Sarah Pray & Thomas Kivi are two songwriters from Minnesota, USA. They contacted me a few months back to tell me that they’d be doing a self-funded tour around Europe and passing through Belfast under the tour name Minnesota Nice – and would I like to meet up? Well, how could I resist?
As it turns out, a show didn’t transpire for this stop of the tour – so this, as far as I know, is the known sole recorded performance of the duo in Belfast. And quite an honour too, because they are absolutely magnificent – and its crying shame that Belfast missed out on them (until now that is).
So it was a foggy cold winter day when I went to meet Sarah and Thomas at the apartment they’d found on a couch surfing website. In the kitchen we chatted about country music, movies and Minnesota’s surprising contribution to popular culture (Bob Dylan, Prince, Low, Bon Iver and, in the film realm, The Cohen Brothers). Maybe it was something about the arctic weather made them feel at home – because they seemed to channel all these musical greats over the course of that day – starting with this brace of tracks, one from Thomas and one from Sarah:
Then it was from leafy Belfast suburbia to the even leafier Lady Dixon park, a few miles out of town, for a bit of ramblin’, tree spotting and some wonderfully appropriate music:
Deep within the grounds of Lady Dixon there’s a Belfast version of a Japanese Zen garden. I’ve visited this garden in sunnier climes, and believe me its impressive – with water pools, lilly pads and cherry blossoms. On this muted wintery day, it was a dark dead place – and all the more dramatic for it really, not least when a gust of wind caught all the dead leaves and they all seemed to fall at once into the water during Sarah Pray’s once-in-a-lifetime ‘End Of The World’, which evoked Low in my mind again. It really did feel like the end of the world, and if I were more in touch with my fem side I would freely admit that it brought big man tears to my eyes. But yeah aye it was just a speck of dust, honest.
Camera/Edit: Will McConnell
Filmed in Belfast, November 2010