Zellar, Ciola and Cloud Cult’s Frid-Rubin rock in homecoming

Saturday night’s Austin ArtWorks concert featuring Martin Zellar and the Hardways and Cloud Cult ended with a bang — literally.

The concert presented by the Austin ArtWorks Festival and Pacelli Catholic Schools’ 100th anniversary featured two dynamic, but very different acts that attracted a diverse crowd to Marcusen Park for more than three hours of music and a fireworks display.

Paramount Theatre Executive Director Jennie Knoebel was thrilled to see many people out enjoying the concert.

“I’m really excited about what a great sense of community it is,” Knoebel said. “It’s so fun seeing people just being able to hang out and listen to great music and have a great time.”

The concert was a night of homecomings, as Zellar, his collaborator of 35 years Nick Ciola, and Cloud Cult violinist Shannon Frid-Rubin all grew up in Austin.

“It’s such a blessing to be able to play in my hometown,” Frid-Rubin told the crowd. “It means a lot. It’s emotional.”

“We’re pretty proud of our Shannon Frid,” Cloud Cult singer Craig Minowa added.

The concert started with a relaxed tone, as many concertgoers continued filing in as Zellar and the Hardways took the stage around 7:40 p.m. At the start, most were content to listen to Zellar’s blend of country and rock from lawn chairs, but people started dancing in front of the stage about halfway through his set.

Zellar played songs from his entire career, including many from his and Ciola’s Gear Daddies days. Fans buzzed over songs like “Stupid Girl,” “Sonic Boom” “Goodbye Marie” and “Wear Your Crown.”

By the end of his set, fans shouted out requests, and Zellar responded with a brief cover of “Hanky Panky,” since his allotted time was running short. Zellar also played covers of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” one of the energetic songs of his set that had many singing along to the chorus.

Fans coaxed a somewhat reluctant Zellar back onstage for an encore.

“Opening acts aren’t supposed to do encores,” he told the crowd.

But, Zellar granted the fans’ wishes by capping his set with “I Wanna Drive the Zamboni.”

Cloud Cult’s set started around 9:40 p.m., with a strong following of fans — many in their teens and 20s and from out of town — gathered against the stage. Many enjoyed the lax security compared to Twin Cities concerts by leaning against the stage just a few feet from the band.

Cloud Cult flashed its diversity, playing energetic versions of “Complicated Creation” and “Everybody Here Is a Cloud” that had many fans singing along and the stage in Marcusen’s outfield shaking as the band members jumped to the music. The band mixed in slower tunes like “You Were Born” and a folksy version of “Meet Me Where You’re Going.”

Connie Minowa, Craig’s wife, and Scott West completed two paintings during the set. One was auctioned off and the other was given to Pacelli. The two painters joined the six musicians on backup vocals for many songs, including a version of “Blessings” that started with all eight members playing two floor toms.

Craig told the crowd it was an honor to play the concert with Zellar Saturday, as he and West recalled going to Gear Daddies concerts when they were in college.

Cloud Cult capped their set with a two-song encore. First, Craig played “Journey of the Featherless” by himself, which he dedicated to the memory of his and Connie’s son, Kaidin, who died in 2002. The rest of the band returned to end with the rousing “You’ll Be Bright.”

After the band took a bow, the fireworks immediately began, closing a set that had most fans leaving happy.

“That was incredible,” one fan said as he left Marcusen Park.


What’s next for the two bands

After the ArtWorks concert, Zellar said he’s looking forward to some time off in the winter, which often follows his busier touring schedule in the summer. Zellar left his hometown and returned to his home in San Miguel Allende, Mexico, over the weekend.

Before Cloud Cult played in Austin, the group performed in Seattle at the Mural Amphitheatre and at Camp Long Environmental Learning Center, where they played an acoustic set that the band was still buzzing about before Saturday’s show.

“It sort of felt like it opened up a new realm for us,” Craig said. “It’s a totally different kind of the show that we can offer, and I think we all got energized by that.”

Craig added acoustic or unplugged sets offer many possibilities for the band to play in new cities and locations that might not otherwise have a venue capable of supporting six musicians and all their equipment, instruments and electrical needs.

Shawn Neary added such shows open the band up to a new audience that typically wouldn’t go to a club concert.

The band has discussed recording an entire acoustic concert in the future.

“For a lot of songs, it’s a different way of approaching it,” Craig said, describing it as an organic way for the band to revisit old songs.


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