Cults Live @ Barboza w/MUNYA
December 16, 2018 @ Barboza
By AJ Dent
MUNYA, the solo project of Josianne Boivin, eased the crowd into a romantic set with warm synth winds. The Montreal-based artist beamed beneath magenta lights, giddy and confident as she strolled from her keys to guitar and back again. She divulged a brief tale of how the movie Independence Day terrified her as a child, leaving her with nightmares and a plaguing paranoia of extraterrestrials. This led to the writing of a track on Delmano, her 2018 EP, called “If I’m Gone Tomorrow (It’s Because of Aliens).”
Towards the set’s end, she pointed out a group of fans at the front of the stage, thanking them for having also attended the previous night’s sold-out show. One of the individuals then proceeded to present MUNYA with a fluff-tastic stuffed animal—what appeared to me to be a squishmallow giraffe. While I often fear that such acts are creepy, in this case it seemed the gesture was welcome, as the singer delightedly hugged the creature, and purposely set it right beside her for the next song as the audience cheered on the cuteness.
While I’ve enjoyed MUNYA’s music for a bit now, this was one of those shows that cements your fandom. Her classically trained talents felt clearer than ever, and there were more people noticeably swaying and swooning (rather than standing stiffly, Seattle-style) than I expected (myself included). I recommend the sweet treats of her EP North Hatley during a date—especially the beautiful bon-bon “Des Bisous Partout.”
I’ve been wanting to see Cults since being struck by “You Know What I Mean,” a doo-woppy track off their 2011 self-titled LP. I feel that song continues to encapsulate the best of the NYC-based duo: themes of desperation, pie-sweet vocals, and synth-soaring build-ups that pay off perfectly.
I was relieved to find their live show surpassed my hopes. In recordings, lead singer Madeline Follin often sounds as if she was crooning in a tin-walled room. In person, her voice felt fuller, even more honeyed, without losing her usual ethereal effect. Multi-instrumentalist Brian Oblivion primarily played keys throughout the show, as the songwriting duo were accompanied by three other musicians for this tour. Oblivion did pick up the guitar for a couple tunes, though, leading Follin to laugh, “He’s still got it!”
Hit songs “Go Outside” and “Abducted” shook up the crowd, especially as vivid projections splayed across the performers. Ranging from bright 60s-inspired patterns to blue-hued raindrop backgrounds, the light show added a different, time-trippy dimension to each song. Their crush-worthy cover of “Total Control,” a 1979 song by The Motels, blended together the eras’ aesthetics even more.
This was the second Seattle show for MUNYA and Cults’ tour, and while I believe Barboza didn’t sell out this time around, it felt like a good thing: There was delectable space to dance, closeness without being crammed, and a relaxed vibe emanating from each artist onstage.
Just ask the multitude of affectionate couples around me. During the final song, “Always Forever.” there were people cuddled up in every direction. Cults’ beggy lyrics and fuzzy reverb seemed to successfully play Cupid that night. And the entire eve reminded of Barboza’s ability to feel like A Big Deal and yet An Intimate Underground Show at the same time.