CULTS + CURLS + THE WILLOWZ @ THE TERAGRAM BALLROOM
Photos by Stephanie Port Words by Madison Desler
If Cults were an actual cult, one would assume that the main requirements for entry to the indie-pop band are as follows: 1. Possession of dark, silky locks very much preferred. 2. Should have a fair mastery of the side-to-side Cher sway. 3. Worships at the musical alter of Phil Spector. 4. Must love synths.
While very far from giving off any actual cult vibes, the band’s show at The Teragram Ballroom last night did feel like a communal experience. We were treated to the world premiere of the “Right Words” video, songs throughout the evening were heartwarmingly dedicated to various personnel and members of the crowd, and singer Madeline Folin celebrated her birthday on stage—her brother Richie James Follin of opener The Willowz presenting her with an Offering birthday cake, the outstretched hands from their latest album’s artwork visible in the midst of the glowing candles.
Offering, released last month, marks the duo’s first album in four years, and takes several steps away from the synth-washed, 60’s girl-group sound that’s been their bedrock since 2011—think more Gary Numan, less Ronettes. The band played six songs off the new album including “I Took Your Picture” and “Gilded Lily”—the former centered around a fat-fuzz 80s riff that recalls Currents-era Tame Impala, the latter sees Folin chanting “Haven’t I given enough?” over Stranger Things synths. What remains consistent is the complexity of the songs’ tone—wistful, dreamy, but with a darker element always lurking underneath. It’s in the way falling in love is compared to being violently kidnapped in “Abducted” or the lyric, “I can never by myself/So fuck you” in the midst of the sugary sweet “Never Heal Myself.”
Whether it was the actual gilded lily that was handed to Folin after the song, or the shouts of “I love you!” in between songs, it’s clear that Folin and Oblivion have fans that have been with them from the beginning, the teen-dream “Always Forever” and garage-churn of “I Can Hardly Make You Mine” eliciting shrieks around the room.
Just like on the recordings, Folin’s voice lacks dynamic, causing the show to have a recurrent, but not unpleasant drone—an uninterrupted daze of dreamy melodies and lush layers, accented by the psychedelic imagery projected onto the stage. On cuts like “Good Religion” and “Clear From Far Away,” with Oblivion’s keyboard layers swirling around her, she almost becomes another one of the synths. It was the song that closed the set, “You Know What I Mean,” that proved to be the night’s standout, the built-in kinetics of the staccato chorus lifting it a few steps above the haze.
The devoted fans cheered gamely for an encore even though the we all knew there was no way they would leave without doing “Go Outside,” the sunshine-pop that put them on the map way back when. They returned to do just that, with Oblivion dedicating it to all of us “always and forever.”
Preceding Cults was Curls (a little tongue twister there). Curls is fronted by Christopher Owens, formerly of Girls. They play The Morrocan Lounge on November 17th and December 1st.
Starting everything off was The Willowz who are back with Jacob Pillot of The Shelters filling in on bass.