[1 November 2011]
On October 5, 2011 an all-ages, sold-out audience invaded Chicago’s Rivera Theater for a triple threat bill featuring Foster the People, Cults and Reptar, all of whom performed at Lollapalooza 2011. While Foster the People have been on a steady rise to the top, dominating pop playlists, I was more interested in the supporting acts.
First on was Reptar (yes, an ode to the iconic Rugrats dinosaur) an up and coming four-piece from Athens, GA. There truly is no easy way to describe the foursome, which makes them all the greater. In as few words as possible Reptar’s sound is an original blend of colorful, schizo avant-pop polished with synthesizers, animated vocals and samples. The music took several unpredictable twists and turns, blasting into noisy space, yielding for jazz-funk grooves, whirlwinds of synthesizers and storms of tambourine oomph. Reptar hit the stage bright and early at 7pm; those who arrived early enough appeared slightly confused yet intrigued as they danced their asses off to the infectious grooves. Following Reptar I gained a skip to my step and a lick from “Stuck In My Id” on my mind.
Succeeding Reptar were Manhattan’s reigning bittersweet indie-pop darlings Cults. Originally a duo formed by Madeline Follin (vocals) and Brian Oblivion (guitar/vocals), the band has since lost its simplicity adding members for live performances including Gabriel Rodriguez (aux/guitar), Marc Deriso (drums) and Nathan Aguilar (bass). Cults dominated their Friday afternoon slot at Lollapalooza and I had high hopes for them. Unfortunately their performance at the Rivera fell short from their last stop in Chicago, leaving me slightly disappointed but not totally defeated.
Cults started their set on a dark stage with a couple of blue mood lights shining down, adding to their mystique. Behind the band video footage projected on an uncovered bare wall, and got lost between metal beams and various stage obstructions, probably chords. With their stage presence slightly off-kilter I closed my eyes and opted to listen instead of watch. Details of samples and bells got lost in the venue’s echoing high ceilings, as did Follin’s voice. Characteristacally sweet and youthful, Follin strained to sing over the bold power of her band. There were pockets where her voice was audible and projected serene, jazzy tones. Unfortunately her vocals did not linger over the rest of her rock outfit and ended up buried in the background.
Cults primarily performed tracks off their self-titled debut (Released this past June on Columbia Records). They absolutely nailed “Rave On” with a fury of drums and crashing cymbals, while illuminating chords from keyboards and bells pumped life into “Bad Things”. Other tunes did not go over as well such as “Bumper”, a duet between Follin and Oblivion. On “Bumper” Follin’s vocals got completely buried under grinding guitars as Oblivion’s voice rose from the wreckage.
Onstage the band did not really know how to interact with the audience. Instead they just kind of stood around, stared, nodded and played. Oblivion mentioned that Cults rarely play all ages shows and encouraged the crowd to loosen up a bit. Between a lack of connection with the audience and poor audio they were definitely holding something back.
Cults wrapped up their set in 45 minutes and made way for headliners Foster the People. The flashy, rock ready dance pop group was welcomed with screams and cries from adoring young adults. Drummer Cubbie Fink banged on his set in rounds of hard handed primitive rhythms. His force was paired with ringing synthesizers and surface texture from Mark Foster skipping around stage banging on a cowbell. The animated bunch played over an hour, dancing through laser lights and appreciative cries for more.