Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

Cloud Cult rocked a sold out show at UMD last Friday and had many fans singing along to every song.

Back in 2004 I was very nervous walking with my girlfriend up into a suite at Fitger’s to interview a band called Cloud Cult. The hotel room caught me at first with its strange set up, having a chair area elevated above the room itself. There was old fashioned wallpaper on the wall and the band was scattered throughout the room, blending in.

Trampled By Turtles were opening the show and when I walked with the band down to the bar area it was totally packed. There were people in the parking lot hanging out, the bar was full, and the crowd looked like mostly hippies. Most left when TBT was done; I had never heard Cloud Cult’s music or TBT’s before that night, but little did I know that those two bands would rise to the point of where they are today.

Craig Minowa, the lead singer of Cloud Cult, was kind of dark, but was an extremely nice guy as well. He had written for the Reader and was everything a new Duluthian could dream of for a first interview in a new town writing for the same magazine. It felt like we talked for a long time that night and the band was very inviting. Craig explained the drawing on cover of his CD that he gave me as a picture his son had drawn before he passed away. I could tell that he was an artist with a lot of pain. At one point he just stopped talking, and we sat for a minute in silence. It was a very memorable moment.

His band is the only one that when I write about I still have my wife assist me with the article because she sees what he sings so clearly. From that first show I became hooked on the band, and my girlfriend (who is now my wife) began to listen to their CD Aurora Borealis religiously. I liked the symbolism of the band… the organic farmer, the dark artist, the painters on the stage, they were what drew me in. My wife listened to every word and found a deeper connection and understanding. My wife also has a graduate degree in biology, and Minowa’s lyrics are full of quasi-scientific-planetary-revelations, as he went to college for environmental science. What is one of my wife’s favorite science nerd/play on word lyrics? “There is hope in the worms and the maggots- ‘cause they’re breakin’ it down.” That kind of stuff really gets a Biologist/music lover excited, or so I’m told.

The first thing my wife (and Mat Milinkovich) made me realize is that I had to admit that I had only heard a few Radiohead songs in my life. Radiohead was very popular back in the mid-to-late-nineties or so, when I was in high school. That era had so many bands that it took me many years to even comprehend what was happening around me musically. My wife is a bit younger and was totally into both the British Invasion that hit in the mid-sixties after JFK died (The Beatles/The Stones), and the one that hit in the mid-nineties after Cobain died (Oasis/Blur). She lived Radiohead while I was off admiring the leftovers of early nineties alternative rock and ghetto rap music. As much as I try to understand, she just sees something I never can in Radiohead and Brit Pop.

What was amazing about the UMD show (it took awhile to get here, sorry) was that here we were, six years later, and this was a packed ballroom with people singing along to every word. Looking behind Minowa though I realized that the rest of the band was unrecognizable. The little artsy band I met in that hotel suite was now a younger, electronic, polished, inventive machine. Gone were the geeky late-nintiesish fedora wearing hipsters, they were replaced by young hotties in skinny jeans and high boots. Minowa still dressed the same with rolled up jeans and bare feet, but now he crouched down to bring on another wave of backing sounds from a huge pedal board. These were masterpieces, and were very different from when he used to play the keyboard and hold his guitar with a few electronics around him. The band is big now; big time, big sound, and big audience.