Does everyone always remember the first concert they attended as a parent? I suspect music nerds and sentimentalists do. I’m both, of course, and I can’t think of a better show for my first outing as a dad than Minneapolis chamber-folk-electro-enviro-orchestro-pop-rock band Cloud Cult. So many of Craig Minowa’s songs are about parenting—the joys and the griefs—or are filled with a childlike wonder. The first words that he sang on stage at The Independent on Thursday night were, “You have eyes like mine”—and I immediately turned into a blubbering fool, hoping the strangers around me wouldn’t notice my eyes nearly brimming over. Not that your typical Cloud Cult fan would mind. Minowa isn’t shy about laying all his emotions bare, and his audiences love him for it.
In contrast to the droney folk of opening act JBM, a Canadian singer-songwriter who performed solo, Cloud Cult’s elaborate arrangements, colorful visuals and seven-member lineup (including visual artist Scott West who painted on a 360-degree spinning canvas as the band performed) exploded all over the stage.
A few more highlights from the evening:
- JBM is evidently a man of few words, but he said the San Francisco crowd had been the best audience he’d had on the tour. “I’ve said that before. It was true then. It’s truer now,” he said.
- For an album titled Love and filled with plenty of lyrics that sound like they could double as chapter titles from a self-help book (“You’re the only thing in your way,” for example), Cloud Cult’s latest is a surprisingly muscular affair. There are moments of dark synth effects, menacing brass and raging guitars—as well as some gorgeous folk with three-part harmonies. It is not recommended for those who like their music consistent, homogeneous and even-keeled.
- I love it when bands have way too many instruments. In addition to the usual guitars and drum kit, I spotted a cello, violin, banjo, trombone, French horn, trumpet, keyboard, tambourine, two different metallophones, two extra floor toms and some sort of handbell on a stand.
- Minowa’s wife, Connie, and kids, ages 1 and 3, have been with the band for most of the current tour—Connie normally balances out West so that there’s painting on both sides of the stage—but decided to take a break for this show because being in a car for so long is hard on kids that age.
- “San Francisco. Every time we come here it’s like a big, warm hug,” Minowa said.
- Earlier in the day, the band members visited Internet radio service Pandora’s headquarters in Oakland—Minowa said San Francisco, but we’ll let it slide—and said the staff was able to show them a bunch of data on how people were listening to the band. “1x1x1” is the most popular track off the new album.
- The band stepped aside briefly to allow a young woman to propose to her girlfriend, who had introduced her to Cloud . The group then played “Chemicals Collide,” which I imagine must be the couple’s song now if it wasn’t already. Minowa said this was the first time the band had done something like this, which I find difficult to believe. Cloud Cult seems like the type of band where there’d be an adorable couple asking to propose on stage at every show.
- “We’ve got one more song for you,” Minowa announced. “Go be good people.”
As I noted in my preview post, there was barely any front lighting, so most of the time the group appeared as silhouettes in front of a stream of projected video images. I still managed to get a couple halfway decent photos, presented in slideshow format …
… or in gallery format, if you prefer: