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She Sells Sanctuary: The Cult, Des Roc @ House of Blues Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay 5/8/22

May 27, 2022
“The sparkle in your eyes
Keeps me alive
And the sparkle in your eyes
Keeps me alive, keeps me alive
The world
And the world turns around
The world and the world, yeah
The world drags me down”
-‘She Sells Sanctuary’, The Cult
There’s something about spring in the Mojave desert.
You have to really search for life in the lifelessness out here- but when you see it, it means more.  The rare cactus flower, the intermittent roadrunner, the elusive drop of rain.  This spring in particular has really felt transgressive; WE ARE GOING BACK TO NORMAL! Now everyone agrees, no matter who you vote for, all of a sudden.  Now everyone is behaving like a starving child trying to gorge on the life experiences they’ve missed the past two years.  I simultaneous acknowledge that this is the stupidest thing society has ever collectively thought of while simultaneous driving full speed ahead to the epicenter of the Buffet of Human Transgressions: Las Vegas.
There’s also something very satisfying about setting out for one night only in Vegas with your sights set on Being Bad, when the other 29-30 days of the month you are so good.  It’s shedding skin.  It’s donning a costume. It’s poisoning yourself with alcohol to the point that you forget your task list of work to-do’s, your diet, and maybe even your room number. It’s catharsis and all that other bullshit that Vegas is known and used and abused for.
It would be my first indoor GA show since the pandemic, and it was somewhat unfortunate that it happened in the last place I happened to leave a show and get deathly ill from (hallucinations!) ~5 years ago. It was during my phase of not writing about shows and it was a fantastic Joe Walsh set (featuring Waddy Wachtel!).  When Covid happened I thought about waking up the next day so sick from that show a lot, wondering if Covid would feel like that.  I have not gotten to find out yet.
Anyway, it was a trip to be back in HoB after so many years, but man Vegas GA crowds SUCK, and I am getting too old for this shit.  I could immediately tell a person behind us would be a problem (foreshadowing).  How did I spend decades of my life front and center corseted by a barricade and sweaty humans? A death wish? Love? Adrenaline? Stupidity?
I can tell you that part of becoming an old live music fan is decoupling from the frenzy of the live music experience of your youth. I can see tickets for The Cult for sale, and in my brain, I’m 25, front and center of that stage, not a care in the world, rocking out with the most ideal rock crowd I’ve whipped up in my head.  It’s the perfect temperature, no one’s pushing me, but no one is on a fucking phone… everyone’s just having loud, crazy in-the-moment fun.  That’s the idea when I buy the ticket.
But then I get there and reality sets in that a bunch of drunk people who really shouldn’t even be there are probably going to ruin my night.  And part of it is because I let them do it, because I’m not that young, carefree gal anymore.
The opener burst on stage. Des Roc really excited the crowd with their high energy; unfortunately I could not include myself in that.  Why was an amp turned around so the back faced the crowd? Did the crowd even realize so much of this was a pre-recorded track they kept fiddling with?  Do they even care anymore? Young bands doing rock-ish music = Great! But to do anything new these days means creating such a genre hybrid to get you there, and I just wasn’t feeling it.  The Mumford folky bits mixed with hip hop beats felt too contrived; a salad that should have been a soup.  But energy and marketing get you sooooooooooooooooooooooo faaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrr these days, certainly this one will loom large on marquees like Imagine Dragons, because I can not tell you what rock’s next big thing will be if this is what kids want.
Ah, The Cult.  A band that survived the 80s and 90s without becoming a casualty of a fad, or a drug, or a scene. A soundtrack darling… a stripper favorite…. yet still dude-approved.  Are The Cult one of the rare rock bands that could be all things to all people?  Discuss amongst yourselves.
The show began, and The Cult took over the venue with their vibe.  What vibe is this may you ask? I’d describe it as a laid back intensity.  Kind of like the desert I live in- it’s not the Andes, but if you aren’t prepared, it will fucking kill you.  As soon as we started getting into the bigger songs- “Sweet Soul Sister” and “Soul Asylum”- the aforementioned drunk guy behind us had become louder than the band with his incessant drivel.  “I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT THEM TO LOOK LIKE THEY’RE OLD YOU KNOW THEY DON’T LOOK THAT BAD”. We’d had enough, so the husband and I played good cop/bad cop with this bad audience member who tried to get huffy and I wagged a long-nailed finger in his face and he went away for a bit.  But then he kept coming back and apologizing and it was like Jesus dude, get a fucking life!  We’re not here to talk to you!
Vocalist Ian Astbury also stopped the show at one point because another bad audience member was “making the show all about you”.  I can’t help but think about all of the crowd crushes I’ve survived, how many bands have helped out the situation, and the horror that happened at Astroworld last year.  Nothing is sacred anymore.
Billy Duffy on guitar was amazing and I’m always happy to see John Tempesta, who I’ve seen lots over the years.
As the show grooved along, time passed in maracas and tambourine tricks, catching dirty dancing upstairs out of the corner of my eye, and one bad guest vox by the Des Roc singer.
As I sang and danced along, I thought about the marriage of movies and music, which is – I’m pretty sure- how I was introduced to The Cult.  What makes their tunes so soundtrackable?  They are a mood, a vibe… I mean I was listening along looking around at the garish HoB decor wishing this show was anywhere but this garishly decorated place. HoB is a vibe-killer!  Also, I’m old now, so it’s always crazy to think about how you can just Shazam a song when you hear it on something and find out what it is.  Songs used to haunt me FOR YEARS until I could figure out who sung them because I was an only child born to parents who only listened to country and had few friends. We’ve come so far in such a short time, but it’s the journey, right? RIGHT?!
This show was very, very good, but I didn’t give my whole being over to it.  I lamented the fact that I should have seen The Cult many years earlier.  But what can you do, life marches on, and so do I, and so do some of these great bands, if they are lucky.

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