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: