I have never been to the Minnesota Music Cafe. I have photographed over 600 bands, interviewed dozens of musicians and worked with venues all over the Twin Cities, but Minnesota Music Cafe I had never been to before. The club itself seemed fairly quiet from the outside, colorful yet unassuming. Upon entering, there is a modest, young woman on stage by herself with an acoustic guitar. Rachel Kline was just wrapping up her set and the last song was a cover of “My Girl”. She was barely done and various members of The Human Empire swarmed the stage getting things ready for their set.
The Human Empire is a Twin Cities based world/jam band that I first saw about 2 years ago. When I first saw them back in 2011, I hate to admit it but I wasn’t impressed at all. At the time, I thought that they were really theatrical and bordered on “performance art” which I’m not into it at all. However, since then, every one of the 10 members (even though the website shows 9 members) has really refined their talents and the group has come together to create a nearly flawless unity that was really refreshing to see. Most bands out there are guitar, drums, bass and vocals. Sometimes an additional guitar will get thrown in or maybe a keyboard. But The Human Empire at any given time will use acoustic guitars, electric guitars, violin, cello, viola, bass, flute, accordion, whistle, a variety of drums and I’m sure several others instruments I don’t even know the names of.
The Human Empire has so much energy when on stage that it becomes infectious. The first song they played was really a warm up song for the group, the second song, “I Am, We Are” is just brilliant. It begins slow and very vocal intensive, but the African influenced drum beat is almost hypnotic as it eventually blends into this Celtic feel. This group can blend and transition different styles of music very, very impressively. I have heard countless bands that have tried to mashup different styles of music and fail, but The Human Empire does it very successfully.
After the introductory show of talent, the party got promptly started. A few Irish and Irish influenced tracks that drew the crowd from their elevated seating area down to the floor in front of the stage helped bring the crowd to their feet. There was dancing a plenty, smiling, laughing and everyone kicking like they actually knew how to River Dance. But not a single person cared because when they stood in front of The Human Empire, watching Adam sing away with wreckless abandon; either Trevor or Juan blow away some amazing guitar solos; or Michal showing unmatched proficiency with so many instruments, the list of what he cannot play is far smaller a list than what he can.
The thing I liked the most was the respect they took the time to show respect to not only the Minnesota Music Cafe, but also the woman who started it all 16 years ago, Karen Palm. While The Human Empire was on stage performing, Karen had commented that she didn’t tell them it was the clubs anniversary, but gave nothing but rave reviews and comments about this young band of incredibly talented performers.