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Live Review and Photos: Cults, July 28, 2011, Eagle Rock Center for the Arts – Los Angeles, CA

Photos by Philip Cosores

Thursday’s show at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts was Cults’ third in a trio of dates in Los Angeles, and the who-knows-what number in a current long stretch of dates in North America. This time last year Cults were relatively unheard of, but through hard work and the release of a popular debut album they can now pull the crowds for three nights in the same city. People who had seen them in their formative months before making it big were unsure of their live chops, but on Wednesday night Cults proved to all those doubters that, as they say, practice makes perfect.

Opening the night were relative locals Writer, who hail from San Diego. The band is a two-piece of brothers Andy and Jayme Ralph, who play guitar and drums respectively. The music they make is simple, but enjoyable nonetheless, with Andy’s guitar lines providing a set of galloping numbers. Andy’s vocals were sent through a set of pedals that he had on a table in front of him, and gave his voice a martian-like vibrato. At first I thought that it would only be for the opening song, but it remained constant throughout and, rather than become annoying as I thought it would, it seemed to me that Writer had built their songs to fit with this particular vocal effect and it worked nicely. Right around the point when it might have started to tire, Andy switched from guitar to fuzzed-out keyboard and a new high watermark was set for their performance. They may be relatively new to the scene, but Writer showed that they weren’t afraid of performing by finishing their set with a touching brotherly duet around the lead microphone.

Guards were the act sandwiched between Writer and Cults, and they made a nice transition. During the show the fact that Guards’ front man Ritchie Follin is the brother of Cults’ singer Madeline was never mentioned, perhaps fearful that people would think they were here on a free ride. That couldn’t be further from the truth, with Guards showing on this performance that they have just as much potential to make a sudden breakthrough like Cults. Playing heavily from their self-titled EP, the band brought a verve and tangible sense of happiness to the stage through their performance. They even endeavoured to cover M.I.A.’s “Born Free,” melding it into their pop-rock style. Guards had stage presence and they even had their own stage props in the form of various kooky crows placed around the stage. They finished with not one, but two songs culminating in full-blooded rock-outs. You can already see where the encore break would go in their set, and hopefully soon they‘ll be headlining their own tour.

Cults have only had one album, but it’s so packed with catchy songs that almost everything in their set feels like a hit. This meant that the young band were unafraid to open with one of their most well-exposed singles, “Abducted.” This was actually a stroke of genius, since the band’s kick in a short way into the song instantly injects the room with life. Although Brian Oblivion’s vocals were lost in the standard early-set sound issues, Follin’s came storming out of the gate, and remained strong and passionate through the set. Later in the set, when Oblivion’s time came to sing once more on “Bumper,” the vocal interplay worked perfectly. Cults’ performance quality remained consistently high throughout, and remarkably so for such a young band. A few moments can be picked out, such as the opening xylophone line on “Go Outside,” Follin belting the chorus of “Rave On” and her cute crowd interaction when someone complimented her legs (which she deemed to be “disgusting”). Cults finished with “Oh My God,” which saw all the members firing on all cylinders; electronics, xylophone, guitar and the drums all fought for attention, but as with the rest of the set it was Follin’s vocals that won out.

All of the bands of the night showed that youth is certainly an advantage when it comes to inspiring a crowd. But, on the other hand it takes a level of experience to hold that attention for a whole set, and while Writer and Guards are certainly well on their way there, it seems Cults have reached it.

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