I’m late. Work gets in the way too often. But I’m here, back at First Avenue’s main room, and Reina Del Cid is on stage, just starting a song. How many have they already played? It’s just past 11pm on a Friday, so hopefully we’re just getting started. The house is half-full and it makes for a more comfortable, more intimate main room. There are five people on stage, Reina and Toni, lead singer and lead guitarist, respectively, a bass player, organist, and a drummer. The band is back-lit by three giant wooden letters filled with light bulbs: R, D, C. The organist has a sort of pirate flag hanging from his rig. We’ve got style up here.
This is the band’s second time playing this stage. The first was last month at night two of The Current’s Birthday Show. I was late to that show too (it’s a theme), and just managed to catch RDC’s last song. One day quite soon, I promise I’ll catch your whole set. For now, Renia Del Cid, I’ll take what I can get.
Song One: When There’s No You
One of my favorites from last year’s record (it’s called Rerun City and it’s wonderful), “When There’s No You” is a call back to Simon-esque 1970’s folk Americana. A hopeful torch song of flight and independence, this song is the sort of sad smile that plays over the credits of our favorite rom-com. As we watch, in wide shot, our lead’s car gets smaller and smaller and further out across the interstate. Her future is uncertain, but we know she’ll land feet first, somewhere.
Song Two: Woolf
Here, Reina gives us a challenge:
– So I was an English major in college. Any other English majors out there?
– *scattered applause*
– There’s always a few of us out in the wild! So the first one at the merch table who can tell me which author from the 1900’s this next song is about gets a free coffee mug!
What more can one ask for on a Friday night than folk music and literary trivia? One of the last albums more energetic songs, this song is a lovely reference-laden ode to Virginia Woolf.
Song Three: Hold Me Before I’m Gone Forever
For this song, Reina invites a guest vocalist, Sarah Morris, to the stage and tells us, “This song was going to be on our last record, but it was too damn sad, so we’ve decided to put it on the next one, which will be really depressing.” And it is sad, late-summer-night-‘round-the-fire-with-the-last-sip-of-your-last-beer kind of sad. It’s tender and real. The bassist plays country roots and fifths. Our guest vocalist sings very open and dulcet upper harmonies. My eyes close, for a bit, on their own.
Song Four: Whiskey Down
“Since it’s my birthday, I gotta do a song about whiskey.” I was late to a birthday party! Bad form. “This song is called ‘Whiskey Down.’” It’s fast and raucous. Three dancers come out from the side stage, and they’re clompers, folksy tappers. I think we now have a bonafide hootenanny. Once a few verses are sung, the clompers go head to head with the drummer, stomping rhythms, call-and-response style. If I had a glass, I’d’ve finished it. Our dancers are a troupe called Clomp and Circumstomp, I learn as Reina shouts for a round of applause. We give one. The band has fun with this one: we get a half-time break towards the end, then a modulation and one more chorus.
Song Five: Beverly
Here we have another song from last year’s Rerun City, this one the unofficial title track. This song starts off smooth with a pocket bass line behind shimmering major seventh chords and sparse drums. Halfway through, though, we get a ripping organ solo by “Lightning” Joe Peterson and a total feel change into an anthemic I – IV vamp.
And that’s it! They leave. House lights stay down. They don’t make us wait long.
Song Six: Queen Bee
As the band comes back out for an encore, an abrupt gang-vox retelling of Happy Birthday arises. Reina is beaming. She pulls out her cell-phone and records the audience.
“You guys made me tear up a little there. I don’t usually tear up. Thank you! Do you know what song we’re gonna play?”
It’s a classic, a standard: a cover of Taj Mahal’s “Queen Bee,” but slowed way down and shuffled ‘round a bit. It’s a lovely, a perfect closer.
Reina Del Cid is certainly one of the leading folk voices in Minneapolis right now, and headlining the main room was well deserved. They streamed the whole set on Facebook, which you can find here. Don’t miss them at the Midwest Music Fest in Winona on April 27th before they head out on tour again! And if you didn’t click that link above, check out the brand new video for Beverly here.