The Minstrel Cycle
Confession time: yes, I spent many of my high school and college years playing Dungeons & Dragons. (Jake did, too, even though he vehemently denies it.) So needless to say, I was pretty excited to discover that there’s a band out of Chicago called The Minstrel Cycle that’s basically a rock band for fantasy gaming geeks. Finally! A band that probably decides their set lists by rolling 12-sided dice!
Apparently, Minstrel Cycle (a name that definitely would have reduced my Gary Gygax-worshipping 15-year-old self to uncontrollable fits of Beavis-like snickering) is the brainchild of a couple of a guys from another Chicago band called CAW! CAW! who are themselves pretty quirky; no less a luminary than Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim Derogatis called them “gleefully tuneful, ceaselessly energetic and at times willfully naïve.” Still, where the stuff on CAW! CAW!’s MySpace page falls pretty squarely into messy indie rock territory, Minstrel Cycle appears to be a little bit more all over the map. Based on this MP3 excerpt from one of their 24-minute epic songs (all their songs are apparently designed to be the length of an LP side, a la classic Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull), they’re definitely trying for something a little more prog-rock, but as you’ll hear in the YouTube clip below, their stuff can also be pretty Tull-meets-Spinal Tap…and not necessarily in a good way. They do get bonus points for having a drummer who appears to be wearing some kind of goblin mask though. That’s pretty RPG fabulous.
Anyway, Minstrel Cycle is on the same label as CAW! CAW!, a little L.A.-based indie called Slanty Shanty, and it appears that currently, the only music available from them is a cassette tape called Tales From the Books of Lore. Hopefully they’ll come out with a CD soon, too…or a dice-based role-playing game about a wandering band of musician-paladins who fight dragons and orcs in between gigs at seedy, mead-soaked taverns. That would be AWESOME.
Sorry the below clip is so damn dark, by the way…as of this posting, it’s one of only two that are available. There are a few other YouTube clips labeled Minstrel Cycle, but they appear to feature either this theatrical troupe from Eau Claire, Wisconsin or this punk band from Iowa. Seriously, guys…three different acts all called Minstrel Cycle? Really? It’s not that funny.