An acoustic night at the Acoustic Café

By Eric Koeppel

Things will be more acoustic than ever at the Acoustic Café this spring. On Wednesday, April 2 at 7 p.m., three unique acts from the Wisconsin and Minnesota folk and bluegrass scene will take the stage to celebrate a CD and vinyl release at the Acoustic Café. This show is the first stop on a tour to the west coast for the five-piece Minneapolis group The Dead Pigeons, who are releasing their first album “Even if I Knew,” and the banjo-driven duo The Lowest Pair, who are releasing vinyl copies of their album “36¢.” Stevens Point, Wis.-based singer/songwriter Rachel Hanson will also be serenading the audience with her unique country style that night.

The Dead Pigeons features a collection of Minnesota musicians that came together in 2011 when singer/songwriter Drew Peterson was playing weekly solo shows at Palmer’s Bar in Minneapolis. Peterson is a former member of the band Forty Watt Bulb, who was once on their way to national success.

“A lot of that went south and got really ugly. Quite frankly, it kind of burnt me out, and I almost quit playing music completely,” Peterson said about his experience in Forty Watt Bulb. “But instead of quitting, I basically started a weekly show at my favorite bar in Minneapolis. It was just for the love of it. Basically the group found each other over the few years of doing that and we have been barrelin’ ahead ever since.”

Peterson is influenced by songwriters like Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt and Van Morrison. His band is one of many staples in the Minnesota folk scene.

“It’s been blowing up, it really has,” Peterson said about the Minnesota folk and bluegrass scene. “I mean it’s been around for a long time. That’s what’s funny is the band that I was in before was one of the older ones doing it, so seeing it come to fruition is quite a fun thing to watch.”

The Dead Pigeons frequently play shows around the Twin Cities with numerous Minnesota favorites like Bernie King & The Guilty Pleasures and Pistol Whippin Party Penguins, but they’ve also been known to tour nationally. The group has gone as far as Texas and Oklahoma so far, and this CD release tour is set to be their biggest yet, playing 16 shows between Menomonie and Portland.

Also on the bill that night is Wisconsin native and country singer Rachel Hanson. Hanson grew up listening to her parents’ Dolly Parton records and eventually got into some current indie-folk acts like Conor Oberst and Bon Iver. When she moved to Stevens Point, she was introduced to the local folk and bluegrass scene.

“It wasn’t until then that I realized just how deep my country roots reached all those years ago,” Hanson said. “It was home mixed with something new. I fell in love.”

Hanson cites her Wisconsin upbringing as a big influence on her music as well.

“I think people who grow up in the rural Midwest have a language and rhythm that’s all their own. It’s slightly off-beat and very collaborative in nature,” she said. “There’s incredible honesty in the music that comes from this region.”

Hanson has played at the Acoustic Café once before, and she is excited to return.

“People are looking for fun wherever you go, but in a college town, there are always thousands of options and drastically different ways to have fun,” she said. “So when folks come to your show, you know they really want to be there, and that’s one of the best feelings as a performer.”

Both acts are excited to play the show with The Lowest Pair, whose shows tend to be a blend traditional and original tunes.

“I would definitely encourage people to come out, especially to see The Lowest Pair,” Peterson added. “The Lowest Pair is a fantastic group. Next time they come through they’re probably going to need a much bigger venue.”

The event is free to attend and will start at 7 p.m.

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