Painting pictures with music

Minnesota band Cloud Cult will be headlining at DC9 tonight, just one stop on a national tour of over 30 cities. Cloud Cult boasts an unusual lineup: in addition to the standard guitar, bass and drums, the group also has a cellist, Sarah Young, and two vocalists who also double as painters. Yes, that’s right – Scott West and Connie Minowa (wife of frontman Craig Minowa) paint onstage during shows. In a recent interview, Minowa commented on his band’s atypical performances: “I like providing concertgoers with the unexpected. Life is short, so let’s make it interesting.”

Although their fifth album, “The Meaning of 8,” is not due for release until March 2007, audiences may be privileged to hear tracks from the forthcoming CD. At a recent West Coast date, Cloud Cult recorded a rough version of a new song, “Take Your Medicine”, for a local radio station’s podcast; the group is also fond of previewing new songs during concerts. Moreover, fans of the Flaming Lips and the Shins will enjoy tracks off their earlier albums, especially 2005’s “Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus.” The album, which has been successful throughout the past year, combines trancelike melodies with introspective lyrics; tracks like “A Million Things” and “What Comes at the End” should prove entertaining live.

Promoted as “the band that said ‘no’ to multiple major-label deals,” Cloud Cult’s experimental rock is sometimes outshined by their strong social views. In 1997, Craig Minowa launched the environmentally conscious Earthology Records. The label, according to its website, attempts “to revolutionize the music industry into operating in an ecologically sustainable manner”; this includes eco-friendly CD packaging and recording studios equipped with geothermal heating and cooling. Minowa also refuses to consider record deals that do not mesh with his own environmentally sound principles; he instead records and produces the band’s music himself. Said Minowa of his convictions, “Taking all you can, as fast as you can, because you can, is an ill-conceived philosophy. Sustainability and longevity are more important, especially concerning music and the environment.”

Cloud Cult’s grassroots approach to recording and environmental views has set them apart from other bands, but it is their innovative sound and interactive concerts that make their shows worth seeing. Hopefully, their concert at DC 9 will both entertain and inform.

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