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Cloud Cult: Feed the Living

22 Nov

Cloud Cult at The Whole 11/21/2008“…We’re very happy to be back in Minneapolis- it’s been a long time- in Minneapolis- since we’ve played for such an intimate setting, so this is pretty cool. Thanks for being here.” Craig Minowa smiled out at the crowd, sleep-mask askew on his forehead, one bare foot tapping. The band tuned between songs, the painters- Craig’s wife Connie and Scott West- at work producing rainbow-mixed birds and tragically sad women. And then came another song, another rush of noise, another uplift into escape.

Cloud Cult had come back from tour to play one last show before their winter hiatus, and had crammed themselves onto the tiny stage at the Whole. The room in the basement of the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Union is best described by the removal of the “w” from its’ name; a long, low cave of a room. The assembled crowd had sat in patient anticipation, semi-circled like kindergarteners, through the opening set by Jelloslave. The four-piece of two cellos, Indian tables and a drums had played a warm opening set that had people clapping and swaying with occasional burst of surprise and recognition. Even though their regular drummer Greg Schutte was away, he was more than capably subbed by JT Bates, indisputably one of the best and most affable kit-men in Minneapolis. Tripping through mixes and medleys that swung between ragas and covers of the Beatles, Joy Division and closed with a bang with Led Zepplin’s “Whole Lotta Love”.

It’s not hard to give love at a Cloud Cult show, in fact, it is a prime motivation of the band. Unlike some feel-good jam band that their name would seem to imply, this is a serious rock band whose core- Craig and his wife Connie- have traveled through darkness and back into light. It was the sudden death of the Minowa’s 2-year old son in 2002 that galvanized Craig’s songwriting and dedication to the music- working through grief. 2007’s Meaning of 8 was so titled because that would have been the age of the lost boy. It would seem morbid, near exploitative to hold tragedy that close, but without it the escape, the honesty of sharing and hope that so embodies the canon of Cloud Cult would be nowhere near as sublime.

Standing pressed up against the stage with the bass amp by my feet the music literally vibrates against my body, and when I am told that everybody here is a cloud I look around and see other people around me, all intangibly happy and our mouths form the same worlds together and purpose is not something that we need to worry about now. Now we are all together and we know the darkest places of ourselves are not so dark with other people there with you. No, it is not a cult; it is transcendental meditation, Plato’s creation myth of being divided halves looking for our other part, it is meteorological metaphors for turbulent times. It is crystalline sense of purpose, womb of sound, it is rock and roll music. To cop another local band made good, it won’t save you but it can bring you to a place where you can save yourself.

Minowa looked sheepishly out into the audience and apologized- the band is all sick, he said- we have been on tour and passed the same cold back and forth. But, he promises, “we are going to put on the best show possible for you.” From the crowd, someone yells, “You always do!” And we cheer, and they smile, because they love us and we love them.

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