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Dan Isreal

Forager Brewing Company
Event organized by Forager Brewing Company

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Dan Israel and the Cultivators began in the fall of 1995 when Dan Israel moved back to his hometown of Minneapolis after several-year stints in Chicago and Austin, TX, respectively. He first gigged out solo, then hooked up with high school chum Adam Kapel for some "guitar-bass duo" shows around the Twin Cities. Soon thereafter, Dan placed an ad in the City Pages for a drummer who liked the Beatles and Dylan (and "no metal!"), and though that wasn't exactly highly specific (or even original) criteria, drummer Andy Rauh responded to the ad by showing up on a 20-degree-below-zero-night in January to see Dan play at the old New Riverside Cafe at the corner of Cedar and Riverside, across from the 400 Bar, and now they had a band - not yet called the Cultivators, though. Such stupid names as The Dan Israel Institute were briefly floated around, but not until Andy's buddy Jeremy Smith came onboard as the new bass player did the name "The Cultivators" make its first appearance. Dan claims that Jeremy came up with the name, Jeremy might have credited Andy, but either way, it took. Actually, before Jeremy joined, veteran Twin Cities guitarist Tom Sampson had already signed on as the unnamed band's guitar player extraordinaire, also by way of a City Pages "Musicians Wanted" ad. It turned out Dan had actually met Tom years before when Tom was Big Walter Smith's guitar player, as Big Walter was the house band at Dan's uncle's wedding and Tom had been the guy nice enough to let Dan sit in with the band (and play his guitar) at the wedding gig. Small world indeed.

Anyway, somehow, in some fashion, the band was now Dan Israel and the Cultivators, featuring Dan on rhythm guitar and vocals, Tom on lead guitar, Andy on drums, and Jeremy on bass. They went in to Rich Mattson's Flowerpot studios and also Dave Russ's Dungeon Audio to record their first CD, "Before We Met". Jeremy quit the band before the record came out, and Tom's friend Chris Andree replaced him. Lots of good press for the record and many a show (some on the road) ensued. Then, at some point, Chris quit and Jeremy rejoined the band. It's all a little murky here. The band decided to just be called "The Cultivators" and they recorded their second record all at Dave Russ's Dungeon Audio and called it "Mama's Kitchen". This was 1999 at this point. This led to more good press and more in and out of town gigs. However, Jeremy quit again and - you guessed it - Chris Andree replaced him again. Deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say. That, however, came after, or before, we can't remember, a short tenure for local band Arcana's guitarist, Kevin Kluever, as Cultivators bass player. Kevin did an admirable job stepping in, and played a couple big shows with the Cultivators, including the first-ever First Avenue mainstage appearance for the band when they opened for Peter Himmelman.

The band toured down to Austin, TX and points in between and things got a bit testy on the road. Kris Bowring saw the band playing at Lee's one night and offered to be the new bass player, and his offer was accepted. This all led up to what we like to call the "Mill City Meltdown". The gig was a bad one - an indoor gig at an outdoor festival - the Mill City Music Festival. Bad bad bad. The indoor venue itself was bad too - I think it was Daddy Rocks or whatever it was called back then - on First Avenue, maybe it was called South Beach. Anyhoo, Kris was on bass and Tom was on guitar and Andy was on drums, and nobody was there. Well, a few people, but they were drunk and didn't care. Dan sensed the utter stupidity of a poorly-attended indoor gig at an outdoor festival and was acting silly, running up and down a long "runway" on the side of the stage in an attempt to emulate/mock big-name arena acts who have a long "runway" at their big arena concerts to "bring them closer to the audience". Then Dan wanted to play Neil Diamond's "Forever in Blue Jeans". Tom refused, Andy joining him in refusing. Understandable, but Dan really wanted to play it and he blew up, throwing his acoustic guitar down in an ill-advised tantrum and cracking it (he put packaging tape on it after the gig and still plays it to this day - WITH the packaging tape STILL on it). They were all yelling at each other on stage and then stormed off together, Oasis-style, and Tom left the band on non-amicable terms while Andy left on amicable terms. But Kris stayed, and then old friend and recording engineer Dave Russ stepped in and joined the band, adding strong backing vocals in addition to being a top-notch drummer. The Cultivators, Mach 1, was over. Tom, Andy, Chris, Kevin, Adam (who was really pre-Cultivators), and Jeremy were all excellent musicians and great guys and we hope they know how much their efforts were appreciated in the band, even if things didn't end so great.

The "new Cultivators" were a different band. A power trio, rocking a bit harder and more urgently at times, albeit with fewer lead guitar flourishes, now that Dan was wearing both the rhythm guitar and lead guitar hats himself. They played in and out of town a lot, and began recording. Meanwhile, Dan made his first solo album, "Dan Who?" which touched a bit on the difficult subject of the breakup of the first incarnation of his band. "Dan Who?" went certified aluminum, sales-wise, but was a critical fave and sort of reignited Dan's career a bit. It took a while to complete the full-band album, but by 2002, "Love Ain't a Cliche", recorded at Russ's studio, hit the streets and made a nice little stir. Dan recorded another solo album all at home on his 4-track, and although "Cedar Lake" only saw limited release, it too was embraced by the critics, if not the record-buying public at large. All the records to this point except "Cedar Lake" were released on Arizona's Hayden's Ferry Records, which got the band a lot of airplay, especially in Europe, and was a tremendous boost to Dan's worldwide semi-not-really fame.

The lineup didn't really change from then on. Oh, sure, good friend Randy Casey would sit in on guitar now and then (live and in studio) and so would good friend Pete Sands (on keys, live and in studio as well), but the Cultivators in 2005 was still the power trio of Dan Israel, Dave Russ, and Kris Bowring. Dan recorded solo albums in 2004 ("time i get home," which featured Russ on drums and Sands on keyboards) and 2005 ("Dan Israel," on which Dan played all the parts), but his live band since 1999 hasn't changed. And there ya go!

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