Written by Stefanie Fernandez
The New York indie pop duo Cults possesses a much larger presence than the cramped, intimate atmosphere of The Space might suggest. The Hamden, CT venue, which bears more resemblance to a grungy version of the diner from Happy Days than a music club, is clearly a place where relatively obscure touring musicians can play to a fully receptive, if meager, audience. Here, a band’s range and acuity in performance is tested and lain bare in a highly-concentrated setting to produce a sensorially-charged live experience. Cults, on the night of February 19, were no exception.
The show opened with the Atlanta-based Mood Rings, a dreamy post-punk act that infuses elements of shoegaze with tight hooks and jagged distortion to create a sound that is at once ethereal and visceral. This was the kind of under-the-radar band that venues such as The Space exist to showcase, and they did not disappoint.
Their set included highlights from their 2013 album VPI Harmony – most notably “Promise Me Eternity” and “Get Lost” — as well as some extremely interesting unreleased pieces from their forthcoming album. The venue afforded them a level of intimacy and sheer volume that allowed the band to break out of the monotony that plagues so many similar acts, striking a balance between raw distortion and elegant, gentle melodies. The band seemed totally comfortable onstage and was able to engage the audience with anecdotes and humor — even acknowledging audience hecklers who remarked that the lead singer resembled an “indie Jason Segel.”
Mood Rings – “Promise Me Eternity”
In contrast to the underground appeal of Mood Rings, Cults, led by vocalist Madeline Follin and multi-instrumentalist Brian Oblivion (yes, that’s his real name), have established themselves among the best acts that the contemporary indie-mainstream has to offer. With the dreamy production value, catchy pop hooks, and precise instrumentation exhibited on their 2010 debut Cults and its 2013 follow-up, Static, Cults have transcended the realm of the obscure and up-and-coming. These days, tracks like their melodic hit single “Go Outside” seem practically ubiquitous. While Cults was an ambitious and melodically rich introduction to their sound, reminiscent of 60s girl-groups and dreamy retro-pop influences, the band seemed to really come into their own on Static, a more mature record. Constructed from the debris of the break-up between Follin and Oblivion, Static is a complex and emotionally rich endeavor, and these elements provided the most memorable moments of the band’s set at The Space.
Cults - “So Far”
While the band’s energetic performances of hits from their debut–most notably, “Abducted,” and “You Know What I Mean”–enraptured the audience, it was the more complex songs from Static that afforded the band room to grow and expand with raw intensity. The most memorable of these include the conversational “Were Before”, the gritty and elegant “I Can Hardly Make You Mine,” and the damning, tormented accusations of “So Far”. Colored by the emotional context in which they were written, these songs marked the most beautiful and intense moments of the night as Follin and Oblivion captivated the audience, allowing us to partake in their catharsis with them.