As a college freshman in 2007, Lee Henke tracked down the music resonating through his dorm’s hall and found guitarist Ryan Acker, his future bandmate.
The two have been playing music together ever since and started the Last Revel
with Vincenzio Donatelle in 2011. The Twin Cities folk outfit released their first LP, “Uprooted
,” in 2014 and followed up with “The Last Reve
l” in April 2015. This weekend, the group will play at the Cedar Cultural Center.
Donatelle recalls a serendipitous start to the band. After meeting Henke briefly and occasionally sharing show bills, he ran into him walking around town one night.
During the short exchange, Henke told him they were looking for an upright bassist, and Donatelle said he could do the job.
A few days later, Donatelle met with Acker and Henke and fibbed a bit — they were looking for an experienced upright bassist, and he had picked up the instrument just a few weeks before.
“But I’m glad he did [fib] because it was a perfect match,” Acker said. “We really feed off of each other when it comes to musical abilities and ideas and stuff.”
The trio often played at a dive bar near their campus, the now-closed Savoy. Every week they’d make the trip to the open-mic and ended up landing a weekly gig of their own.
Eventually, they all moved to the Twin Cities, where they play venues such as the 331 Club and make occasional stops at larger rooms like First
Upon first moving to the Twin Cities, the group had to switch band names after receiving a cease and desist letter from another similarly-named band’s lawyer.
Acker said the trio struggled to find a band name, but they landed on “The Last Revel” to signify their last time trying to create a band name that sticks.
“It’s interesting, the name kind of reflects a lot of themes that come up in our music now, like these fleeting moments in our life that we all experience — you hold on to the good times, but they fade away,” Acker said. “It was tough for us to switch names, but in hindsight it was probably the best thing to happen to us.”
All three band members take turns writings songs for the albums. The person who sings the song isn’t always the person who wrote the song, an act Acker deems “selfless.”
“The Last Revel” contains traditional folksy ballads alongside classic bluegrass.
For “Garage Sale,” the trio uses violin, guitar and banjo to create a bluegrass sound. The song recounts someone struggling to make ends meet. Donatelle said he drew from the experiences of a former manager to write the song.
The rowdier tune follows two mellow ones — “Unbound,” which is from the perspective of someone witnessing the end of the Civil War and “Iron and Ore,” which details life while strip mining in the northern states.
In contrast to “Uprooted,” in which the band strived to keep recordings as close to the live versions as possible, “The Last Revel” contains special effects such as smolder dubs.
“On this album we wanted each recording to have its own life, and then when you see it live it’ll sound a little different,” Henke said. “We were more willing to be a little more creative with the space and ambiance of each song.”
The group continues to strengthen their sound and pursue bigger goals, but Donatelle said they’re happy with where they’re at.
“Last weekend, when we played at Art-A-Whirl on Saturday night … in hindsight, that was totally my dream show from when I was a child,” Donatelle said. “I imagined that I’d be playing at this totally packed, really small bar and everybody is just kind of uncomfortable but really loving the music, and just 100 percent back and forth between the audience and the band. That was absolutely that show.”