We are made of love

It’s been the better part of a week since I last posted so there is plenty that I could write about my life. Despite that, I want to write about something more important than me. I want to write about Cloud Cult.

Photo by Cody York

Photo by Cody York

I first saw Cloud Cult at their CD release show for Aurora Borealis at 7th Street Entry in 2004. I went because my wife’s cousin was friends with the drummer at the time, Dan Greenwood. The Entry only holds about 200 people but I don’t even think the show sold out. Still, it was a full on rock-n-roll show and I was blown away. I’ve been a fan ever since. In fact I think that they are one of the greatest bands ever in existence  I get a lot of grief for loving this band. They are too hippy-dippy for my more hardcore friends and too serious for my hippy friends but I don’t give a shit. In my book, this band rocks! They have meaning and purpose and to me, that is what life is about.

Sunday night I went to the second of their sold out shows at First Avenue‘s main room. It still kind of shocks me that this little band with the big show, that I have been going to see for nearly 10 years, is now selling out the number one live music venue in Minneapolis.  It shocks me to the point that I didn’t even bother to buy a ticket beforehand. Actually, my life is too chaotic right now to plan ahead for much. Luckily, First Avenue holds back a few tickets to sell at the door for sold out shows. This is mostly to prevent scalping but it’s also to be nice to people in the know like me. I was lucky enough to get one of those tickets.

So how does a band go from barely filling the tiny 7th Street Entry to packing the mainroom? A Cloud Cult fan at the show said, “They are so successful because they have stayed true to their values.” It’s true, Craig Menowa, founder/songwriter for Cloud Cult, has blazed this trail doing it his own way. He has been offered record contracts but has turned them down in favor of keeping creative control over his art. I respect that and I think that Cloud Cult is very successful. They are successful to me because they have had a tremendous impact in my life. Rarely have I been to a Cloud Cult show that hasn’t moved me to tears. It happened Sunday night. I’m an emotional guy and I cry pretty freely but not usually at a rock show. I find that impressive, but is that really success? Tears don’t pay the bills. I responded to this guy saying, “You realize they still have day jobs.” I don’t know if that is true of everyone in the band but I know that this band is not financially successful enough to support 8 people. Actually, there are more than 8 people involved in this operation. Besides the people on stage, there are probably some road crew or techs. I met the sound guy who works for the band. I also met the merch person who told me that he refuses to take any money for his work. I respect that too. Art is about more than money.

But wouldn’t one think that a successful band would be financially successful as well? Very few local independent artists are as successful as Cloud Cult. I am racking my brain to figure out how many local bands that haven’t been signed to a major label have sold out the First Avenue mainroom. Trampled By Turtles has done it. Policia did it last Wednesday. I’m pretty sure that Mark Mallman has done it a few times. Maybe Har Mar Superstar. Obviously Atmosphere, P.O.S and Doomtree have done it. The short lived supergroup Gayngs has done it. The band I play for, All The Pretty Horses, has never done it. Before I was in the band, we opened for Peaches at First Avenue. I would like to think that show sold out but I’m not even sure. We are playing the David Bowie tribute Rebel Rebel – Rock for Pussy, a fundraiser for Feline Rescue on May 17th. It would be awesome if that sold out! Still, I won’t get a cent out of that show. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most amazing things that I do every year. There are things more important than money. I think cats are awesome!

But let’s do some math. First Avenue holds 1,500 people. At $20 a head that is 30 grand. That is some pretty sizable change. Especially if you do that two nights in a row. But the club gets a cut of that. Also, it needs to be spread out over the dozen or so people that put on the show. There was an opening act as well. There are promotion expenses, travel expenses, equipment expenses, lighting and recording expenses. These shows are not cheap to put on. Do I even need to mention that it took almost 20 years of really hard work for Cloud Cult to get to this point? I probably do. I told a guy at the show that I had every Cloud Cult album and he responded saying, “Yeah, I have both of them too.” They actually have 11 albums and I don’t really have all of them because I don’t own the first album, The Shade Project from 1994 or the re-release of Lost Songs from the Lost Years from 2009. Still, I have given this band hundreds of dollars over the years in album sales and concert tickets. So have thousands of other people but does that add up to financial security? Not really. Is a person who has been making music for twenty years without really making any money a success or just stupid?

I am convinced that the only way to get rich off of art is to create something that someone else can get even richer off of. But then your art is not art, it’s a commodity, it is a product. There is no way in this world to be a financially successful artist. We all need money to survive but can we admit that it is not about money, it is about survival. Define success anyway you want but to me, Cloud Cult is a successful band for one reason and one reason only. They are successful because 20 years later they are still doing what they do. They are surviving. And they have love. Perhaps love is the definition of success. Love is the title of their latest album and while I hope it makes a lot of money, love is more important than money.

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About lefreakshow
A walking contradiction attempting to make sense of this crazy world though the power of creation, exploration and communication.

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