by brendan eckert
If you ever find yourself wondering what you should put on to get relaxed before bed or at the start of a long, pleasant weekend, please consider playing the Cactus Blossoms. As part of Twangfest 2018, Off Broadway decided to host the group from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, better known as the Cactus Blossoms. The band consists of brothers Page Burkum and Jack Torrey who perform on guitar and vocal harmonies with a rhythm section including electric bass, drums, and another lead guitar flush with reverb.
The night started off with a bang as the Blossoms played “Clown Collector,” perhaps their most upbeat song off of their debut album You’re Dreaming released in 2016. From there they played a few new songs from a record that had been delayed in coming out due to recently-severed ties with their record label. They continued performing more from their debut with what they called their “own brand of uptempo music” with slower songs such as “You’re Dreaming” and “Stoplight Kisses.” As the lights were low and the clock said eleven, I occasionally found myself pleasantly relaxed by the crisp and consistent vocal harmonies and the sometimes thundering reverb of the lead guitar. Never had I ever been so awake and excited, yet so ready to sleep at the same time.
Following the slower tunes, the pace picked back up with new songs “Gotta Lotta Love to Give” and “Downtown” which lead into the last quarter of the set. Someone shouted out “Mississippi!” in the crowd to which Torrey wryly replied “Great river.” This was a request for my favorite song which they then played to my delight. The Cactus Blossoms had gained a fair amount of national exposure with this song when it was featured in last year’s Twin Peaks revival and this performance did not disappoint.
The last few songs were mostly unreleased uptempo numbers that included a mildly technophobic “Please Don’t Call Me Crazy,” a piece poking fun at growing dependence on the “computers in our pockets,” as Torrey put it. Along with the uptempo songs was a cover of a Charlie Rich song whose title can’t be remembered, but whose sound was darn good. After a very brief (forty-five second) absence, the Blossoms came out to play their typical goodbye encore consisting of fan favorites “Powder Blue” and “Goodbye.”
Overall, the Cactus Blossoms killed it, making the two hour wait well worth it. The band mixed uptempo stompers with slow ballads and meditations on love and loss as well as life in the upper Midwest. The highlight of course was “Mississippi” which showcased their ever-present and always insane harmonies and stylish yet understated guitar playing. I’ve heard people compare the Cactus Blossoms to the Everly Brothers and those people are genuinely correct. If you ever find the Cactus Blossoms coming to your city and want to have a relaxing, fun night, then you need to see them live and in person because you’ll be in for a real treat.
This review is, luckily, more in-depth in part because I was able to snag a setlist and match song names to what I had heard.