Cult of Youth Album Release Party w/ Pharmakon, Pink Reason, Zatuson
September 6th – Public Assembly
View photos of the album release party here.
In lieu of Cult of Youth’s latest record, Love Will Prevail (out now on Sacred Bones,) the band performed at Williamsburg venue Public Assembly last Friday evening with a lineup as diverse as the endlessly changing members of the band. Standing behind frontman/mastermind Sean Ragon seems to be a privilege, not a right. And based on his performance, that’s rightfully so.
Public Assembly, as a venue, operates with consistent duality. The two rooms (Cult of Youth performing in the larger) never seem to have any sort of linear cohesion. Which is fine when noting that neither do their bookings—they are wildly diverse and when they get it right, it’s great. Cult of Youth was getting it right.
The last time I saw Cult of Youth was at a 2011 SXSW showcase I assisted in organizing. They took the stage—or more accurately, the corner of a living room—in a decrepit house located years away from the hustle of Austin’s downtown. Sean Ragon and crew performed sometime around 2 a.m. for a crowd of about eight with a lineup that boasted mainly of old Enid’s employees. What I saw then was dissimilar to what I witnessed at Public Assembly on Friday—it was noisy, distorted, sloppy in the attractive way that most dark music can be. It appears that with the mastery of the band’s third full length, has come the improvement.
Brooklyn noisy punk band Zatuson opened the night in what I imagine was their tamest performance ever. Relentlessly brash, Zatuson in a space like Public Assembly felt neutered perhaps filtered through a space not so welcoming to their level of violence. Their set was short but satisfying, a nod to the fact that bands like Cult of Youth more often than not come from a punk background and maintain that love, even while making music slightly less traditional.
The band was followed by Siltbreeze Records’ Pink Reason, a band slighted in the vein of garage rock. Possibly the most dance-friendly act of the evening, Pink Reason performed within a traditional rock’n’roll schema, so wonderfully appropriate as to feel also out of place with the evening’s strange lineup.
Final opening act Pharmakon, the power electronics/industrial styling of Margaret Chardiet, took the stage. The entirety of the front row consisted of fellow noise makers Yellow Tears among other friends deeply tied to Far Rockaway venue Red Light District, making the ferocity of Pharmakon’s music and set all that much more inviting. She hollers from within her chest, embodying industrial terror and spitting it out onto and within you.
As the clock approached midnight, Cult of Youth set up. A record as gorgeously intimate and complicated as Love Will Prevail could seemingly be challenging to translate on stage in a crowded room, but Sean Ragon moved with incredible authority, forcing his delicate songs into a place of universal physicality. Specifically with the performance of “Garden of Delight,” with a chorus that repeats the albums title, COY felt like experiencing Swans in the current era. That is not to say the performance was derivative. With an acoustic guitar ringing truth through the body of anyone open to hear it, Cult of Youth’s set was heartbreakingly beautiful. We can only hope the rest of the tour goes so well.
Post Script: At the risk of sounding crazy, after the show I went home and wrote a short fictionalized play about Cult of Youth’s latest record. Talk about weirdo inspiration.