Cults vs Warpaint @ the Great Escape Festival 2011, Brighton, UK, 12.05.11
By now it’s getting dark outside, the venue is heaving and anticipation is growing by the second. I spot Brian from Cults making his way across the bar at the back of the room and disappear around the corner in the direction of the toilets. I want to approach him, but there is no time. People have started sitting down in clusters at the front of the stage, setting up camp to get the best spots in the audience. The buzz in Horatio’s is something else. People are smiling and chatting loudly as we all wait expectantly for what comes next.
There’s a lull in the talking as Cults make their entrance, strapping into guitars, switching things on and mounting the drums. After that, all jaws drop in silence as Cults start belting out their sunshine- and shadow-drenched tunes, taking our breath away. The set kicks off with a trippy retro sample blasting out from the speakers, instantly transporting all present into their world. As it reverberates and echoes, the drums kick in and so do the guitars. Lead singer Maddy starts to dance up a storm in her signature style and opens her mouth laying her sugar-coated vocals into the mix as they kick off their set with crowd-pleasing and charming off-beat love song ‘Abducted’. Being in such close proximity to such raw passion and power is enough to make my hair stand on end and I’m plagued by goosebumps off and on for the duration of the set. The music and the dancing is infectious. and the crowd sway and dance as Cults work the room into a blissful frenzy. There’s nowhere else on earth I’d rather be. Maddy’s face is a picture of agony and ecstasy as she wails out her lament as ‘The Curse’ peaks, rising out of the all-band chants of the verse and I know I’m in the presence of something capable of changing the lives.
Suddenly everything comes to a halt. Some wires have come loose and the guy doing the samples is struggling to regain control of some unruly equipment. Brian takes the opportunity to talk to the crowd in his New York drawl about the Eurovision Song Contest he heard was taking place. I don’t think I’m alone in being grateful to be here tonight instead of sitting in front of a TV watching cheese-ball acts go for Euro glory. One of our new friends in the audience starts looking at his watch anxiously worrying about getting to see Warpaint right after – this is the dilemma of the Great Escape programme and we’re all feeling it. By now though, I know that there is no way anything will pry me away from this gig early and I’m willing to miss Warpaint just to hear every last note of Cults’ set.
Luckily moments later, the awkward confusion ends and Cults fire up another of their hook-laden masterpieces to the delight of the crowd. They introduce their next song as a new one but it’s the opening bars of already recognisable song ‘Go Outside’ that really lifts the roof off. The sheer excitement of hearing that song being played live, just metres away, gets me dancing and losing myself as I join with the band and audience in an almost religious experience, transcending this plane. The set ends all too soon with the happy-go-lucky and satisfying hooks of ‘Oh My God’ sending butterflies through my belly and dance moves to my feet.
I take the opportunity to grab Brian and Maddy in a group hug as they leave the venue, telling them unashamedly just how much I love their band. It’s just lucky there isn’t a drop of Coolade in sight or we’d all be in trouble.
As the enigmatic members of New York’s hippest band wander off in the direction of Liverpool, next stop on their UK tour, I grab my photographer and friends and we make a dash down the pier with hurried steps to the Brighton Corn Exchange for Warpaint, dizzy from the excitement of what just happened and keenly anticipating what is to come.