“I was just kind of thinking that it was time to play here at St. Olaf,” Emily Cardinal ’19 said, just 45 minutes before her Saturday concert. “I play a lot at, like, pubs and coffee shops in the Twin Cities, so it was like, ‘Why not bring it on home to ‘Stolaf,’ y’know?’”
She cited a cover an Elvis Presley as one of her favorite songs to perform. The cover in question later revealed itself to be a soulful rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel.”
When asked what, if any, songs she was dreading to perform, Cardinal laughed and replied, “Oh yeah, most of them actually.”
The first-year solo musician took to the small stage of The Lair at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 5. The show attracted a good crowd that comfortably filled the space. The stage was decorated only by Cardinal’s instruments of choice – a guitar and piano – as well as a microphone and the warm glow of Pause Tech-provided lighting.
“I didn’t ask for those [lights], but they’re here and I’m pretty excited about it,” Cardinal said. “Pause Tech is just doing their darndest to make this an awesome experience, and I’m just very glad about it.”
The audience was both made up of several of Cardinal’s friends, but also other students who were interested in coming to see a weekend concert. In addition, three of the faces in the crowd were Cardinal’s hometown pals that had traveled over three hours from Norwood Young America, Minn. to attend the show.
The concert was stylistically diverse, ranging from more contemporary hits like the show’s opener, “Valerie,” to golden oldies such as Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy” and the aforementioned “Heartbreak Hotel.”
“I especially enjoyed the cover of ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash” audience member Ian Sutherland ’18 said.
The show was not without a few technical hiccups, however. For example: while Cardinal was trying to rock it like Elvis, she may have rocked it just a little too hard, nearly knocking the mic away.
“Woah, that was close!” Cardinal said, after stopping in the middle of her song to catch the mic. After a few chuckles from the audience, she picked up right from where she had left off.
Many of the other mishaps were similarly played off with humor. Cardinal practically made a stand-up routine of constantly restarting her cover of “Blackbird” by The Beatles while the light technician struggled to find a setting that did not blind the singer. When situational jokes ran dry, Cardinal turned to just straight up chit-chat with the audience, which was also well-received.
“She really had a great sense of interaction with the audience, which I think really added a social lubricant element to the show. It was wonderful, it was beautiful,” Alexander Prophet ’18 said.
Though covers mostly dominated Cardinal’s set list, she peppered in a couple original songs as well. The first was “If I Told You,” which Cardinal described as being about the anxieties of making yourself vulnerable when getting to know someone new. The second, which closed the concert, was titled “Megan’s Song,” a tribute to her best friend from home – one of the three that had traveled to St. Olaf. The titular Megan burst into tears about halfway through the song.
Cardinal’s original songs tended to expound upon many of the same themes of the covers she chose to perform – energetic yet thoughtful ponderings on life’s somber sentiments.
“It’s music that you can think to. She’s got a beautiful voice, but the things that she sings about resonates with personal experience,” Christine Menge ’18 said.
Updates on upcoming Emily Cardinal performances can be found on the artist’s Facebook page.