What: Reina del Cid and the Cidizens, Haley Bonar, Brute Heart
Where: Northrop Mall
When: 7 p.m., Friday
YouTube is full of young men and women singing earnest guitar covers to their webcams. When University of Minnesota alumna Reina del Cid uploaded her own cover videos five years ago, she had no idea they would help her find a community of fellow bedroom songwriters, a modest, but passionate fan base and the ambition to become a touring musician.
Now she’s graduated from her internet roots and is playing shows around the Twin Cities with her band of fellow University music students and alumni, including this Friday with Haley Bonar on Northrop Mall.
Del Cid grew up in Fargo, N.D., and started playing guitar at age 15. When she came to the University, she posted a few videos, covers of “One of Us” and “Luka,” for faraway relatives to watch.
“I totally forgot about the videos, and when I logged in like six months later 45,000 people were watching them,” she said.
Del Cid’s inbox was also full of messages from people asking her to post original songs. She recorded more videos and found herself in a community of fellow YouTube musicians.
“If you search any song you’ll find about 5 million covers of it,” she said. “But whoever has the most views ends up in the related videos all the time, and you end up recognizing faces.”
It was through these videos that she met James Wetzel, who reached out to her about recording some tracks together, this time without a webcam.
She traveled to Iowa City, Iowa, to meet him, and they recorded del Cid’s first EP, “Let’s Begin,” which she released last year. The EP was so successful with fans of del Cid’s YouTube channel that it paid for itself several times over, she said, and it’s helping to fund the debut full-length album she’s recording with her full band.
Del Cid takes her name from El Cid Campeador, a Spanish military leader. “ReinaDelCid” (literally, “Queen of the Cid”) was only meant to be a cute YouTube username, but now it has become inextricably linked to her and her music, she said. In fact, del Cid asked that her real name not be published because her YouTube channel has attracted a stalker.
“Now I’m kind of stuck with it,” she said. “The virtual just bled into the real, and I couldn’t really start over without losing a lot of support online.”
Del Cid graduated from the University summa cum laude last year and is now attempting to break into the local scene while juggling a full-time job at the University of Minnesota Press.
Since making “Let’s Begin,” del Cid has recruited a backing band of University music students and alumni. Guitarist Toni Lindgren, bassist Chris Wiberg and drummer Clay Whitney now make up Reina del Cid and the Cidizins and will play one of their biggest shows yet Friday at Northrop.
Del Cid said that Lindgren has helped evolved the band’s sound from the pop earnestness of “Let’s Begin” to a folk-rock sound.
“She can just shred bluegrass,” del Cid said. “We always try to end our set with her ripping a solo.”
“Pretty Lie,” a demo track from del Cid’s untitled debut album, opens with a rapid, nimble guitar solo and features some grumbling harmonica throughout while retaining the smart lyrics that gave del Cid her following in the first place.
Although she has grown away from her online origins, del Cid hasn’t left them behind completely: She’s setting up a Kickstarter fund that she’ll use to promote the new album, and the band still plays one of her old YouTube songs, “Emily,” at shows.
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