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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cloud Cult at The Independent: No Existential Crisis Required

Posted By on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 6:22 AM

Cloud Cult - RICK AUDET
  • Rick Audet
  • Cloud Cult
Cloud Cult

Mimicking Birds

September 21, 2010

@ The Independent

Better Than: Pretty much any other cult.

With performers like the members of Cloud Cult, a writer/reporter faces a dilemma. It's his job to take copious notes and document what happens. But those sorts of journalistic activities, while highly tempting in this world where everyone seems to constantly document their every experience, tend to take you out of the moment. Now you aren't just thinking about what you're seeing, now you're also thinking about capturing what you're seeing. And when the intention of the artist's work is to get you so engrossed in the experience that you realize that some things are indescribable, you're being pulled in two opposite directions.

Maybe if this were five years ago, I would have had much more of an existential crisis in response to this concert. Maybe I would have pondered the nature of writing itself and seriously considered a career change. Since then, time has grounded Cloud Cult a little bit, if only because the band's music isn't as striking as it was three albums ago. The performances themselves are still energy-stirring spectacles, with every member seeming to be convulsing in a struggle to expel damaged emotions, countless instrument changes, and live paintings on spinning canvases. The performance just doesn't feel as vital or untouchable as it once was, even if it's no less enjoyable to watch. "We're going to put on a killer show tonight," lead vocalist Craig Minowa said early in the show. "You changed man, you used to be all about the music!" responded a joking fan.

What was most surprising to me about the "Cloud crowd" last night at the Independent was the sheer diversity of ages. After relistening to Craig Minowa blurt his earnest poetry over angst-ridden guitars and urgent, clashing drums before the show, I was sort of expecting the audience to be composed of younger folks. Instead, the audience included teenagers and older middle-aged couples. Oddly enough, the older people seemed to be the ones expressing the most emotion throughout the night -- drunken swaying, public affection, and band logo tattoos. The younger people mostly observed in relative silence. It was like the audience was experiencing Freaky Friday syndrome.

Critic's Notebook

Overhead in the crowd: "They look like they're having a better time than any of the people in the crowd."

Openers: Portland trio Mimicking Birds sounds like it only writes songs while sitting cross-legged in forests after hours of meditation and yoga. The band members are disciplined guitar wizards who seem to channel tree spirits through fingerpicking and a little bit of neo-hippie aura: "We just spent some time in the redwood forest ... we met Paul Bundy." Portland has been called the San Francisco of the Northwest and this band is a prime example of why -- a synthesis of incredible music and green ideals.

Personal bias: There's something about Minnesota accents that just sounds goofy to me. Now that I've heard Craig Minowa speak in person, I'm worried the emotional power of his recordings will be extinguished. Maybe I should just never listen to Cloud Cult again to keep the memory of how I once viewed this band alive. I'm pretty sure I've seen Fargo way too many times.

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Aron Fischer


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