In the center of an area of constantly changing ethnicities and ideas, the Cedar Cultural Center has had to evolve to keep up with the times. Once a bastion of hippie-liberal-organic-granola music, the Cedar has become a thriving indie and global music venue. It’s not just your parents’ place to let their hair down, but the type of place where Minneapolis and foreign artists have begun to call home.
“From the beginning [in 1989] our mission was to be more than just a bar, but a place where people could listen to music that was actually worth listening to,” Rob Simonds, executive director of the Cedar explained. “This is a listening room first and foremost. We tend to lean toward bringing in bands that you’d want to sit down and enjoy.”
At its core, the Cedar strives to promote global music. The Cedar-Riverside area has been home to many different immigrant groups. From Scandinavians to Hmong to present-day Somalis, the Cedar has reflected the large diversity of the community it’s surrounded by, hoping to bring understanding.
“When you’re presenting the music of other cultures, then the musicians bring their culture with them,” Simonds said, “Oftentimes it’s more than just a concert experience. You get a real flavor for aspects of a culture that you didn’t know before, which helps people deal with each other and makes it less frightening to be surrounded by other cultures.”
The Cedar has great sound and sightlines, with a lineup that should please the young and old. It’s a quiet and quaint venue that is through and through “Minneapolis.”
It’s time to stop thinking of it as a location for the hippy old guard but as a hip and fun venue that strives to put on affordable and entertaining shows that reflect the area it’s in. It’s not your boisterous club downtown, the type of place to get trashed and go wild (though they do serve beer.) Instead, take a seat and listen to something you probably haven’t heard before.
“People come here to listen to music,” Simonds said. Isn’t that what it really should be about?
Here’s what we at A&E are looking forward to in the Cedar’s fall lineup:
Sept. 8 — Billy Bragg and Darren Hanlon
Known as “the barking bard,” Bragg makes infectious and political folk/punk and he’s collaborated with everyone who is anyone. This guy will scold you for your politics, but at least he does it with a nice melody. This one sold out early last year, so if you want to go get tickets now!
Sept. 21-24 — The Global Roots Festival
It’s a particularly active year for the Cedar’s international lineup. Not just in quantity, but quality. Look for Red Barat, a high energy Indian brass dance band. Also check out Mahala Rai Banda, a Romanian gypsy band who was featured in the movie “Borat.” But hide your valuables because this is the real thing. They’ve been known to sell CDs with blanks on the inside or other random artists, so be on the heads up.
Oct. 31 — Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles CD release show
Local indie sweethearts are releasing a new album. Old-time folk mixed with modern bluegrass and punk, they’re an endearing group. It helps that they have a cute female lead singer. Go local, yo.
Nov. 1 — Omar Souleyman
The most well-known member of the Syrian street cassette vendors, Souleyman makes psychedelic trance-pop. Awesome, right? His frenetic dance music will leave listeners in a confused daze.