Rogue Valley Geese in the Flyway release show
November 26, 2010
Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
As a Cedar staffperson introduced Rogue Valley at their third album release show of the year last Friday night, he made a comment that "Rogue Valley has proposed that they will release four albums this year, one per season."
Bandleader Chris Koza bounded on stage and rushed to the mic. "We will release four albums," he grinned. "It's happening."
[jump] Sure enough, last weekend's show celebrated the release of Rogue Valley's third seasonal album, Geese in the Flyway, following the release of their spring album, Crater Lake, at the Fitzgerald in April and their summer record, The Bookseller's House, at First Avenue in August.
While their debut release show rang triumphant and their First Avenue show suffered from a bit of an identity crisis, their show at the Cedar found the band hitting a comfortable stride and expanding on their strengths as a group, taking advantage of the intimate listening room vibe of the space to bathe the audience in lavish songwriting and scenery.
I remember discussing Rogue Valley's debut album, Crater Lake, with local songwriter Jeremy Messersmith earlier this year, and something he said has stuck with me ever since. Jeremy said that Rogue Valley's music "feels like driving around Utah with the windows down," the perfect aural encapsulation of a road trip out West (even the band's name is a reference to a region in southwest Oregon).
That theme was expanded on magnificently at the band's Cedar show, with video footage of lakes whipping by out car windows cast on a screen behind the group's sweeping pop soundscapes. Created by Rogue Valley guitarist Peter Sieve and bassist Linnea Mohn with help from City of Music maestro Dan Huiting, the videos that played throughout the show were an astute addition to the band's music; rippling water, rustling leaves, and passing scenery complemented the lyrical themes of migration and yearning quite exquisitely.
New songs "Grand Central Station" and "Cleaning Slates" especially shined Friday, as did the title track, "Geese in the Flyway," which expanded beautifully with supporting vocals from Mohn. In fact, Mohn's tremendous vocal abilities were given a grand spotlight throughout the Cedar show, an asset I thought was lacking during their last performance and which really adds another dimension to the band's developing, layered sound.
Koza, too, was more comfortable and confident this time around, taking time to explain the backstory of nearly every song and chat amicably with the audience. "I don't know why I'm talking in this low, sinister voice," he joked toward the beginning of the set, catching himself speaking softly to the intent, quiet crowd. "I'm trying to freak myself out, I guess."
For this show, the band played Geese in the Flyway from front to back, an approach that would prove challenging with less engaging material but worked well in this instance. The audience remained engaged throughout, standing in awe of the imagery and narratives unfolding before their eyes and barely speaking throughout the set. When Koza paused to explain that a stuttering sound echoing over the band's music was caused by someone's cell phone being transmitted over his acoustic guitar's sensitive pickup, the dapper young man in front of me silently and dutifully flicked his iPhone into "airplane mode" and instructed his date to do the same.
"I realize it's a lot to ask, to play new songs every time you go see a band," Koza reflected toward the end of the performance, after thanking for their patience and dedication. The band returned for a celebratory encore that featured their best songs off of Crater Lake ("Red River of the North") and The Bookseller's House ("Racecar Driver"), a triumphant end to their third and perhaps best release show so far this year.
Rogue Valley's final album in their series is due out in February. Stream the tracks from Geese in the Flyway on their Bandcamp page.
Reporter's bias: I've been following this entire endeavor very closely and am impressed by the scope of Rogue Valley's undertaking.
The crowd: Mostly twenty- and thirtysomethings, all quite well dressed. Something tells me most are avid listeners of the Current.
Overheard in the crowd: "This is achingly beautiful!"
Grand Central Station
Singing Grasshopper, Gathering Ant
The Rutting Moon
Somewhere in Massachusetts
Geese in the Flyway
The Bottom of the Riverbed
Red River of the North