“It’s been a really great year,” Dark Dark Dark banjoist Marshall LaCount announced towards the beginning of their set at the Cedar Cultural Center Saturday night. LaCount went on to say that it was also great to be home, an understandable sentiment considering the band had been on tour in Europe and the U.S. since before Halloween and spent a good chunk of 2008 on the road.
And that time spent on the road really shows in their performance. In October they released a full-length album, The Snow Magic. The album was produced by Robert Skoro and was the first release for SAD Music, a label started by former Sage Francis guitarist Tom Inhaler.
Dark Dark Dark, who hail from both Minneapolis and New York, are Nona Marie Invie (accordion and vocals), Marshall LaCount (banjo), Jonathan Kaiser (cello) and Todd Chandler (stand-up bass). They play haunting, dreamy and dark eastern-European sounding music with influences from the cabaret and folk traditions.
One of the first things that strikes you about the band live is their earnestness. There are similar-sounding groups that go for over-the-top antics and are as much a barroom brawl at times as they are a band. Though the inevitable dark carnival atmosphere pervades Dark Dark Dark’s music on disc, watching them live is as enchanting watching a classical string quartet. Perhaps the pin-drop quietness of the sold-out Cedar during songs contributed to that feeling. But it’s also there in the tone the band purveys from the lush warmth of the cello and bass flanking LaCount and Invie. This band is deadly serious about their music and it shows.
“We’re the least rock-and-roll band we’ve encountered on the road,” LaCount said later in the show, pointing out that they can actually be a little shy, especially in their own hometown. The Cedar crowd showed their love for the band and their Twin Cities shout-out, rising into a slight cheer when they sang the line, “It’s too bad there’s no ocean in Minneapolis,” from the song “Colors”—which appears on their new disc.
Saturday the band was not joined on stage by Martin Dosh who contributed drums to the album, but they were joined by friend John Davis on bass clarinet.
Dark Dark Dark goes back out on tour after the first of the year with a show at CBGB in St. Louis. LaCount also talked a little bit about a movie Todd Chandler has been working on in NYC that may surface within the year. (Watch the teaser here.)
Though I was on hand primarily to see Dark Dark Dark this evening, Dosh was perhaps the main attraction that drove ticket sales over the limit. (The show was sold out before we even arrived at 8 p.m.)
At the end of the intermission and leading into the beginning of Dosh’s set, several musicians performed a live surround-sound weather machine concert featuring thunder, lightning and rain—you name an element, they had it. Huge rain sticks on levers were operated stage left, a metal thunder sheet was beat on and shaken at the back of the venue, and some sort of wind machine was operated by none other than Robert Skoro stage right. It was unreal and sounded pretty cool to boot.
As the weather concert segued into a song by Dosh, he was ultimately joined by collaborators Mike Lewis on sax and bass, Jeremy Ylvisaker on guitar and JT Bates on drums. And indeed, that would be Alpha Consumer and the same set of musicians that constitute Andrew Bird’s band. Seeing them was a nice consolation prize after having missed the AC show the night before at the Triple Rock.
A highlight of Dosh’s set was surely the Lateduster song Martin Dosh dedicated to his friend and soundman Tom Cesario, who passed away earlier in the week. Dosh actually dedicated the whole remainder of the set to Cesario, pointing out that Tom, a longtime sound man for First Avenue who knew nearly every musician in Minneapolis, was the same age as him. Friends who wish to remember Cesario should keep an eye on Dosh’s Web site for info for a yet-to-be-announced memorial service that may be forthcoming. Cesario’s many friends in the Twin Cities music community are leaving moving tribute messages on his Facebook wall.