Except for maybe the tad extra gold and silver jewelry and the Summit Winter Ale on tap, there really wasn’t anything Christmas-y about it, but Friday night’s performance by the Anonymous Choir at the Cedar Cultural Center still had a distinctly hallowed, oh-holy-night vibe to it. The 10-member women’s vocal group, led by Nona Marie of Dark Dark Dark indie fame, performed Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” album in its entirety as the opening act for Dosh’s annual home-for-the-holidays gig. They had performed the 1970 classic a night earlier in Duluth, where they had also trekked a few months earlier to record the whole album at Sacred Heat Studio with producer Tom Herbers.
On Friday, you could’ve relished a little irony in seeing a bunch of women perform the album instead of the usual middle-aged dudes-in-flannel lineup you might see put on a tribute to Neil. But this wasn’t just a tribute, it was a reimagining. The Choir stripped down the arrangements to mostly just piano, with occasional drum/bass/guitar backing but still a raw acoustic sound overall. Obviously, then, “Gold Rush’s” most cranking cuts such as “When You Dance I Can Really Love You” and “Southern Man” sounded wildly different just by design. “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” and the title track also took on a whole new sonic, with full choral arrangements throughout that emphasized the haunting, lonesome-me power of the young Young’s writing.
After they lightly fumbled one of the songs’ outros, Nona apologized, “If you know this record you know there are all these beautiful sort of fade-outs. Those are hard to do live.” And after “Till the Morning Comes,” she noted, “This is where you flip the record over.”
Anonymous Choir did print up gorgeous vinyl copies of their “After the Gold Rush” redux, which are available in local indie record shops or can be ordered here for $20 minimum price (downloads are also sold there for $10).
The rest of Friday’s concert included several other special touches, too. Before and after Anonymous Choir’s set, the down time was filled with ambient drone music performed from different corners of the room by some of Martin Dosh’s close musical pals. Jeremy Ylvisaker was messing around with guitar pedals in one corner, for instance, while fellow Cloak Ox mates Mark Erickson and Andrew Broder were on the other side playing to the vibe. James Everest and Mike Lewis also joined the fray, and most of the drone men also joined Dosh later on in his set, which seamlessly kicked off in the midst of the (and with no introduction). Dosh worked his usual magic and added to the familial love fest of the show by dedicating “Golden Silver” to his wife Erin, with whom he marked their 10th anniversary that day.