Two months ago, I had been urged to check out the experimental alt rock band Cloud Cult. My cousin (a self-proclaimed Cloud Cult evangelist) had tagged my wife and I on Cloud Cult's Facebook page, in an effort to get us to listen to them. I am almost ashamed to say that prior to that, we hadn't heard of this group from Duluth, Minnesota. I am originally from Minnesota, but Midwestern indie bands don't often appear on my radar in Massachusetts, where I currently live.
Trusting my cousin's artistic judgement, I quickly watched a few videos on YouTube and followed up with some reading into their history. I was intrigued by this avant-garde, conscious and conceptual 8-piece band. Craig Minowa founded Cloud Cult in 1995.
This band defies description, but I will attempt by saying that Craig's voice should be narrating children’s stories via audiobook. He is a little whiney and high pitched, with a mild rasp. Quivering ever so slightly with just the right amount of emotion in many of his songs. Much of the pain is channeled from the tragic loss of his 2-year-old son in 2002.
The only other voice that I can think to compare with Craig’s is the Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne. The Flaming Lips also have a similar experimental music and art style. Arcade Fire can also be lumped into this group. But Cloud Cult comes at you with raw passion and less flash than these two acts. With all of Cloud Cult's visual art, I am also reminded of Tool. Not for their artistic styles, but because the audience would almost rather watch the art over the musicians.
The lyrics in Craig's writing is born directly from the environment. Everything about Craig screams mother earth. He has a degree in environmental science from the University of Minnesota and along with his wife Connie, they own an organic farm powered by geothermal energy. They run a non-profit label called Earthology Records that donates all profits to charity. Craig sings about being one with the environment and as you would expect him to do, he has a tattoo of a tree on his leg.
Once criticized for skipping out on South by Southwest in 2005, to open for Ralph Nader at a protest, Cloud Cult has recovered. Eventually they performed at Coachella and many more big events. They were the Minnesota Music Awards 2004 Artist of the Year, but never really caught on in the charts, peaking at #9 in the US Indie charts for Love, their 9th of 10 albums.
Just a little more than a month after finally hearing about Cloud Cult, I decided to contact them for a press pass to their upcoming show. I was approved, but somehow my name was not on this list when arriving at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA for the concert. A man standing nearby had an extra ticket and I was still able to attend for free. The Monday night crowd offered enough space to dance and gyrate, some people chose to do this as if the concert was a rave. Many people were clad in Minnesota Twins attire, as the baseball team was also nearby playing in Fenway Park. The crowd was uncharacteristically giving each other space, in a manner that I attribute to the Minnesota nice stereotype. You knew the crowd was filled with Minnesotans not just by the number of people wearing Minnesota sporting gear, but because when Craig stated that Minneapolis would be his dream place to live, it got much more cheer than when he announced Boston come in close behind.
The band started out their performance by playing an hour-long score for The Seeker. It sounded much like a classical soundtrack, intended to be watched along with a silent movie that is surely to bring out a few tears. When the lights came on it appeared as if the majority of the crowd were wiping their eyes. After a short intermission, Cloud Cult returned and ditched their chairs. It was here that they played many of their fan favorites and also some songs that they said were never performed live before.
Cloud Cult is the type of band that once you see them, you are going to cry for more. This is a common feeling that you are left with after visiting a cult. Don't be surprised if you end up following them around the country and behaving in a manner differently than you have in the past. Many of the people talking to each other before the show were naming the other cities they have watched Cloud Cult play at previously. I envision myself having stories like this in the future. But with only two more performances of The Seeker on the schedule for the rest of 2017 (Oregon and Washington) and two headlining festival performances (Montana and Wisconsin), I will just have to get my fix on YouTube for now. Although videos don't do this band justice. They are a performance that must be seen in person.
About the author: In addition to Vokuhila, LLC, Jesse L. Medford is the owner of Pour at the Shore, LLC and a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. He also has a full-time telecommunications management job, volunteers with a few charities and owns a handful of other businesses. Jesse lives in Lakeville, MA with his wife and two teenage children.
As a journalist, Jesse has been written for many publications. Mostly for sports writing, with a heavy emphasis towards NASCAR articles. Jesse also has a passion for the music industry. He worked his first concert in 1999 at Marilyn Manson's Beautiful Monsters Tour. The highlight of that night was getting to see the entire Manson performance without interruption. In addition to security, Jesse has been a vendor at numerous music festivals and has moved up into an executive ownership role and talent buyer. Jesse holds a Bachelor of Science in Management from Bridgewater State University.