Bora York w/ Hippo Campus and Oklahoma

The Fallout

I had high expectation for my second visit to the Fallout after my awesome experience last month. I should have known I wouldn’t be disappointed.

Unlike January’s americana acoustic atmosphere, this month’s showcase was filled with high energy and electronica influence. Oklahoma eased us into the night with their alt-rock tunes, hints of Ben Fold, Bright Eyes, and Death Cab for Cutie adding to the mosaic of sound.



Hippo Campus took the stage next, and WOW can they put on a show. With their catchy beats, finger-lickin’ good guitar licks, and personal stage presence, it didn’t take long to the the entire room dancing along, literally. In complete honesty I have not danced that hard at a show for months. I had this feeling that I was witnessing the cusp of greatness. These four guys are going big places, I’m excited to see where they end up.

Hippo Campus

Hippo Campus


Last but not least was Bora York. They fed off of Hippo Campus’ momentum keeping the energy high and the audience moving. Their performance of Let Loose, a new song not yet released, left me anxious for more.

Bora York

Bora York

Fathom Lane w/ Verskotzi and Ben Rosenbush

Sweet 317

There may have been some confusion finding this show, but once we arrived, it was clear we were in for a wonderful night of music.

The long, narrow room was lit by chandeliers and lamps. Each corner had a stack of vintage suitcases, new and old instruments, and live plants placed throughout. The pre-show jazz music played in the background as friends caught up, and musicians encouraged each other.

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Ben Rosenbush started the night with a solo set. Well, plus a harmonizing pedal, so maybe that makes it a duet. Either way he didn’t need it, his storytelling and musicianship easily commanded the room of attentive listeners.

Joey Verskotzi was up next. His bluesy electric guitar and catchy tunes cranked up the energy a notch. He mixed the energy of the full band with the intimacy of a solo performance for a set I won’t forget. I’ll be looking for another chance to see Verskotzi perform live.

Fathom Lane closed up the night, complete with a young girl falling asleep next to the keyboard. And I have to admit by 11:45 I was sleepy too, but a good kind of sleepy. A very content sleepy.

Cloud Cult (Acoustic and Electric set)

Clyde Iron Works (Duluth)

One of the advantages of having a discography as extensive and diverse as Cloud Cult’s is the ability to put together shows like this. The band played two full sets, each an hour and fifteen minutes long,  and I could have stayed for more.

I love Cloud Cult’s new acoustic set because you can truly appreciate the musical talent in the band. The sound was turned down enough to not need earplugs, and every instrument and voice on stage shone bright with beauty. My favorite song of the set, and of the night, was the rendition of “Hurricane and Fire Survival Guide” which was stripped down to just Craig Minowa’s voice and his guitar.


After a twenty minute intermission the band came back for a second full set, this time plugged in. Although wearing my earplugs for this portion, the energy emanating from the band can cut through anything. The lyrics dive right to your soul.


Cloud Cult essentially delivered the perfect show for any fan of their music. With all the extra time, they can play way back into Hippo and Aurora Borealis for long time fans, while still not neglecting their newest albums. The contrasting sets show off their adaptability as musicians from contemplative to spontaneous. Through it all I gained a whole new level of respect for Minowa’s lyricism, which speaks clearly in any instrumentation.

Heart Murmurs – Jeremy Messersmith

“Even though I love you, I’ll break you like a promise.” – “Bridges”

“I want to scream, I want to burst, I want to blame the whole damn universe.” -“It’s Only Dancing”

“I’ve become a ghost in your garden, fading into view” – “Ghost”

From Minneapolis’ music darling, to big time member of Glassnote record label, Messersmith’s latest release Heart Murmurs showcases all the best sides of this beloved artist.

More than ever before this album shows Messersmith expanding musically. I can imagine “Ghost” being played on mainstream radio next to Phillip Phillips. “Heidi” gets me dancing every time I listen to it. The overlaying violin and cello harmonics create a space of uneasy serenity and awe in “You’ll Only Break His Heart.”

Songs reminiscent of his earlier releases are sprinkled throughout the album.  The simple instrumentation of songs like “Steve” and “One Night Stand” let his songwriting and voice shine through.

One of my favorite aspects of this album compared to his previous is the band’s brilliant use of a string quartet. More than just adding an instrumental break, or extra texture to the background, the strings actually lead to the climax of the song. From the violin solo in “Bridges,” to the build up after the chorus in “Heidi,” to the show stealing notes in “You’ll Only Break His Heart,” Heart Murmurs’ strings have captured me like never before.

In classic Messersmith fashion, nearly all the song are heart breaking, luckily we do get to end on a positive note with the dinner mint of this album, “Someday, Someone.” Listen for yourself.  If you dig it as much as I do, get tickets now for his show at First Ave February 21st!

Ben Rosenbush and the Brighton w/ Josh Tarp and the Still

Fallout Urban Art Center

Friday, January 10th 2014

I don’t know of a venue as warm and friendly as the Fallout. The light from the candles surrounding the stage combined with the assortment of couches facing the stage welcomed me, and invited me to return.

I arrived at the show in time for Josh Tarp and the Still’s set of well-crafted songs. Even though Josh was without his traditional lineup, his music was incredibly compelling. Their Vigilante EP is “coming soon,” but until then the song “Ghost in the Radio” is available for free download from NoiseTrade here.

josh tarp

I am always refreshed by Ben Rosenbush’s music, his honey-like voice brings a restful smile to my face at each show. I love how he embraces both the simple moments of a guitar and solo voice as well as the full band sound.  Friday night, this was complete with a live trumpet player and John Mark Nelson playing three instruments at once on auxiliary percussion. The ebb and flow of the set drew the audience in and kept us hanging on his every word.


I left the evening a new band to “like,” a new CD to listen to, and a new venue to frequent.

Cloud Cult (Acoustic Set)

The Southern Theater


I could feel energy from the ends of the hairs on my head to the tips of my toes.  In the stripped down acoustic setting, Craig Minowa was angelically sincere on a spiritual level (as he is at every live show) and a personal level. The old age of the Southern Theater brought an incredible charm and sense of history but also some inconvenient temperature shifts, forcing the musicians to tune and retune compulsively.  Not a soul in the audience could be bothered by this.


The imperfections brought more life and humanness to the music.  Perfectly tuned, clear, and steady music comes from computers, plastic and metal, electrical signals sent at a calculated rate.  As an engineer I can appreciate the artfulness of this, but that night music came from trees, from hair, from warm breath, and from human hands.

Classic Cloud Cult songs were reinvented around the Minowa Christmas tree at their home in Wisconsin.  Many fan favorites were given fresh tempos, creative intros, and unexpected transitions with the intention of engulfing listeners in a truly new experience with known songs. A show like this could easily become a tradition.  (Hey, Mason Jennings and Doomtree have them!)  The only thing that could have made the night better: to come home and already be able to listen to the live cd.

John Mark Nelson W/ Simonett & Young and The Ericksons

The Cedar Cultural Center (and sponsored by the Current)

Friday, 11/8/13

Hot dish, Snow-vember, unneeded apologies and Grain Belt beer aside, the most Minnesotan thing I can think of is a swelling pride for our state.  After Friday’s concert, my adoration of the land of 10,000 lakes has flooded.

I was reminded of the amazing music community around us.  John Mark Nelson made a point to highlight this throughout his set.  From the irreplaceable volunteers that make the Cedar into the arts petri dish it’s become to the radio station funded by our community for our community, something truly remarkable has taken root in these twin cities of ours.

The line up for the evening reiterated this through three stellar local acts.  The Ericksons faced a few technical kinks in their set but warmed up the crowd with their local charm.

Simonnett & Young (of Trampled By Turtles) followed with a beautiful combination of inviting vocals and impressive fiddle.  Dave Simonnett has an old soul which came through clearly in each song while Dave Young’s focus and connection to his violin added just the right amount of energy and intrigue.

Though Nelson claimed his place in the line up as a “dramatic injustice,” he certainly deserved to headline.  Nelson’s musical performance has always been good, but Friday’s show featured a new charming stage presence.  Additionally, the the set flowed seamlessly through a combination of clever musical transitions and witty banter/clever story telling between Nelson and Matt Patrick (bassist, producer, all around musical genius).

It was fantastic to see a glimpse of who John Mark Nelson is growing into as a performer.  It certainly has me thrilled for his forthcoming album.  More than that, it pointed to the supportive musical community that surrounds him.  Nelson pointed out himself how remarkable it is that Minneapolis musicians are all working together for each other’s good.  With that type of support, it’s no wonder he has become such a phenomenal young musician.

Hats off to you, Minnesota (but only briefly, it’s getting cold out there).  Keep it up.