This was supposed to be the weekend that Roma di Luna hosted its holiday concerts at the Cedar. Instead, the warm and familial folk/rock band has been replaced by one of its co-leader's other groups, the harrowing and experimental hip-hop duo Kill the Vultures, plus a trio of equally noisy and unsweet rock bands.
The timing is just a coincidence, says Alexei Casselle, whose run with Roma di Luna ended this summer along with his marriage.
"If anything, I think it says a lot about the Cedar and the versatility of their programming," said the Twin Cities music vet also known as Crescent Moon. Kill the Vultures joined Saturday's lineup at the invitation of the Book of Right On, who also recruited Gay Witch Abortion and Wizards Are Real (8 p.m., $10, all ages).
Still, the booking underscores a statement that Casselle hopes to make: Kill the Vultures is back in business, and means business.
Casselle formed the group in 2005 with beatmaker Stephen "Anatomy" Lewis and some of their other former bandmates in Oddjobs, back when Casselle also toured as Atmosphere's hype man. He kept Vultures going alongside Roma di Luna, releasing the last album, "Ecce Beast," in 2009. But he admits the duo went on the back burner.
"Kill the Vultures will absolutely be my focal point again," he said. "I have always been an MC first and foremost, and it's nice to be able to focus on one music project right now."
Look for a new Vultures album next year, full of the same crime-filled scenes and dense beats as the last one, but also a direct focus "on facing the devil," Casselle promised. Musically, Kill the Vultures came off like a maniacal, out-there sonic freak show when it first came around, but times have changed. Casselle pointed to Kanye West's album "My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy" as not being too far removed from KTV (I'd say Doomtree, too).
Besides the Vultures, Casselle also plans to perform more with Crescent Moon Is in Big Trouble, his live rap/rock pairing with instrumental band Big Trouble. He also traveled to France last year to work on a more electronic project called Numbers Not Names, due next fall on the label Ici d'Ailleurs.
Just as good things are happening for his former wife and bandmate Channy Leaneagh in her new band Poliça -- "I've known for a while that Channy could have a successful career in music if she chose to," he said -- Casselle believes he can make the best of Roma di Luna's unfortunate demise.
"Sometimes there isn't a 'perfect' ending, but there was an ending, nonetheless," he said. "Now it's time for everyone to move on."
Turns out, the title of Big Quarters' third album, "Party Like a Young Commie," isn't just a fun throwaway line.
"We have stuff that qualifies as party songs, though nothing like a mainstream rapper's party song," explained BQ co-leader Brandon Bagaason, aka Brandon Allday. "And then we have our politics."
On tap for a release party Friday at the Triple Rock Social Club, "Party" is actually less political and more personal than Big Quarters' last full-length, 2009's acclaimed "From the Homes of Brown Babies & White Mothers." But there's still a lefty-leaning angle to the songs, whether it's a festive one like "Perfect Match" or the darker gem "Pure," in which Bagaason boasts, "I come from a small town called Can't Trust None of Them."
South Minneapolis transplants via the rural northern Minnesota town of Clearbrook -- which also counts Low's Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker as natives -- Brandon and his brother Zach Bagaason (Medium Zach) have always offered a unique perspective on the times as Big Quarters, keying off their mix of rural and urban roots and their Mexican and European blood. The new record also highlights their unique bond as brothers and bandmates. In "Savings Bond," Zach riffs on how rap brought him and Brandon together (turns out, Z was a theater kid and B was a jock in school). He also pays tribute to a cousin who got pregnant at 16 in "Follow Me Through."
"The stories of our family are something we share, and we use that as sort of our window on the rest of the world," Brandon explained.
All of the tracks originally premiered in the duo's monthly $5 download series, BQ Direct, but most were remade (Brandon likened it to handing over demos to friends for feedback). While they hardly got rich off that, the duo has pledged proceeds of the album's sales to building a new recording studio at Hope Community Center in south Minneapolis. No Bird Sing and Los Nativos will also pitch in and perform at Friday's show (10 p.m., Triple Rock, $8-$10). The host is none other than Crescent Moon.