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From Now On, Mason Jennings Will Always Remind Me of Llamas

Mason Jennings. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.
Mason Jennings. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.

Something Tells Me it’s All Happening at the Zoo  

Did you know that there are llamas currently at the Minnesota ZooIf you’ve gone to a concert at the Music in the Zoo series, you certainly do. There are pictures of the cute little guys everywhere. Check them out sometime. If the ads above the urinals are correct, you’ll llove it.  

So yeah, because of that, from now on I’ll always think of llamas when I think of Mason JenningsOur homegrown hero (despite the fact that he isn’t from here, a minor quibble) played a typically solid set of folk and pop.  

Cedar Thoms. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.
Cedar Thoms. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.

Expansive Electronics and Jazz 

The show opened with Cedar Thoms, a.k.a. local musician Christopher Thomson. Although he calls Cedar Thoms “electronic music,” it is much more than that. Thomson plays saxophone and clarinet over various sounds and loops. As jazzy as they are electronic, his evocative songs cover a broad emotional spectrum. 

Cedar Thoms. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.
Cedar Thoms. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.

Thomson played with local jack-of-all-trades Dosh, who accompanied him on drums (his signature instrumentand keys. The songs ranged from mellow, ethereal soundscapes to expansive jazzThey had the perfect balance of structure and improvisation.  

Cedar Thoms. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.
Cedar Thoms. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.

A Songwriter at Sunset 

There was still a good hour of daylight left when Mason Jennings took the stage. Although rain was avoided, heavy cloud cover made the pond that serves as a backdrop for shows at the Zoo seem extra gloomy.  

Jennings’ set was varied and well-paced. He played fan favoritesother material from his older albums, and tracks from his latest release2018’s Songs from When We MetHighlights included “Raindrops on the Kitchen Floor,” “Darkness Between the Fireflies,” and “Confidant.” 

Mason Jennings. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.
Cedar Thoms. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.

The evening included two stints with a full band and an intimate acoustic portion.  Jennings switched between acoustic guitar and piano, occasionally throwing in the prerequisite singer/songwriter harmonica. His piano playing has a fun, janky, self-taught feel that gave the songs he played on the instrument a nice foundation.  

I Bet Mason Jennings Loves Animals 

Mason Jennings. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.
Cedar Thoms. Photo by Chris Schorn, Christine Photography.

It’s pretty cool that such a laid-back, unassuming guy like Jennings is so popular. Rarely do you see someone that so utterly lacks pretense – and gimmick – make it as far as he has. As the no-show sun set on the llamas at the Minnesota Zoo, his set made the gray, gloomy pond almost seem like it was reflecting actual moonlight.  

Love this article? Click here to read more from Erik Ritland.

Written by Erik Ritland

Erik is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to writing and editing for a number of local outlets, he founded Rambling On, a Minnesota-focused blog and podcast about music, sports, and culture, in 2012. He began working for Music in Minnesota in 2018 and is a writer, editor, and social media content strategist.

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