- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

In the early 1990s, hair bands were dying out, "alternative" rock was in and members of the Cult weren't sure where they fit. The British metal quartet didn't have big hair, weren't grunge and preferred to just be called "rock."
"The '90s were kind of tough for the Cult, with the whole grunge thing going on," says guitarist Billy Duffy, from the road. "It was a nice time to go away and hibernate."
When the band's lead singer, Ian Astbury, left the group in 1994, few were surprised to see the Cult break up. Now, seven years later and supporting "Beyond Good and Evil," its best work since 1987's "Electric" and 1989's "Sonic Temple," the Cult is back in full force.
The band returns to D.C. with drummer Matt Sorum and bassist Billy Morrison at the 9:30 Club Saturday.
It's a good thing the band chose not to stay asleep. "Beyond Good and Evil" is one of the heaviest albums released this year, an odd feat for a band with its roots firmly in the 1980s.
Don't expect the Cult to be just another '80s revival act, though. The band re-formed to play new music, not rely on old hits.
"That would be tragic if the best you can aspire to is nostalgia," Mr. Duffy says. "We're in the building process now, trying to win people back."
D.C. audiences had a chance to hear the Cult back in May, when the group played as part of the HFStival at RFK Stadium. In an arena filled with rock fans far too young to remember the band, the Cult managed to nearly steal the show.
"It's kind of a challenge for us to play to younger fans," Mr. Duffy says. "We're in the business of winning new fans over … the crowd in Washington seemed very energetic."
Several years in the making (with dozens of tracks left on the editing room floor), the new material is worth the wait. The album opens with one of Mr. Duffy's crushing guitar riffs on "War," as Mr. Astbury's familiar wail soars over the wall of noise.
"We took the time to write the songs," Mr. Duffy says. "It's not just an album that's got three or four singles."
The plan now is to get the younger generation headbanging, while reminding their older brothers and sisters what the Cult was once like.
"Not everyone's going to like the Cult, but I don't think that we've been faking it for 18 years," Mr. Duffy says. "The music's honest."

Speaking of bands that formed in the '80s, Widespread Panic also comes to the District this week, but that's where the group's similarities to the Cult stop.
The six-piece jam band, made up of John Bell (guitars, vocals), John Hermann (keyboards, vocals), Michael Houser (guitars, vocals), Todd Nance (drums), Domingo S. Ortiz (other percussion) and Dave Schools (bass), plays Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday.
Traveling together for years on the road before releasing its first album, Widespread Panic follows in the footsteps of the Grateful Dead as a touring band first and a studio band second. That devotion to its audience has only made its studio work stronger, as the band sharpens its new material on the road.
"I'd say it sounds a little edgier than our last album, in tone and in content," says Mr. Bell, while on the road in Wisconsin. "We decided not to invite a whole lot of guests … we wanted to get back to just the band making a record."
Some of Widespread Panic's best moments take place on "Don't Tell the Band," the group's ninth album, released last month. It offers up more of the same mellow, acoustic-driven storytelling that's gained the group a following, with a heavy organ sound and driving drum beats that recall the heyday of the Allman Brothers and Steve Miller bands.
By releasing some of its work live, Widespread Panic has been able to focus more on its studio sound without losing the energy behind its live show.
"With studio albums I think it's important to craft a song more than search for it," he says. "Everybody is expected to be a part of the creative process … we'll take any inspiration from wherever it comes."

If you're short on funds, be sure to check out the latest free summer concert at Fort Reno Park (near the intersection of Nebraska and Wisconsin Avenues at the Tenleytown Metro station) tonight, featuring local artists Edie Sedgewick and Diastemata.
Both bands rely on sparse instrumentation. Taking its name from a famous Andy Warhol associate, Edie Sedgewick's debut features 13 tracks titled after celebrities (including "Tom Cruise" and "Hilary Swank"), backed up by bass guitar and drums.
More accessible is Diastemata, a male-female outfit whose three-song EP can be found in limited circulation and on the band's Web site (www.diastemata.com) and features wispy female vocals, edgy guitar and a solid drum backbeat.
The summer series continues through August.

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