Magic Minnesotans

The Cloud Cult experience can
be called many names. It is captivating. It is overwhelming. It is bone-chillingly
pure. It is beautiful. And it is raw in a way that exposes many facets
of emotion.

It must be the string section.

There is something about a
lush cello and violin washing over a room that cuts right to the core.
It strips away any posturings and pulls at those feelings hidden deep
inside.

Or maybe it’s Craig Minowa’s
painfully delicate tenor.

Hidden in that warble is a
heart ache that hurts the whole way through. As it stretches thinly
across his tales of losing and getting lost, it breaks through the band
and turns itself into a victory chant. It sings a theme song for that
moment when you’ve figured out that everything is going to be all
right.

Triumph is Minowa’s story.
But first there was sadness. The sadness in his song is often about
his son, Kaidin, who died mysteriously in his sleep in 2002. Kaidin’s
memories shock through Cloud Cult’s music. The triumph, however, shows
in his life — in how Minowa overcame grief and has become a conduit
to reflect and heal all the dark patches in listeners’ lives. Minowa
is a shaman, a medicine man and a troubadour all in one.

Minowa wrote Cloud Cult’s
first nationally released album, They Live on the Sun, shortly
after his son died.

"What came out of that was
because it was so personal. A lot of fans came out of the woodwork that
had gone through similar losses, and I had felt like the loss of Kaidin
could have a positive aspect," he says. "If there was a silver lining
at all — that by being open and honest about the grieving process we
could perpetuate his legacy in a way — it’s something positive to do
with the music."

Cloud Cult tours with two artists
who slap paint onto huge canvasses while the band plays. One of the
two is Minowa’s wife, Connie. Kaidin is a theme within her art, as
well. Tonight a packed crowd at First Avenue looks on through the course
of the set as Connie’s image comes to life. It’s a family bathed
in an earthy green hue. But there is a distance in their eyes. They
are looking at the ground, or maybe to the past.

Yet there is so much life in
this band. As much as Minowa eyes the past, he is ever focused on the
future and works to make it a healthy place for everyone.

Another theme in Minowa’s
life is roots. He’s got roots that wrap around the planet. Minowa
is a never tiring campaigner of eco-consciousness.

"We have a responsibility
to live like that," he says about his green lifestyle. "You choose
to recycle at home. You choose to buy green products for your personal
life. It’s the same thing [as a band.] The t-shirts are organic cotton.
For posters we do 100% post-recycled. Touring is tough to really truly
green."

The band tours in a bio-diesel
van. But with earth-friendly fuels becoming big business, Minowa says
he feels some of the business practices are becoming at odds with the
ethics he holds. But he has other plans.

"We’re going to put big
sails on the van and sail across the street," he jokes.

Tonight he and Connie are ecstatic
because they get to spend the night on their farm.

"I miss our front porch where
we sit and enjoy the stars at night, and I miss the peace and quiet,"
Connie says. "The scenery is wonderful, especially in the spring and
fall. It’s just gorgeous. I miss our garden a lot, too."

Minowa agrees.

"It’s getting to be the
season to start growing things," he says. "It’s really nice to
walk out to the garden and make your own food for the day."

Touring, though, has become
a barrier to their goal of being self-sustaining.

"Last spring we did our seedlings
and those died while we were out on the road," he says. "You can’t
achieve those sustainability goals if you’re not there to take care
of the farm."

The future of Cloud Cult will
likely be a lot different when the band finishes this tour. Minowa
says he wants to focus on the farm and only play in cities near enough
that he and Connie can quickly trek back to tend the garden.

Add that one to Minowa’s
list. A farmer: a man who can make magic beans grow.