The Cedar Cultural Center stayed busy during the pandemic by rolling out their public access channel, hosting the Mni Sota Native Music Series, and even opened up their doors for a special Music in Minnesota “One-on-One” performance with Kashimana. In true comeback fashion they had their first live music show last night with Nashville bluegrass band The Arcadian Wild and local group Steam Machine.
After attending sold out Fine Line and Entry shows in the past week, walking into the calmer, spaced-out Cedar felt comforting. The Cedar excels at that vibe and allowing the music to speak for itself. It’s something many of us have severely missed during the shutdown, as the venue always pulls in unique music and a high level of craftsmanship.
Opening the evening was the duo of AJ Srubas and Rina Rossi with Steam Machine. A blend of old-time and bluegrass, Steam Machine pays homage to their favorites like Lyman Enloe, Gene Goforth, and Cyril Stinnett in their music. Educating the audience as to why Missouri is a mecca for fiddle players, they covered “Hazy Hills Waltz” by Lonnie Robertson. They then shifted to a Michigan folk song that would be the first time playing outside their living room. AJ joked there was a lot of things they were excited to finally do outside their living room now.
There’s nothing better than listening to a fiddle and acoustic guitar interact around a single microphone, with two feet tapping onstage. Joking that many of their songs are about death, “Lilydale” was a happy version of one, like a barbershop death song. Each song had it’s own story and AJ and Rina set the stage to interpret and ingest them one at a time.
Opening with “Man in Room 39”, The Arcadian Wild eased into the set. Watching the four of them gaze around to follow each others play, all the while singing 4-part harmonies looks easy for the group. Charging into “Hey, Runner” was another feat to witness as Lincoln Mick on mandolin dove into his parts. His voice and playing quickly reminds me of Chris Thile of Nickel Creek. The tone and timbre of his voice and playing carries that same ability to convey emotion.
“Blue Eyed Girl” and “The Ballad of Donnie Gene” seemed to be fan favorites as the audience knew the words and joined in. One of my favorite highlights was when fiddle player Bailey Warren took the lead on “Rain Clouds”. The warmth of her voice blends perfectly with singer Isaac Horn and Lincoln’s. Each voice distinctively contributes to the full sound wave on stage.
What set the mood for me was the first half of the set having a constant tingle of feedback. Very small, barely noticeable, it gave their music a feeling of pushing the envelope of volume. Like every song was trying to squeeze every ounce of tone from their instruments. Listening to all 4 acoustic instruments jam together, it added to the energy and electricity in the venue. Never once squawking up, it eventually disappeared as the sound became locked in.
The Arcadian Wild did what many other bands did during the pandemic, they learned other people’s songs. In covering “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears and “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas, the audience embraced the bluegrass approach as all the phones came out to capture a piece. It was a lighthearted gap in the set that brought everyone together in cheering along.
Lincoln started “The Food Truck Blues” song by telling a story when he worked in Nashville inside a food truck cooking burgers filled with cheese. Sharing how dangerous it can be to get hit by the molten lava, he asked the audience if we knew about these. “We invented those” was shouted from the crowd as all the local favorite Juicy Lucy’s locations were named. Minnesotans are proud of our culinary creations.
The Arcadian Wild finished by playing through their newest release, Principium all the way through. This 4-part piece tells the story in Genesis in a creative and clever way. Looking through the eyes of the characters, the 4 songs follow the creation and mistakes of the first humans. At close to 16 minutes, the journey is split into seasons. Evoking the emotions behind God, Adam, and Eve, the story circles back around to a line that carries through the whole piece,
“I know I’ve changed but I still look like
I still look like You”
Returning to The Cedar last night carried along the excitement of witnessing another get back to doing what they do best. Filled with quiet moments, focused listening, laughter, singalongs, and skilled musicians, The Cedar is back to fill a void in our music community. Check out their calendar and go support this gem in our own backyard.