in the light." That connection stayed with the crowd as they roared during the brief moment that the band left the stage and carried through to the encore. Craig announced that the band was going to play "Dance for the Dead" from Meaning of 8 live for the first time ever, something that he claimed he had always wanted to try. He invited members of opening bands Halloween, Alaska and Daredevil Christopher Wright to join them onstage and asked the crowd to join in "this meditative prayer to welcome the spirits back," as he put it. With the packed lot chanting "This is the dance that brings the dead to living/They say, "I'm with you every day you know"/Can you hear them come?/This is the dance that brings the dead to living/Just say, "I miss you every day you know," it was full circle, full of love and hope on a beautiful night.

--Carl Atiya Swanson


Setlist
Mr. Tambourine Man
Love You All
Hope
Story of the Grandson of Jesus
No One Said it Would be Easy
Happy Hippo
When Water Comes to Life
Brain Gateway
Pretty Voice
Hurricane and Fire Survival Guide
Outside Your Skin
Chemicals Collide
Million Things
It
Journey of the Featherless
Tornadoes
Take Your Medicine

Encore
The Girl Underground
Dance for the Dead
Everybody Here is a Cloud
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Photos by Stacy Schwartz


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