Cults Mix the Past and Present at Wonder Ballroom

Written by  Published in Live Reviews Sunday, 15 April 2012 13:59


As a currency, nostalgia seems to be more valuable than ever.  Thanks to the Internet, the neatly packaged annals of human history are available everywhere, at any time. People are now archivists of this information, with rediscovered art currents blooming in a scattered, but collective renaissance. I’ll admit this topic is well-trod ground, especially from those claiming that this generation’s exhibition of culture is only the result of creative ennui or youthful appropriation.  But are we in stasis, or is our movement based in this new styling and combining of the past?  With this in mind, I walked into the Wonder Ballroom to see one of the more successful iterations of transfigured '60s pop, Cults. The New York-based rockers proved why they're one of the best new bands out there with their excellent live show.

In the beginning, Cults’ relationship to the Internet was somewhat ambiguous. Whether deliberate or not, little could be found of the duo—now know as Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin—who began playing music together during their time at the New School in 2010.  It was hard to imagine that this was only two years ago, as the ballroom’s main floor and balcony seemed filled to capacity.

After taking the stage with Marc Deriso (drums), Nathan Aguilar (bass), and Gabriel Rodriguez (aux, guitar), Follin and Oblivion started the night off with “Abducted” a track that twists seminal Ronettes-era grooves into a haunting and highly danceable account of unrequited love. There was little stage banter or improvisation through “Never Heal Myself”, “Most Wanted” and “Bumper.” Although economic, the sets sensibility lent itself well to the tight pop concoctions Cults have perfected.  Not that the crowd needed more animating; squeals of anticipation prefaced each songs opening chords like a Beatles concert circa 1964. I think I even caught some audience members twisting and dipping their dates.


The most impressive song of the night wasn’t even a Cults original, but a Leonard Cohen cover of “Everybody Knows.” I was unsure in the beginning—covering Cohen isn’t easy, but once I heard the eerie opening key pattern and echoing electronic effects combine with Follin’s stunning delivery, I didn’t need any convincing.

Leaving the Wonder Ballroom that night, I didn’t have a profound answer to the state of contemporary music culture…still don’t. But if the success of incredible bands like Cults can perpetuate the formative influences from the past, maybe there’s hope for the future.


Make sure to catch Cults on the last leg of their tour through April:


Apr 16

Fine Line Music Café, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Apr 17

Majestic Theater, Madison, WI, USA

Apr 18

Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee, WI, USA

Apr 20

Metro, Chicago, IL, USA

Apr 21

Rhinos, Bloomington, IN, USA

Apr 22

The Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI

Apr 23

Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY, USA

Apr 25

Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, USA

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 July 2013 13:48
Zach Klassen

It was at a young age that Zach Klassen developed his incredible, almost supernatural ability to identify excellent music. After discovering Ace of Base in elementary school (The Sign cassette tape being his first music purchase), he soon uncovered the seismic talents of Hootie and the Blowfish, Boyz II Men and Limp Bizkit. However, it wasn't until his first concert, when he saw Korn AND Staind perform at the Rose Garden in Portland, that all of the spectacular albums he had been absorbing culminated in the musical obsession that consumes his life today. If you ask him about the music he's loved and covered as a music critic and journalist—for such illustrious publications as the Eugene Weekly, the Willamette Week, the Point Reyes Light, The Deli Online Magazine, Eleven Magazine, and others—he'll probably admit his tastes have expanded a bit since his youth. Still, he'll forever hold a torch for his formative influences and, in the near future, plans on riding his alt/rap/rock Boyz II Men cover band to the to the top of the charts. 

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.