The Cabooze is quite possibly the best venue to catch a show on Minneapolis' West Bank. A hulking, vacuous space of a venue the main room stretches from the entrance, past the rectangular bar (posted in the middle of the floor but far stage right of the stage), the stage itself (on the left), the elevated viewing platform (think a dugout for drinkers), and opens up into an even larger higher-ceiling room that is far stage left. The Cabooze seems to end only with a tastefully placed pool table in the far back corner, dwarfed by the rest of the venue.
Strung up along the walls are larger then life sized images of rock legends and even, somewhat oddly, a Camel cigarette sponsored painting of a guitar head. Your sense of confusion at this is shared. Although the capacity of The Cabooze is more comparable to a Pantages Theater, especially when they hosted Gogol Bordello outside last year, the atmosphere is much more akin to a dive bar...in a really good way. The drinks are usually well priced and shows go on throughout the week from lesser known bands earlier in the week to everything from national acts such as Digital Underground to themed events like this Saturday's 5th annual performer-by-performer live reinterpretation of the classic rock film The Last Waltz.
Wednesday January, 7th saw two jam-bandesque groups take to the stage. First came Uncomfortable Uncle, a rotating group that brought seven musicians on stage including a violin and conga player. While they have a solid groove and the fiddle actually mixes quite well with keyboard during longer instrumental jam segments, the lead singer Jill Mikelson is at times too overbearing in her attempts to sound soulful or bluesy and simply misses the point on some songs: the melody, which suffered most notably on the band's attempt to cover John Lennon's "Imagine".
Cymatic, a newly formed "local supergroup" (an oxymoron in and of itself) comprised of members of God Johnson, Wookiefoot , Sol Spectre and others had a distinctly more soulful and at times electronic feel then any of the bands from which Cymatic was formed, with saxophone and keys trading riffs over solid, funk inspired bass lines. However, the band still relies on several jam band tropes such as just-on-the-edge-of-corny riffs and overly elaborate instrumentation that can sometimes detract from their otherwise steady groove. Still, if you like any of the bands mentioned above, definitely check out Cymatic for the next few foreseeable Wednesday's at The Cabooze.
Take this bar in on a night when there's a big event. It's a great venue any night but it really comes alive when the crowd is packed, into it and ready for the weekend. Order some PBR tallboy's and you'll fit right in.