Mississippi Studios
Portland, OR
2011 – 04/12

Cults are the prime example of a remarkable hype-driven story — of a faceless band lacking a full album, yet still manages to land a high-profile gig like Coachella. I can’t tell you who exactly is in the band due to their clandestine open-door line up, but I will allude that founding members are from the indie elite of San Diego, not their purported origin of New York. Bands like Snuffaluffagus, Boomsnake, and Japandi have made sweet incestuous love in order to birth the mellow juvenile pop known as Cults. And with only a handful of tracks leaked from the debut so far, the band’s live performances are the only hint of what is to come.

White Arrows

LA’s White Arrows began the night with an unnecessary amount of members on stage, which seemed to be the on-going theme of the evenings support bands. Arrows featured three guitars as well as keys, percussion, and sampling, sometimes all going on simultaneously. An avoidable amount of busyness considering the songs would be more easily digestible if the band could practice some restraint in layering the instrumentation. The band’s most palatable offering was a remix of one of their songs by a fan in Portland, which they proclaimed, “Is actually better than our original song.” Go figure. The band’s visuals engineer may have been more memorable than the band itself; he controlled the projections appearing behind the band wearing a neon mask, complete with a Tron-moded guitar.

Magic Kids

Memphis’ Magic Kids were no vast improvement, as they had the same propensity for a cluttered arrangement of instruments that lacked the precision and clarity of the headliner. Six band members, three guitars, three keyboards, and one violin claim to create “contagious cacophony” and to “scream joyfully and melt even the hardest audiences,” yet tonight, this was not the case. The band seemed set to annoy the audience into reaction with their constant meandering while tuning between songs. Lead singer Bennet Foster seemed so surprised when the crowd actually did applaud, that he felt the need to employ a snarky applause track from his keyboard over the crowd. Until Cults took the stage, it looked as if jumbled musical indulgence seemed to be somewhat of a respected norm.

Cults

Cults’ well-paced take on ’60s bubble gum pop seemed to rescue the evening from the trappings of muddled arrangements. Lead singer Maddie Follin’s almost virginal delivery is pleasantly passive as it plods over sugary sweeps of xylophone and waves of organ. Many of the songs started with a vocal track of random scattered voices, only to swell into easing flows of surrendering hooks. “Abducted” featured a male-female duet style not found on the band’s 7″. As their set went on, I accepted the performance as a proper invitation to discover them, rather than a hunt on the internet. For a band whose approach utilizes as many bodies as the previous acts, it was clear that their formula was syrupy and agreeable, rather than arrogant and misguided.

Photography by Ashley Thirty Seven

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