dabbling in The Cult

I have missed the first two nights of the city’s gargantuan summer music festival. In the process, or so I’m told, I have been denied a “quiet” set by Joe Jackson and an “interesting” set by Dave Davies Noel Gallagher.

I am determined that I will not miss a set by The Cult I anticipate will be neither quiet nor interesting.

It will, however, be wet. A day’s worth of precipitation has done the ground here at Le Breton Flats no favours. And here she comes again.

Indeed, as the 8 p.m. showtime approaches it has if anything gathered strength.

This joke isn’t funny anymore.

As I mutter to no one in particular (via Facebook, but presented in muttered form), if this band does not open its 85-minute set with Rain, I will presume Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy are just not trying anymore.

The nearby merch tent showcases a selection of Cult t-shirts alongside tees for tonight’s headliners The Lumineers. (One can also invest in such curious items as a t-shirt from a 2005 Rolling Stones show in Toronto.) The latest in Cult apparel proudly lists the band’s tour dates. Tonight’s show is not included.

I had hoped to see some leftover Doors of the 21st Century shirts, but no such luck.

Okay, the band is due onstage in less than 10 minutes — just enough time for me to duck into the nearest tent. This turns out to be a lounge-like setting provided by the folks at BOOM! and JUMP! It is, presumably, intended as a place for wide-eyed JUMPers to mingle with jaded BOOMers. I wonder how that’s working for them. Certainly, under the circumstances, it is the place to be.

I secure a space under the tent but leave my beer on a table just outside. It is a Coors Light; a little water can only help.

I am reminded by a fellow CKCUer that during the band’s first Ottawa concert decades ago, Cult frontman Ian Astbury gave a shout-out to CKCU DJ Bill Furlonger (he of the Manx club sandwich), who had played one of the group’s better rockers on his show that afternoon. Earlier today, Elorious Cain played not one but two Cult classics on CKCU’s flagship disco program. Here’s hoping Ian was listening.

No time to dwell on such thoughts now. Something is happening onstage.

Is that a manbun? Oh, Ian! Billy Duffy looks good, though. And his Les Paul looks even better.

Rain is not the opener. It is, however, the set’s second song.

Apology accepted.

A few hits into the show, Astbury warns us that promises “new jams” will be heard this evening. He then asks “How many people know the band?” and is encouraged by the response. He wisely opts not to ask how many people know the new jams.

And so we endure a new Cult song that sounds much like an old Cult song. Except, of course, it is not an old Cult song and it therefore sucks. Fortunately, Lil Devil follows, and the rain-soaked crowd is back as Billy’s riffs ring out through the muddy field.

Astbury is in a playful mood, of sorts, offering bizarre snippets of Safety Dance (“You can dance/ Fuckin’ safe to fuckin’ dance / Everybody’s losing their shit”) and Mr. Roboto. In the process, the drummer becomes confused (insert drummer joke here) to the point of briefly breaking into Sunday Bloody Sunday as Sweet Soul Sister grinds to a halt.

Ah, but Ian is also here to preach, imploring the next generation to save gorillas and tigers (Oh my!) and to put down the guns. “Hashtag All Lives Matter!” he ill-advisedly bellows, in the hope that all present will echo his call. The response is, well, it’s better than that offered to those new jams — but we’ll call it mixed.

Alas, this dampened audience is not here to save the world. It is here to rock-out to She Sells Sanctuary. And damn does it sound great.

“Most bands would leave after that,” Astbury tells us after bringing that song home. In fact, few bands other than The Cult include She Sells Sanctuary in their setlists. Which is as it should be.

And so to Love Removal Machine and an early exit that suggests Astbury and Duffy (and a sometimes-ragged band that includes a keyboard player seemingly hired to cover the occasional high note) have opted to trim the set by a new jam or three.

No worries. Unless, of course, one of the songs shed from the setlist is Ciao Baby, in which case I would like to express my outrage.

As it stands, I have more time to take in Amanda Rheaume’s sidestage show. The rain has kept the numbers down, but the local singer-songwriter seems supremely comfortable playing to an attentive audience. She is also clearly at home in her country-rock identity, one arrived at after years of due-paying gigs as a rocker, a folkie and a chameleonic open-mic host. Rheaume’s new songs are perfectly suited to her warm voice and engaging onstage presence.

Not surprisingly, here we have the most delighted performer of the night, providing warmth to a cold and damp crowd.

And it’s on to the mainstage and The Lumineers, a band you know better than you think you do. Indeed, on this night they too offer comfort to a sizable crowd in need of shelter. A mere three songs in, they serve up their best-known song, Hey Ho, its placement in the setlist an indication of the confidence these melodic tunesmiths have in their catalogue.

And when they dare to dip their toes into a new jam, no one complains.

I begin to make my exit a half-dozen songs into the headliner’s set; it can take up to 40 minutes to actually leave the site. It does give me a chance to enjoy a sprightly run-through of the entirely appropriate Have You Ever Seen the Rain by headliners aware of the evening’s continuing downpour.

As I walk to the car, which is parked somewhere north of Morrisburg, I find the night’s music briefly dislodged by the sight of the Frisby Tire location on Somerset: “I belong to you / You belong to me / What can we do for you?”

But then it’s back to reflections on the show. You know, Ciao Baby really would have been nice. I’ll bet  The Lumineers could do it justice. Do they take requests? Maybe I should go back.

Walking behind me, a couple shrouded in rain and darkness discuss the evening’s entertainment.

“It’s a perfect night for them, too,” one enthuses. “It’s so goth. So Cult.”

1 Comment

Filed under Music

One response to “dabbling in The Cult

  1. Ghost of Harold C Funk

    They started so well long long ago back before Jethro Tull won a Grammy for “heavy metal”



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