Cut Copy’s Free Your Mind is less of an album and more of an auditory sermon. Some might think the overall uplifting message of the album is only mildly distinguishable from 70s drug odes inviting the withered masses to come get “higher.” Their work reads, to me, more like a nondenominational religious journey. Their shows feel like it, too. This weekend, at Terminal 5, I joined the cult of Cut Copy.
I’ve loved Cut Copy since 2011, discovering Zonoscope accidentally while listening to a Friendly Fires station on Pandora. Seeing as I’m a lit nerd, I’m immediately drawn to any bands that have alliterated names(Franz Ferdinand, Scissor Sisters, Broken Bells). I had discovered that Cut Copy just passed through Terminal 5, and I was heartbroken. For years since, all three of their albums had been staples of my morning drives. I have subjected my friends to “Hearts on Fire” and “Far Away” on repeat-I say subjected because they hate this stuff, likening it to mindless techno and coke-snorting dance-whores. But I always saw something different in Cut Copy’s music, whether it be the tongue-in-cheek visuals of their videos, the typically Australian beats that make me feel like I should be dancing around a bonfire at Bondi Beach, or the lyrics and choruses that invite audience participation without appearing to pander for it.
Free Your Mind, their fourth offering, loses no momentum. Parting from the traditional love and music messages of their previous works, this album is a meditative dance with the inner workings of one’s mind. And while most might see it as an opportunity to get altered with drugs, I found it a means of getting in touch with my own primal needs for connection, community, and movement. Dan Whitford once said that despite dance music being largely inseparable from drug culture, he hopes Cut Copy’s records are interesting enough on their own. They are.
I find the drug scene at these shows to be rather obnoxious anyway. A pair of falsely drunken buffoons wandered past the bathrooms laughing and shouting “MOLLY” over and over, trying to hide their cover by appearing slack-jawed and beer swilled; another group of girls asked me if Molly and I dance. A group of kind under-21s offered me a pull of green off a bowl, a temptation I declined in favor of a hug instead. The sweet skunky smell in the crowd was enough for me. Though I used to enjoy listening to Cut Copy on the hazy purple road north, I’ve since discovered that crutches aren’t required to visit a higher plane. My relationship with drugs now is one of “I like my life and my job and my health and I don’t want to die on the dance floor tonight.” That said, I encourage any other EDM partygoers to feel free to snort, smoke, and suck your way to a coma. I am more than happy to take your place on the ground. I don’t need drugs to get high while songs like “Sun God” and “Take Me Higher” are playing. I do feel bad for you when your friends have to drag your dumb ass out of the crowd, but not enough to not capitalize on it.
Capitalize being the key word, of course. I realized last night that GA shows have a very specific economic slant, that they operate as a microcosm of capitalism. Most of the rabble is fighting their way to the front, bowling over the weaker and less steadfast concertgoers to take their spot. I discovered this during the Saturday show where, despite having held my spot on the dance floor since 8:30, I found a desperate need to use the ladies’ at 9:30. I shoved my way back to my almost-spot just before the show began, braving the angry shoulders of partygoers who considered me some kind of interloper, and I was most certainly called an asshole. But I was still in front of them. I still won, I still got close enough to see every strand of Dan Whitford’s hair take flight while he danced. So did every other push-and-shover. In a society that demands people fight their way to the top, a certain amount of politeness has to fall by the wayside. But that’s just us, the rabble; the guys at the front of the stage, with their hands on the bannister grasping for Tim Hoey’s guitar as he passes it over the crowd, those guys are your Koch Brothers, Waltons, and McDonaldses. They are at the top and they’ll piss and vomit all over you before they let you take their place, and that’s why they’ll keep it.
All that makes the pseudo-religious essence of Cut Copy even more strange when juxtaposed with the generally disgruntled undertone of a GA audience. Even as my gut bounded against people while dancing, strangers still grabbed me, to dance in unison with me, considered me a strange dance family for those brief moments where we all unified. The audience sang the entirety of “Hearts on Fire” together, both nights. We timed our jumps and screamed “WHOOOO!” when the lights flashed during “Where I’m Going,” and lamented our physical needs during “So Haunted.” Both shows, despite slightly adjusted setlists, seemed to invite a sense of exploration not unlike the album does, inviting us all to embark on a journey (“We Are Explorers”), then release our preconceived notions (“Free Your Mind”), then reconnect with the id and rejoin together at the end (“Meet Me In The House Of Love”). The encore allowed us to revisit the themes of Free Your Mind (“Walking in the Sky”) and then prepare to carry that sense of oneness forward with one last magnificent dance (“Need You Now”).
The most sad sensation was when, as the lights came up, the house played the Bill Withers classic “Lean on Me” while the crowds departed. It was an opportunity for the band to acknowledge our grief for the end of our moment together. Grief is a legitimate word for the end of a show like that, and tears were legitimately shed as the first pangs of longing hit. I imagine that’s what many in the audience feel after watching Joel Osteen’s teeth for a Sunday or two, only I gave my tithe in sweat and voice and pure exhaustion. Leaving Cut Copy was a cleansing of some deep seated emotional need too difficult to describe. There hasn’t been a church my entire life that could provide that kind of catharsis.
But I imagine that is the case for a lot of fans, the fans who see shows by bands who are too good to attract the attention of the larger American populace, and too niche to invite anything but obsession and pure love.
Extra highlights included taking it back to “Saturday” during their Saturday show, possibly their smoothest and most funky song, and one that always seems to remind me a younger Michael Jackson. Friday Night they played “In Memory,” probably my favorite song off of FYM, dreamy and melancholic. I wish it never had to end. I wish it were still there, because I would still be thumping away at their sounds, eating mints for energy and drinking bathroom tap water just to stay alive. That’s what cults do: invite love and faith so strong that one would suffer for it.
The only thing I was sad about was not hearing “Far Away,” but let’s hope that makes it onto the set list next time they visit the big city. Until then, I remain a patient disciple at Cut Copy’s altar, praying to Alexander Skarsgaard’s underpants and singing to love at the top of my lungs. Just believe in it once in your lifetime.