Local Current Blog

Review and photos: Mountain Man provide peak pleasure at the Cedar Cultural Center

Photos by Jayme Halbritter for MPR

“Mountain Man is an all-women group?”

One concertgoer asked his friend for clarification outside of the Cedar Cultural Center last night. Before a capella bands like Pentatonix and movies like Pitch Perfect became popular, three voices filled empty hearts with their music, as stark as an autumn night is long. The trio that comprise Mountain Man — Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Meath — commanded a sold-out room late into the night at the Cedar.

Have you ever had a friendship that rings on the same wavelength with another person? Communication can be made with a simple smile or a nod of the head. It’s this way with the three friends in Mountain Man; the camaraderie was evident as they gathered around a guitar and a solo mic, forcing them to live within each other’s spaces as their three voices magically fused into one. There were times when the singular guitar was set down, and the three would wrap their arms around each other, bringing them closer as if to say, “I missed you in the time you were gone.”

Their latest record, Magic Ship, finds Meath, Sauser-Monning, and Sarle reuniting with eight years between their debut (Made the Harbor) and sophomore albums. Their interim had each forming new projects: Sylvan Esso, Fantasy Boyfriend, and solo work, respectively. (While in town, Mountain Man also stopped by The Current to record a live session.)

Whether it was because it was Sauser-Monnig’s home state, or maybe because they just liked to have fun, the three played the evening loose and weaved humor into their set. They greeted the crowd with bird calls after opening with “Blue Mountain.” When Sauser-Monnig’s family cheered them on from the two front rows, Sarle’s Uncle Eddie, not wanting to be left out, also shouted from the back that he was there to see her.

“Hi, Uncle Eddie!” she shouted back. “I can’t see you, but I’ll say hi to you later.” Between songs, treating the room as if they were sitting around a large campfire, they would tell stories of awful day jobs and their time spent in Minnesota. Meath recalled their breakfast at Modern Times Cafe, sharing, “Those waitresses were not very nice — but I like people who are not very nice.”

Vocally, Meath is the base of the trio, Sauser-Monnig the buoyant crest, and Sarle the solid core. “How’m I Doin’” is a crazy piece that repeats over and over, slowly building to this booming ending that ends abruptly. The trio’s talent lies in the control they have over their vocals, carrying each note on highs and lows, especially evident on “Rang Tang Ting Toon,” a tune conjuring a coven gathering around a boiling cauldron of beans as they plot their plans for the evening.

On their encore opener, “Holy Father,” their voices run rounds over each other, creating a whole sound that sounds like three people moving separately, but in essence is one.

Mountain Man create not just songs, but a soundtrack for a magical evening that stays with you long after the last note has been sung, with boots crunching through the leaves on the sidewalk as you walk back to your car, bend your head back and drink in the night air. You will revisit the clear voices that just serenaded you: “I’m dancin’ from room to room. The food is gone but the night is not.”