The Studio at Webster Hall
Thursday, January 26
Better than: Whatever sold-out show was going on at Webster Hall proper.
It’s rare for a band and a venue to be perfectly suited to one another, but last night at The Studio at Webster Hall the pairing was so ideal, the venue effectively became a fifth member of the Cleveland band Cloud Nothings. It amplified every thundering bass drum kick, every guitar lick, and every shout-sing word uttered by bandleader Dylan Baldi, giving the audience of mostly 20-something dudes an aural experience that somehow tops the band’s excellent new record, Attack on Memory.
Where previous gigs focused on the band’s pop twinkle, Thursday night’s show was gritty from its first song, the ode to idleness “Stay Useless.” Some audience members seemed taken aback by the change, as if they hadn’t heard the new album before going underground on this rainy night. It didn’t matter, however: those same people were headbanging by the end of the 40-minute set. A pleasant surprise for them, I’m sure.
Speaking of surprises, it was shocking to see Baldi in action: he’s a rather skinny dude with a quiet demeanor in between songs, so when he started yelling and yelling it became an interesting clash of the visual and the aural. Clean-cut though he may look, his vocals strain every conception about the indie rock singer du jour. Instead of wondering where his passion is and why he looks so disinterested (as indie singers are wont to be), Baldi demands that you wonder how the hell he’s going to keep up his level of intensity for a tour.
It’s important to note, however, that Cloud Nothings is no longer the Dylan Baldi show; he was thrown off to stage right as part of a full-fledged foursome, and one that distributed the highlights of the set evenly. The drums were the sneaky good part of the set, laying down fast rhythms from which everyone else bounced off. Bass had its shining moment during “Wasted Days”, transitioning the song from its lyrical start to the heavy jam in the middle with a bass solo (those still exist!!!).
No song showed the cohesion that this band has built up together better than the fully instrumental “Separation”. Removed from the restrictions of, you know, singing, Baldi unleashed some of the fiercest guitar lines of the night, rollicking back and forth with the other guitarist on stage to create a duel of epic proportions for the right to rock the tiny venue the hardest. I’m not sure who won, but I sure enjoyed it.
Interestingly enough, a band that was so well-received by its audience did not step out for an encore after its last song. No, Baldi and the guys stepped off and stayed off, a rarity in this day of “ONE MORE SONG!” That’s not to say that the crowd didn’t try their hardest to get them back on stage: long after the doors opened and the PA music started playing, a substantial number of people clapped and whooped and hollered for at least one more track. Maybe that’s the best way to summarize what was a powerful, rousing set: somehow, the crowd wanted even more aggression. Not too bad for a Thursday night.
Critical bias: Attack on Memory is my favorite album of the very-short year so far.
Overheard: “Yeaaah, I got tickets to Ultra this year.”—dude way out of place at this show.
Random notebook dump: “Wonder how the older songs will be played next to these on tour without sounding a lot weaker.”
No Future/No Past
No Sentiment [with extended outro]