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Puafua was an eclectic Minneapolis, Minnesota based progressive rock jam band in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Members included Dylan Nau (guitar), Jake Pool (bass), Steve Olmstead (keyboard), Casey Kashiemer (drums), Eric Bequeaith (trumpet), Aaron Stoehr (trombone), Jeff Siegfried (saxophone), and Scott Holzinger (hand drums). Though short-lived, Puafua's output, scope of songwriting, and live performance feats were unparalleled in the Twin Cities; the mammoth eight-piece group often breaking into spontaneously composed, complete songs as if at will. Puafua was a West Bank staple in Minneapolis, holding a regular slot at the Red Sea Bar and The Cabooze in addition to frequenting the 400 Bar and The 5 Corners Saloon. The Turf Club, The Fine Line, The 7th Street Entry, O'Gara's, The Uptown Bar and Grill, and First Avenue's Main Stage were also frequent stops for the band in addition to clubs in greater Minnesota and Wisconsin towns such as Duluth, Rochester, St. Cloud, Superior, North Branch, Monticello, Rockford, and Eau Claire. Puafua also frequented the band rosters at Harvest Fest in Harmony Park, Farmapalooza in Black Bear, WI, and Cedarfest in Minneapolis.
Though a complete list would not be possible, influences mentioned most often by Puafua band members included: Pink Floyd, Phish, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Steely Dan, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Jim Henson, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Bob Marley, Frank Zappa, Willie Dixon, Charles Mingus, Wallace Hartley and the Titanics, February, and Gene Adams.
Puafua began in the early 1990s with two rival bands from bordering towns west of Minneapolis: Rockford and Buffalo. Casey Kashiemer and Eric Bequeath were part of the Rockford Metal band Adopt. Dylan Nau and Jake Pool were part of their own Buffalo metal band, Ritalin (a.k.a. Bone Orchard), which had Pink Floyd undertones: a foreshadowing of the writing to come in Puafua by way of Dylan Nau.
Nau, Puafua's first principal songwriter, grew up a friend of the Zimmerman family (Bob Dylan's family), and spent his formative years making use of Dylan's Minnesota recording studio with the Zimmermans, developing his unique guitar and vocal style during that time.
By his graduating summer, 1993, Nau's band would join forces with Rockford rivals in a battle of the bands show. Their meeting would create a musical respect among the four core Puafua players (Dylan, Casey, Eric, and Jake) three years before they would form a band together.
Later that summer, Nau would coincidentally meet his soon-to-be college buddy and Puafua's second principal songwriter, Jeff Siegfried, while Siegfried played his saxophone on the street in Downtown Minneapolis. Though the two only spoke briefly, they would soon find themselves together in the classroom at Augsburg College, as well as in their own hybrid Jazz-Fusion band, Ear Train, through the mid-90s. Additionally, the two would be instrumental in co-founding Augsburg Basement Recordings, the campus' yearly showcase of student musician/songwriters.
Siegfried, from Minneapolis-based Alternative band The Uh, melded his lyrics well with Nau's writing style, the two inking several minor college hits during their time at Augsburg. Siegfried is the cousin of No Wave pioneer James Chance (a.k.a. James Siegfried), and, like Chance, would wield both saxophone and keyboards on stage.
Augsburg buddy, Steve Olmstead, and Kashiemer's friend, Aaron Stoehr, would round out the band roster as it grew from a four-piece to a seven-piece from 1996 to 1998. By 2000 the group would have gained and lost multi-instrumentalist Scott Holzinger (who eventually found a home with Minneapolis Jam band Wookiefoot), as well as gaining a sound man in Eric Shosted and two fill-in players in Peter Miller and James Pope.
In its infancy, Puafua's first honor was being asked to open for Minneapolis band February's final show on the Main Stage at First Avenue. Additionally, Puafua held a frequent place of honor in Vox Medusa's Ricochet Kitchen line-up, a performance-based art coalition which was perfect for a group that, itself, dabbled in performance art. For example, it was not uncommon to see Puafua featuring spectacles such as aliens playing Theremins or the entire band sporting Puafua basketball uniforms and shooting hoops during a performance. In 1998, The Pursuit of Catness, Puafua's first full-length album recorded at Sin Toast Studios and Oar Fin Records, enjoyed airplay on local college radio stations, particularly KVSC in St. Cloud, as well as local community stations KFAI and the Homegrown Show with Mei Young on KQRS. Additionally, before the advent of Napster, the album's joke recording "I'm in Jail" made a run to number three on one of the world's first peer-to-peer music sharing websites, MP3.com. In 1999, Sweet Treats and Baker's Choice were released in limited quantity, together 140 minutes of live recording showcasing to a larger audience the band's collective spur of the moment songwriting ability that often went a step beyond simple jamming to completely improvised songs with melody, lyrics, and harmonized horn and backing vocal parts. Puafua also introduced West Coast Jam Band Wookiefoot to its Minneapolis audience at the 7th Street Entry in 1999. In 2000 Puafua teamed up with the Minnesota branch of the organization NORML, participating in concerts, events, and as a featured band on the Free Weed compilation CD. In August, 2001, Puafua was enlisted to headline for "Hemp Car Appreciation Night" which featured a stop by "A Mercedes-Benz diesel converted to run on hemp oil," en route to "Establish[ing] a world distance record for a hemp powered vehicle, and [proving] the point that automobiles need not depend entirely on fossil fuels." Despite the band's modest accolades in the Twin Cities and beyond, the guys never turned down the chance to play a house, back yard, garage, train, or barn party, sometimes playing for up to five hours without a break for an appreciative crowd of friends, old and new.
As an additional feature, Puafua managed to delight audiences by stopping during a set to switch its instrumental line-up. The group could transform into one or two completely different bands, sometimes even opening for itself incognito with the utilization of each member’s multi-instrumental capabilities. Almost every member could literally change places with two other members, and the group altogether could add most any conceivable texture to its complex sound scape. Almost every band member could also jump to a lead or back-up vocal in any given song: a band with seven possible lead singers and the other six behind him capable of multi-harmony background parts. To exemplify the band’s transformational abilities, listed below are the instruments each member utilized on stage and in studio during his time in Puafua. (And don’t discount bass player Jake Pool: he has been said to have been the stabilizing force holding the entire circus together.)
- Dylan Nau: Vocals, guitar, mandolin, bass, keyboards, accordion, saxophones, drums
- Jeff Siegfried: Vocals, saxophones, flute, clarinet, keyboards, percussion
- Aaron Stoehr: Vocals, trombone, guitar, bass, percussion
- Eric Bequeaith, Vocals, trumpet, trombone, didgeridoo, guitar, harmonica, percussion
- Casey Kashiemer: Vocals, drums, hand drums, percussion
- Steve Olmstead: Vocals, keyboards, hand drums
- Scott Holzinger: Vocals, percussion, hand drums, guitar, sitar
- Jake Pool: Bass
2001 marked the release of Boosh, an album whose completion would come during an increasingly troubled time for the band, several members developing separate projects and collective live appearances becoming fewer and farther between. Even so, the 1000 units purchased by the group to promote the album sold out in less than two weeks. The band, however, failed to promote the CD any further and it had been largely lost to the public until its internet re-release in 2010. The dawning of 2002 marked the end of Puafua's live performances and recordings, the band giving up a marquee slot at the famed Cabooze bar, a slot formerly held by The Big Wu for whom Puafua was an opening act in its early days. A standing room only crowd at the Uptown Bar and Grill witnesses the extremely under-publicized farewell show on December 1, 2001. Wrote sound man Eric Shosted after the event: "I have to admit the last refrain of the last performance of Home Cookin' almost brought tears to my eyes, and seeing you guys still play with a real sense of enjoyment even after some of the shittiest gigs in recent memory made me real proud to think of you as compadres. I look forward to seeing what other projects lay ahead of each one of you as your roads diverge." In 2002, Puafua was nominated by the Minnesota Music Academy for Eclectic Band of the Year nine months after its farewell show. Small collections of band members resurfaced in the Minneapolis-based groups Spry and Gold Standard through 2009. In 2010 members of Puafua reunited in performance to celebrate the life of deceased friend Ed Tyler (clip). In 2011, digital audio tapes of shows at the Red Sea Bar featuring 20+ minute multi-song jams were found and released to the public as a two disc set.
In addition to studio and live recordings produced by Puafua, Eric Shosted and Rob Curtis, extensive live bootleg recordings were compiled and made available by Roger Learned, some of which appear in official albums. The official Puafua albums are:
- The Pursuit of Catness(1998)
- Sweet Treats(1999)
- Baker's Choice(1999)
- Onstage 1(2000)
- Onstage 2(2002)
- Onstage 3(2003)
- Puafua Rediscovered (2011)
- Puafua Rediscovered II (2011).
Stream and/or download zip file with all 84 sound files at https://archive.org/details/PuafuaCatalogIntroByJeffSiegfried.
Since Puafua, Dylan Nau has had songwriting/performing/arranging roles with Nicholas David of The Voice, Willamena, Gold Standard, Sputik Viper, The Feelin' Band, In Formation, !!!, and Apollo Cobra, much of which has been with the participation of Puafua band mate Aaron Stoehr. Nau's Puafua collaborator, Jeff Siegfried, has since worked arranging horns for and performing with former Wailer Devon Evans, in Spry with Puafua bandmate Aaron Stoehr, briefly in Gold Standard, and with one of the last surviving beat poets, Stephen Morse. He currently produces The Siegfrieds as well as heading up the role of director of music under the name Roar of the Buffalo Horn for the Rainbow Warriors in San Francisco. Drummer Casey Kashiemer moved to Madison, WI to play with award winning hip-hop group The Figureheads.