I gotta do it, so here it is. Yeah, I drank the metaphorical Kool-Aide that New York based indie group Cults was serving, and it was fucking delicious. The last time they played the KC area, they performed at The Riot Room, a venue small enough to be my living room. But a year and a half later, Cults have clearly gained a much wider audience as they played to a nearly packed house in Lawrence’s Granada Theater.
The band, co-lead by singer Madeline Follin and singer/guitarist Brian Oblivion, performed their entire debut album as well as a fantastic cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows”, which for my money may have been the best song of the night. I’d been hearing from quite a few people how good of a show they put on, but tonight was my first chance of witnessing it, and it was glorious. There was a projector up in the newly constructed balcony of the Granada projecting cool trippy images and old film clips over the band while they were playing, which helped amplify the band’s retro psychedelic vibes.
The whole performance felt so awesomely retro, too. All the band member’s looked like they might have just arrived from Jim Jone’s compound in Jonestown. The bassist had this awesome fuzzy mane of hair that just lightly bobbed around as he layed on those thick grooves, while Madeline spent most of the performance swaying and bouncing to the beat. Overall, the band’s sound was practically flawless live. While the album has a bit of minimalism to it, the full live band brings out a much fuller sound. Songs like “Rave On” and “Oh My God” were amplified and featured extended outros. As I said earlier, though, probably the highlight of the set for me was the Leonard Cohen cover. Even though it wasn’t Cults, it still sounded like Cults. But a much darker future version of the band. If it’s any indication of what their next album will sound like, I’m buyin’.
One of the things that always strikes me about non midwestern bands who play in this area during the spring and summer, is how interested they are in our weather. As a looming Tornado was supposed to be headed our way, we as the Lawrence/KC crowd couldn’t have cared less. It happens all the time, we’re used to it, and we know nothing USUALLY ever actually happens. Cults being from New York, though, seemed really fascinated by it, and mentioned it at least 4 or 5 times. When Madeline finally announced to everyone that she had been told it wasn’t coming, there sounded like an ounce of disappointment. It just turns out that the tornado DID come, and it destroyed The Granada. Except the tornado was Cult’s performance. BOOM! Second cheesy joke of the review. I’m on a roll here, guys.
Before Cults “Finger Of God’d” us (aaaand third!), English band Spectrals took the stage. I’d heard their name around a few places, but this was the first real exposure to them. For me, personally, I wasn’t completely feeling the band’s tunes. They sound like super lo-fi garage surf rock, sort of? Might just not have been my cup of tea, but most of the crowd seemed to really enjoy their set. Of course, a lot of that enthusiasm also probably stemmed from Spectral’s bassist. He was similar to a skinnier Kyle Gass, and was soooo into the music. He was jumping, hopping, kicking, ducking, jivin’, whatever verb you can think of, he was doing it. The dude was a ton of fun to watch.
Overall though, the opener’s weren’t quite my cup of tea, but Cults were fantastic. I can’t wait to hear what they give us in the form of a second album, and to see how their live show progresses a year from now.
By Richard Pepper
Photos By Ryan Davis