Between the three shows they played in New York (including the Gothamist Movable Hype a week ago today), endless blog coverage, our exclusive music recommendation and a tour plug on indie bible Pitchfork you might think Cloud Cult is in line for an million dollar record contract and, at the very least, an opening slot on the next Arcade Fire tour. Not so fast. Not yet. Rather, they gleefully packed in the fans to the intimate Arlenes Grocery for an 8:00 set last Friday night. While the MH show was more of a "Hi, we're Cloud Cult!" show for people who may not have heard of them before, and the Pianos upstairs show was a one-off feeling acoustic gig, this final NY set felt like they were really able to let go and play for themselves and their fans. Of the six times I’ve seen them play, this was the most enjoyable.
This is not a band that would appear to have any structure or premeditation. It had always felt natural and organic before...that’s just how they roll. So imagine my surprise when, after playing one song, a smoke machine filled the room, some sort of laser light projector shot up towards the ceiling and a monotone computer voice recited a pre-recorded monologue. My first guess was that they had a little too much fun in Chinatown that afternoon, but I later found out they've been using this stuff all tour. They continued through a set that was musically similar to what they had played earlier in the week. Many, but not all of the same songs they usually play live, the adorable and gracious thank yous and other Minnesota-isms that compile their charm. But despite the cliché, it’s NOT all about the music. To see a band live entitles you to a show, defined however the performers choose to give it. To see the band go above and beyond what was expected of them by creating a mood and atmosphere they saw fit to complement their music was truly extraordinary. I’m not sure why I was so surprised, considering everything these guys have ever done has far exceeded my expectations, but the mark of a great band it that they constantly raise the bar. Cloud Cult has never disappointed. Once the smoke cleared and the music stopped, it took a second to realize I was watching them in a club hardly bigger than my bedroom. Everything about this band has become monumentally huge. I have to believe it’s only a matter of time the crowds catch up.