It was a bit strange to be back on the west bank of Minneapolis. I haven’t been in the area since the final show at The Triple Rock. It’s not that I dislike the area because, honestly I love it, but more I have had very few reasons to go. There was a sense of comfort that I got as I walked down the busy streets smelling the amazing Somalian cuisine wafting out of the doors of the little bodegas that line the street. It was strange to be in the area and not be heading through the doors of The Triple Rock for a delicious vegetarian po’boy and some good old fashioned rock music but all things change and I, for one, refuse to be scared of change.
Tuesday night was my first time inside the Cedar Cultural Center. Okay, I know I’ve been living here for over ten years and it’s a bit surprising that I had never been to this very unique venue but if you look at their upcoming shows, it may make more sense. They focus on world and folk music whereas I seem to be lost in my world of metal and punk. Although I had never been inside, I had always wondered what it would be like and as soon as I walked through the door and was greeted by some of the nicest door staff ever, I fell in love with the place. What I love most about it is that is truly a space for creatives. They host music that conventional venues wouldn’t touch. On top of that– everyone who “works” there is a volunteer and seems to be like-minded in the world of art. They don’t care what anyone creates– as long as you are creating. With portions of drink sales going to local non-profits and smile on every volunteers’ face, the Cedar Cultural Center is truly a bright spot in a very dark world. I could go on and on about the beauty I see in this unique venue but you would get bored and you came here to read about the concert– not the venue. All I can tell you is that you absolutely have to experience the Cedar. Doesn’t matter what show– just go.
Kicking off last night’s concert was Nineteen Thirteen. Now, I wasn’t at this show to see them and I was more excited than I usually am for this concert. That being said, I was ready to snooze through their set a bit but as soon as Victor DeLorenzo took his spot behind the scaled down drumset and Janet Schiff sat behind her cello, any idea of writing this set off went through the window. It was probably was one of the strangest opening sets I had ever seen. It was literally just the sound of drums and the cello but somehow those two instruments created a soundscape together that was impossible to ignore. There was a sense of quirkiness about the duo as they played through their set.
Something about Victor was informally formal. Although he’s clearly a talented guy (his is the founding drummer of The Violent Femmes) there was something informally formal about him. It was the way he wore his sunglasses throughout the set and the way he dropped his stick during a small solo so that was the end of the solo. There were random shouts and laughs throughout the set and a charming smile as the icing on the cake. Although it seemed that most eyes were on Victor throughout the set as if to see what he would do next, all ears were on the beauty coming out of Janet’s cello. It was mesmerizing to watch as she plucked at strings and slice through the strings with her bow. With the help of a looping pedal, Janet created so many different sounds with the one instrument that it was truly mind boggling at times. The duo left the stage to a roar of applause from the nearly sold out crowd. It was clear that I wasn’t alone in being pleasantly surprised by what some drums and a cello could create.
After a quick break, Langhorne Slim took the stage. With nine albums out, Langhorne (born Sean Scolnick) is not a new figure in the scene. I’ve been worshiping his folk-punk songs since the day I saw him open up for Lucero. He’s got a punk edge about him while keeping his music very calm and sweet. His voice can go from raspy to crystal clear in the blink of an eye and as he sings his lyrics, you can literally feel the words and passion behind those words seep into your bones. I’ve seen Sean perform plenty of times now but he’s always backed with a band. Last night was an intimate performance where it was just Sean, his guitar, a microphone, and a lot of random thoughts.
The set started with Sean saying that he wasn’t supposed to start quite yet but he was antsy. At the same time, he wanted to wait because of the long line for the ladies restroom. Right off the bat the audience was seeing a side of Sean that isn’t seen when playing a performance with his band. He went on to say that he thought it was only fair that we wait until every woman in the exhausting line has let out every drop of urine in them. The crow was roaring with laughter and, after getting confirmation from a lady as she walked into the venue portion of the building that the line was gone, he jumped right into his set… well, kind of.
Majority of Langhorne Slim’s set was spent talking. Sean talked about every thing from Tasty Cakes to hoagies from Wawa to his grandparents. Although we were all there to hear music, hearing the stories from this man was just as, if not more entertaining. Sure, there were plenty of songs played and I was whisked into a dreamland as I heard his distinctive voice, but the stories truly added to the intimate feeling of the night. He explained the meaning behind some songs which added a whole new side to the songs that already meant so much to me. The most touching was when he explained that “Song For Sid” was about his grandfather Sid. Although that was obvious from the song title and the lyrics, hearing Sean talk about the love for his grandparents throughout the show was truly beautiful.
Sean didn’t play the songs I wanted to hear but last night’s performance from him was easily the best I’ve ever seen from him. The amount of passion and conviction that came off the stage as he sang was enough to give you chills. The amount of personality that shined was truly off the chart. I’ve seen musicians perform intimate shows like this before but I’ve never gotten the same feeling as I did while watching Sean perform last night. He wasn’t Langhorne Slim last night… he was Sean– the guy that has been with you through heartbreak after heartbreak and the guy you listen to when you need a pick me up. Seeing an artist in the kind of light changes everything.