WASHINGTON, June 9, 2014 – It was truly an entire evening the audience spent with Cloud Cult in their recent appearance at the historic Sixth and I Synagogue. The band from Minnesota performed two sets with a half an hour intermission between each stanza to break things up for the crowd.
Of course what made the two sets unique was that Cloud Cult decided to play the first set totally acoustic – or at least mostly acoustic – while their second set that closed out the night was presented within their traditional electric template.
There’s an interesting line to draw with Cloud Cult’s show – keep in mind, not their actual performance – the band itself is still something of a commodity, and they might not be doing this double set if they weren’t promoting something beyond just their own music.
Like most bands that are relatively young and want to keep performing and making a living, they have a new release. And in this case it happens to be an acoustic live album.
This isn’t advertised overtly during their set, and it’s something that’s not even mentioned on stage, aside from the obligatory standard plug for the merch table towards the end of their first set.
For most band, Cloud Cult included, a new album is really a contract of sorts with their fan base and the audience in general. This virtual contract basically states that the band in question has a new set of songs they want to play for as many people as they can reach. And hence, the touring begins.
The live album Cloud Cult just released is thus a great excuse for them to host an “Evening with Cloud Cult” allowing them to play some of their favorite songs live and acoustic for their fans.
Performing at a venue like Sixth and I just further highlights how good of a choice this was for Cloud Cult. This venue, especially the main part of the interior space, usually hosts its fair share of acoustic acts, so anyone familiar with the Sixth and I won’t be surprised by a band that’s playing unplugged at that locale. It says a lot about the musicality of Cloud Cult that they have been able to recalibrate their songs and soundscape to fit the new acoustic atmosphere they’ve crafted for themselves in their latest release.
There are some bands that are well known for being multi-instrumental and even for throwing in electronic blips across their sound. Those of these bands that then try to go acoustic and end up coming off as a novelty act more or less. This was definitely a trap ready to ensnare Cloud Cult, but it never happened during their set here. This is in part because they’re naturally a thoughtful band in the way they create their songs and in their awareness that they would need to at least slightly alter their M.O. to make the acoustic set work in this setting.
Despite appropriating some of their electric desires to fit the mood, their songs never lose an ounce of emotional weight in the transition, and in a few cases they actually come across stronger.
Ultimately though this was an interesting exercise for the band, and they pulled it off successfully. Towards the end of their first set though, front man Craig Minowa commented on how well sound travels in the main part of Sixth and I and how he couldn’t wait to break out their electric set. It was easy to note just how excited he was to continue playing, and after they launched into that electric set, it was impossible not feel excited along with him.
Despite how much they seemed to enjoy playing their acoustic set at Sixth and I – and on this tour in general – that’s not really the kind of band they are at heart. They absolutely love to throw in various flourishes that are very difficult to pull off acoustically.
This is especially true with the songs from their last two wholly electric albums that become so intensely atmospheric. Those didn’t necessarily dominate the latter set here, but the influence was certainly there, including their vaguely sci-fi inspired backdrop that set the proper mood for the audience which, almost as if on cue, began to move closer to the stage.
As the band pumped up the amps, the sound practically enveloped Sixth and I, as it ricocheted off the walls, carrying through and bouncing from the dome shaped ceiling.
The energy level changed once Cloud Cult broke into their second set and it was easy to see that this is the kind of environment they enjoy performing in, as it allows some of their unique impulses to take shape helping transform their already big, musically full sound and make it that much more vibrant. By the time Cloud Cult closed with “There’s So Much Energy in Us,” they had so enveloped the audience in their sound that listening to the set almost felt like being underwater.
It’s hard to imagine that there is any other kind of show Cloud Cult would enjoy playing than the one they did at Sixth and I. For the audience, it was satisfying to see a band like Cloud Cult encapsulate everything that makes them a unique and fun band to be a part of. Performing a show like this at Sixth and I simply makes everyone feel a part of the music the band is performing.