Saturday, May 16

Desert dwellers, we owe Minneapolis a huge debt of gratitude for sharing two incredible bands with us.

It's a shame Ice Palace had to open to such a minimal crowd. An eclectic five-piece band that utilizes guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and a trumpet, they had an endearing indie-rock pseudo-sloppiness (much like Beirut) that gave them an accessible, down-to-earth quality. Harmonies were abundant in two, three and four parts, and their songs were laced with surprising progressive riffs and catchy melodies. The few people who showed up early were treated to a solid performance.

Say Hi, the odd band out from Seattle, confirmed something that I wasn't ready to concede at their performance here in March: Their live show is sorely lacking when compared to their recorded material. The drums tend to overpower all other elements that would otherwise steal—or at the very least round out—the show. The strain of having to make up all parts of their sound proved too much for the two members—a vocalist/guitarist/bassist and a drummer. If they don't want extra bandmates, then it would behoove them to start looping some of the elements from their recorded material and using technology to their advantage. They received a flat response from the crowd for good reason.

If there were an intergalactic save-the-universe benefit concert, and one band had to be chosen to represent the best of what the human race has to offer, my vote would go to Cloud Cult. Fog, video displays and delicate lights set the tone. Two large canvases flanked the stage, and when the music kicked in, Connie Minowa and Scott West began to paint. As if the beautiful visuals weren't enough, the intense beauty of the music could have inspired tears. Many of the songs the band performed were penned while lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Craig Minowa dealt with the tragic loss of his son in 2002, and touched on the universal themes of love and loss. The band's sound included breathtaking cello and violin work, a keyboard, a trumpet and gorgeous harmonies, sometimes involving up to six people.

At the end of the show, the paintings were auctioned off to support Cloud Cult's efforts to save the planet. There's no doubt those in attendance were in the presence of greatness.

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