We were determined.
Rain lashed the windows and the car battled the wind's punches as we drove the 40 minute roller coaster through the hills and valleys from Viroqua to La Crosse, WI. The clouds knew our purpose as they unfurled into uncanny shapes and let loose joyful thunder. The cult was gathering.
With some intuition guiding us, we knew that although the projected venue was outside, the clouds would convalesce right on time in support of their favorite band. And we were right.
'Cloud Cult,' the band the New York Times sums up as "a sprawling kaleidoscopic invocation of the life force with songs that veer from jubilation to simmering prayerful meditation,” consistently draws passionate worship from a dedicated fan base around the world.
For the past 7 years, the experimental indie rock band titled after the ancient prophecies of indigenous Native American legend, has made its home base a balanced combination of Viroqua and the Twin Cities.
Their eco-friendly, solar-powered recording studio, Earthology Records, is located in the wooded rolling hills near Viroqua, WI. 'Cloud Cult' has been a massive proponent of environmentally conscious production throughout its 21-year life span. Founding member Craig and wife, artist Connie Minowa, are the power duo behind Earthology, their environmental organization that since expanded to include their own record label.
They moved to Viroqua in 2010, and band member Shawn Neary (bass/trombone) joined them shortly after. Other band members: Shannon Frid-Rubin (violin), Sarah Perbix (keys/horns), Daniel Zamzow (cello/mandola), and Jeremy Harvey (drums), mostly commute to this haven in the woods from the Twin Cities.
'Cloud Cult' recently came home from a large, extremely successful tour of the West coast and Midwest, effortlessly spanning Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis and Chicago amongst many intermediary destinations as well. Home was more than ready to greet them.
Though La Crosse is a decent jog from Viroqua, my friends and I arrived to find quite a large contingency from our small, beloved town having made the trip, storm or no storm.
We arrived to the Artspire festival venue in La Crosse to find the rains had nearly dispersed, and immediately preceding the band taking the stage, an immense double, nearly triple, rainbow branched from horizon to horizon and heralded their performance.
The bouncy chords and sweet strains of violin rushed into our senses as Minowa's delicate vibrato told us stories of meaning and finding truth in living while our barefoot summer feet tickled the pavement and danced straight through.
'Cloud Cult''s music gives strong inspiration and moving orchestration to the eternal questions: where do we come from, why are we here and where are we going.
Their set list granted beautiful insight into such questions with themes including finding gratitude in the everyday ("Complicated Creation," "Pretty Voice"), standing in your power ("You're the Only Thing in Your Way," "It's Your Decision"), spiritual journeying through time ("Through the Ages," "Time Machine Invention"), unconditional love ('Meet Me Where You're Going," "You Were Born"), striving for meaning ("There's So Much Energy In Us," "Running With The Wolves," "You'll Be Bright"), and finding the rainbow in the clouds ("Transistor Radio," "Chemicals Collide") amongst others.
It is stunningly transparent to me that "Cloud Cult"'s music and message is much like that rainbow that graced us this past Friday night. By holding faith in the "great unknown" and taking action in a positive way, the rainbow will indeed shine through the clouds for all of us. Their music will meld to your spirit, and somehow acknowledge your pain while relentlessly uplifting you to a new level of consciousness and joy.
As they played "There's So Much Energy In Us" as their final encore piece, the entire audience rose and fell as one entity in a gorgeous display of tangible energy that brought new life and shone like facets of a rainbow through each of our individual raindrops.
Their new album is linked to their first feature film starring Josh Radnor and Alex McKenna, and directed by Jeff Johnson.
Check out the trailer, then enjoy the movie: