Michael John Dunaway Lifestream

February 7, 2009

The Cult at Harry O’s, Park City — Sundance (for Paste Magazine)

Filed under: Uncategorized — michaeljohndunaway @ 12:48 am


Unabridged version of an article I wrote for Paste Magazine; published version here.

Sometimes you spend years waiting for something, then you turn around and see that it’s popped up out of nowhere, right in front of you. Of all the bands I regretted having never seen, The Cult was very near the top of the list. For one thing, no one else sounds like them – that crazy blend of rock, metal, and goth that I’m not sure anyone else even ever attempted, much less achieved. They also play music that always seemed to me to be perfectly suited to a live venue, and especially to the sense of Dionysian craziness that can grip a rock crowd in those magical, inspired moments.

The Cult were one of the seminal bands of my late high school and college years, and because I didn’t much care for their albums that came out later, they’re forever frozen in that time for me. Every time I hear She Sells Sanctuary, I’m back on the floor of my dorm room with a speaker on each side of my head, losing myself in the wild abandon of the song. Many of my other favorite bands from that time either moved on to become a part of my later life as well, or faded from influence in my life. But The Cult retains its place as the soundtrack to that era for me.

So when I rounded a corner at the world-famous Harry O’s in Park City Utah and came face to face with The Cult doing a soundcheck, my knees actually buckled. Ian Freaking Astbury was singing 20 feet away from me, and I was one of a dozen people in the room. I sat mesmerized and watched, feeling like a kid again. It was like being turned loose in Disneyland after hours.

The show was a wonder as well. After a very impressive set by local heroes Junior and the Transportation (joined by none other than Blues Traveler’s John Popper himself), The Cult took the stage and I soon learned I was far from the only one in the crowd having a moment of thrilling déjà vu. The drums still thundered, the guitars still screamed and strutted, and the vocals still wailed.

Well, kind of wailed. It must be noted that Ian’s crazy-brilliant voice isn’t all it once was. It would be uncharitable to expect it to be, all these years later. But Billy Duffy’s guitar just blew the top off the place. I think he’s better now than he was then. I’m a vocalist myself, and Ian is on my short list of favorites with Otis Redding, Gregg Allman, Mike Peters, and Bono, but I just couldn’t look away from Billy. I wormed my way up to the front row right in front of him and drank it all in, amazed. Billy’s performance was a real revelation to me – how could I have forgotten that even while Ian was channeling his wild child vocals on all those great songs, the real spine of the music was Billy’s eerie-yet-rocking riffs and powerful solos? A thing of beauty.

I even found myself jumping up to catch a pick from Billy’s hands at the close of the show. It really was like being eighteen again.


1 Comment »

  1. Well written. Early Cult was the personification of who I was or wanted to be in those days. Definitely makes my soul shine when I hear them as does The Alarm, U2, or The Allman Brothers.

    Comment by David Walsh — February 12, 2009 @ 11:47 am | Reply

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