Cait Leary on Naked Third Thursdays six months at Acadia Cafe

It's not hard to get carried along with Cait Leary's infectious, easy energy. As the pop-folk-singer-turned-curator sits across from Gimme Noise over coffee, her eyes get big and she gesticulates with her hands. 

Tonight, Naked Third Thursdays, an acoustic songwriter series at the Acadia Cafe, celebrates its sixth-month anniversary, and Cait is in high spirits. "This is my thing, this is what I get excited about -- not my own shows," she explains.

So how did this series begin? "I wanted to have a big show once a month and was uncomfortable with it being about me, so I approached Jeff [Rolfzen, her collaborative partner on the series] who had all the West Bank connections. It's turned into a musician's community -- musicians like me, Niki Becker, Nici Peper -- people that play the suburban circuit get to come into town and have one big show a month. This is our chance to say -- without any motives -- these are the people WE want to share with you."

When asked to describe this community and how she views her role in it, she pauses, looking off somewhere as if her thoughts lie across the room.

"It's kinda a dual intent -- it's really selfish, cause I get to meet all these people and I get to be a part of it every month and dictate who's there. But the other side, I'm not getting paid, I do a lot of work, I go there, sometimes I don't even play -- and I just get to be a part of it and say 'This is who I am, this is what I'm doing for you, for our community' and maybe they'll take that and do this in their community."

Hardly the words of an ego-driven artist, while Cait speaks with casual confidence, there's not an air of narcissism to her demeanor.

"This is me making an effort to expose music instead of MY music and that's what community is to me. It's not necessarily like 'We're starting our own community', but it's changing relationships in a community that already existed and including people that before maybe didn't think they were invited."

Cait seems to have fallen easily into this role of curator and promoter -- something many musicians shy away from. I ask her about the challenges of being on the opposite end of the booking relationship, lessons learned in the experience of having to tell people no.

"It's REALLY hard for me to say no to people! When I first moved to Minneapolis two years ago, I emailed a bunch of people from Acadia and maybe one of 10 guys emailed me back and was like 'uh uh, nope'. So it's important for me to try my best to give people feedback and it's important for me to try my best to give people a chance."

The series guests have run the gamut, focusing mostly on local and Midwest folk acts like batteryboy, Matthew Griswold and Heather Styka (Chicago), but also including lots of niche pop up-and-comers like Niki Becker, Brynn Andre and West of Aldine. This week's lineup includes an acoustic version of local Americana rock favorites American Scarecrows as well as Rolfzen's Silver City Millers.

I ask Cait who she'd like to have for a Naked Third Thursday in a dream scenario.

"You know, I was thinking about that -- what if like Chris Koza contacts me and says I wanna be a part of this?" She continues with complete excitement, "The place would be packed!"

Leary pauses for a moment, her excitement waning just a bit.

"But I guess that's not what we want either. I kinda wanna dig underground and find someone and go -- look at this person! They've been hiding, they don't even know what they've got, rather than someone that can pack a venue. It's my job to bring people out. It's about finding the musicians that no one else has found."

I mention the Chicago Naked Girls Reading series and ask, mostly jokingly, if Naked Third Thursdays would ever take the plunge and have musicians actually perform in the nude.

Without pause, Cait's eyes get big once again and I see the wheels start turning.

"Well, we'd have to move it. Or put paper on the windows. Oh man, I don't even know what I think about that. Thinking all KINDS of things..."

Cait finally takes a gulp of her black coffee, now 20 minutes cold. She taps the table and sighs with an emphatic "Yessssss...." in response to the caffeine, or perhaps the last suggestion, her eyes bouncing with a million new ideas.

Naked Third Thursdays' 6 month anniversary party happens this Thursday, June 21st at Acadia on the West Bank, featuring The Silver City Millers, Dustin Hatzenbuhler, The American Scarecrows (Acoustic) and Cait Leary with Zach Grusznski. Music at 8pm, free/all ages.

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