CLOUD CULT are the kind of earnest, idealistic, vaguely granola indie rockers who put solar panels on their tour van. But if they ever figure out how to convert bandleader Craig Minowa's energy into electrical power, they'll be able to do a lot more than ditch the photovoltaic cells--like maybe take a decent-size city off the grid. Minowa's hustle makes Jay-Z seem actually retired: he works as an environmental activist, he's written, performed, and released five Cloud Cult records in the past five years (including the most recent, Advice From the Happy Hippo, on his own label, Earthology), and he built a geothermally powered recording studio out of recycled and salvaged materials on his own organic farm. His music brims with the same energy, its bouncing indie big-band style embracing some of the better bits from Modest Mouse (the we're-happy-to-be-weirdos outlook) and Neutral Milk Hotel (the flea-market aesthetic and elaborate but not overworked arrangements). And despite the band name, there's none of the creepy cult vibe that organic-farm-owning hippie-collective types tend to give off.
I first got into KID DAKOTA when I found the 2000 EP So Pretty in an old roommate's CD collection. The cover was just a photo of Darren Jackson, the group's only member at the time, bloodied and bandaged and dazed in the aftermath of an accident--and the stripped-down, bummed-out folk rock on the disc inside felt a lot like he looked. As a singer Jackson sounds like the kind of person who's been through so many midwestern winters that he's started to get off on the psychic and physical pain they cause--a kind of seasonal affective Stockholm syndrome that people living in Minneapolis seem especially vulnerable to. Now that he's added a few permanent bandmates and apprenticed under Low's Alan Sparhawk, Jackson seems a bit more ambitious, but despite the pretty indie-rock orchestrations that frame his voice you still get the feeling he's just waiting for his next trip to the emergency room.
Cloud Cult headlines, Kid Dakota plays second, and David Singer & the Sweet Science open. Sat 1/21, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $7 in advance, $9 at the door, 18+.