Cults Play a Short, Sweet Set at the Independent
Cults at the Independent last night.
Better than: Joining the punchline.
It was short but sweet.
Like most, I went into the Cults show at the Independent last night knowing a mere three songs by the headlining band: "Most Wanted "(aka that sugary doo-wop one), "The Curse" (that Cramps-esque swaggery one), and "Go Outside" (the hit). Such is the nature of a newish buzz band, especially one made known throughout the blogsphere thanks largely to its Bandcamp profile.
I also briefly previewed the band's "Abducted," released April 12 on NPR's All Things Considered (from its eponymous debut album, out this summer). But I haven't spent the time with it like I have those other three. When a band releases only a handful of songs and you really enjoy each, you end up listening to them on repeat, letting them sink into your membrane.
Still, walking down the narrow entryway to the Independent last night, I couldn't shake the feeling that I honestly didn't know what to expect of the show. I feared it wouldn't pan out live the way it does on recordings.
The act before Cults was Magic Kids, a freak-pop Tennessee six-piece with almost Of Montreal-level vocal theatrics, Wilco sentiment, and Super Furry Animals' chaotic family-love dynamics. With violin, keyboard, and full-body tie-dye, the band doesn't lack for entertainment. Skinny, dynamic, and occasionally awkward frontman Bennett Gates is the main attraction, but multi-instrumentalist Alice Buchanan (her tie-dye smartly paired with bootie shorts) nearly stole the show.
After a surprisingly short intermission of 15 minutes, Cults appeared. Vocalist Madeline Folllin, appearing onstage in a sweet white lace shift and black Mary Janes, nervously asked, "Does anyone live in the Sunset?" before divulging her previous address as 33rd and Taraval. She and guitarist and songwriter Brian Oblivion hit lo-fi pockets of Motown, pop, and doo-wop in almost every song. On stage, four additional members -- filling in sound (and feedback) on drums, guitar, bass, and keyboards -- joined the Brooklyn duo. The band sounded together and tight, but bits were off and the feedback could occasionally be crushing.
Cults did play all the expected songs and hit every mark, but played only six songs in total. While the band kept up a pleasing energy -- the crowd was obviously digging it, swaying seductively just like Follin -- six songs does not a headlining set make. The crowd seemed a bit confused when Follin cheerful exclaimed, "This is our last song," after finishing "Go Outside." With that, the house music came on, the lights slowly brightened, and back to Divisadero we crawled.
So the set wasn't mind-blowing, but there's certainly potential there. Perhaps once the full-length comes out, Cults will have a more expansive set, something to keep an audience coming back. Something beyond the buzz.
Personal bias: I also went in knowing how a certain All Shook Down editor felt about the buzz band after he spent a grueling day watching bands at SXSW. That naturally had me worried. But I also stubbornly wanted the show to prove his initial opinion wrong. I'm not sure it did.
Sexy maneuvering: Foster somehow ended up with belt splayed open and tightie-whities on display midway through the Magic Kids' set, but smartly belted up quickly thereafter.
Formidable documentation: A two-man film crew and at least three professional camerapersons were on hand.