A cool spring evening in Denver welcomed Manhattan-based Cults as their tour made a stop at the Bluebird Theater. The Bluebird is a great venue on East Colfax close to City Park; my only complaint ever has been the utility closet size of the restrooms. As the weather has turned to the warmer side, back to the colder side, warmed up again, but then cooling down again with winds and light rain, it typified the current period of transition for both the city and the attendees of the night’s event. As Denver was trying to decide whether it should be Spring or Summer, many of the ticket-holders seemed to be in flux as well.

Mrs. Magician
The night kicked off a little after 8 p.m. with Mrs. Magician. This San Diego outfit came out and needed no introduction as they let their wave of surf rock do the talking, going through most of their first and recently released album, Strange Heaven from Swami Records. In fact, there was little to no small talk from this band. Lead singer Jacob Turnbloom had a masterful pop voice, and certainly warrants a comparison to the Beach Boys when coupled with the “Wipe Out” –esque riffs provided by guitarist Thomas Garcia. The band had a spiffy, So-Cal punk look about them, and Turnbloom provided the attitude to match with repeated choruses like ,“There is no God . . .” and “Fuck the world . . .,” backed up with ample ooh-ooh’s and woah-oh-ohh’s. This music spoke to that delayed sense of maturity that lends itself to fun, carefree days; Mrs. Magician brought “the summer” and their performance was a great way to begin the evening.

The night progressed as Spectrals took the stage. Spectrals is commonly known as a one-man act consisting of Louis Jones from across the pond; for his first U.S. tour, he came accompanied with three supporting bandmates. And what a colourful group they were (note my spelling – it’s a sign of respect). What better way is there to describe the songs on Bad Penny, Spectrals’ debut, than “sweet”. A somewhat welcome contrast to the jaded, love-done-me-wrong perspective of Mrs. Magician, the Spectrals sound was a buzzy, doo-wop string of sweet sounds and sweet words. Most of the band looked like they were college-bound (or university-bound for you anglophiles), with the great exception of their “bouncy” bass player who reminded me of the cool uncle I always wish I had.

Jones stopped to say a few words to the audience, which was nice. It’s nice to be addressed every once in a while. And it was sweet (he’s a sweet boy). Jones had a catchy pop voice just like Mrs. Magician’s Turnbloom, with the added velvety non-native tongue that made all of his songs sound like aimless, drifting rivers of sound even through their very simple and structured format. The set had a sentimental tinge, and a lounge-y sound that wasn’t quite holding up to the growing anticipation of the crowd as more people filed into the Bluebird’s lower level.

As the audience grew, it was interesting to note the (slight) diversity of ages in the crowd. There were pockets of 18-ish kiddos, a smattering of young twenty-somethings, but mostly I noticed a lot of polished younger people of ambiguous age. By “polished” I mean that they had a conservative appearance, but were still youthful and socially represented by a subtle immaturity. The best way I can think to describe it is the feeling your parents must have when compelled to say, “Aww, look at you – all grown up!” These people, I imagine, are the types who have a serious job but still hit the “Snooze” button fifteen times and leave for work with mismatching socks.

A full house softened to the dimming lights as the video tech put on a projection of T.V. static and Cults came ambling out on stage. It was a great entrance I must say – with their eye-catching video for “Go Outside,” I was happy to see they were tying in a few visual nods. Madeline Follin’s sultry vocals awakened the audience to “Abducted.” The band members were dressed in shades of black and white, letting Follin stand out in a casual-turned-classy golden frock paired with a jean jacket. True to their eponymously-titled album cover, at first sight one could not help but notice the abundance of hair; I loved it.

Comprised of three supporting members to the core duo of Follin and Brian Oblivion, who played guitar but also a little of everything, everyone on stage was ready – you could just tell that they were taking this seriously. Much like the audience members I am trying to describe, the band’s youthful sound (and faces) was bolstered by the care taken in appearance and posture. Follin frequently tugged the edges of her dress in a mock curtsy during her performance; Oblivion was in a collared shirt and tie; all band members rarely interacted with each other unless it was to make a subtle motion to adjust a sound effect, or start a song.

It is the small things that can really make a good show a great show. For instance, it’s nice when you are going to a show where the headliner has only one album to play from – that means no matter what, you are going to hear your favorite song(s). But, it also means you are extra surprised when the Cults play something you have never heard before; in this night’s case, it was a cover of the Leonard Cohen song, “Everybody Knows.” The one song of the night that wasn’t from the singular album they were performing from, “Everybody Knows” had a constant and infectious beat and instantly got the crowd singing along.

Speaking of singing along, it was incredibly endearing when later in the set as Oblivion introduced “Go Outside,” he mentioned that he heard everyone singing and he thought it sounded great. He was voicing his approval of our collective non-performance and (gasp) encouraging it; I rarely hear a musician that is so pleased and secure in his or her own masterful work as to not be concerned that they are being upstaged by the crowd.

The set ended with “Oh My God” and at last, someone broke out the ubiquitous peace pipe (never attend a Denver show without it!). As puffs of smoke surrounded the main stage, the band’s focused stage presence cracked just a little. Thank god – I mean, how perfect do you need to be, Cults? The bassist, Nathan Aguilar (who in my opinion bears a striking resemblance to Michael Cera in a long black wig), broke his concentration and somber demeanor to momentarily boast a grin. From my viewpoint, I know it must have been completely reactionary to the carefree haze. Cults, your music sounded great; I left the Bluebird and almost felt compelled to say out loud, “Aww, look at you – all grown up!”

Erin Yepis is a new contributor to Concerted Effort. Look for her to share more concert experiences through writing and photography in the near future! Check out the Concerted Effort Facebook page to stay updated!

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