Review of Cloud Nothings @ Irving Plaza | 10/7/14
On Tuesday night at Irving Plaza, Cloud Nothings played their largest ever headlining show in New York City. The Cleveland band worked through their fast paced set with a workmanlike nonchalance, delivering fast-paced, finely tuned takes on songs from their two most recent records, 2012’s Attack on Memory and Here and Nowhere Else, from 2013. The band’s set, which ran at just over sixty minutes, was well-received for the near-capacity crowd.
Playing at Irving Plaza, a relatively cavernous room for a band that only two years ago was playing venues like 285 Kent, the group sounded polished and professional, rushing through an expansive set with little to no banter in-between tunes from frontman Dylan Baldi. The group, which has long-since parted ways with second guitarist Joe Boyer, performs as a tight-knit power trio, with Baldi handling all the guitar work on his own. Performing songs like “Fall In,” “I’m Not Part of Me,” and “No Future/No Past” on Tuesday evening, the group quietly showed off one of their great gifts, which is making their intricately arranged, tightly, meticulous sound give the appearance of punk scrappiness.
Indeed, Baldi and his group know how to play to their punk-leaning audience, but the group has no particular reverence to any single, narrow genre so much as a keen ability to sythensize their many influences from one song to the next. Traditionalist punk, avant-garde noise rock, Warped Tour-era pop-punk, hardcore: all these genres mean quite a bit to Cloud Nothings, and find their way into the group’s finely-tuned songs, but the group has little interest in following the orthodoxy of any particular subgenre. During a song like “Stay Useless,” one might wonder how many major label flirtations and advertising placements the band has turned down. But minutes later, on the seven-minute noise-rock exploration “Pattern Walks” (which had the band bathing in green light), it becomes a wonder the Cleveland group is playing for as many people as they are.
The band is currently in the midst of an extensive fall tour, playing a a few weeks more of U.S. dates before heading to Europe, and then Australia, for the remainder of the year. On Wednesday night, Cloud Nothings front-loaded their set with many of their heaviest hooks and pleasing pop-gems, as if to say that they need not rely on big choruses and crowd sing-alongs to deliver a great set, that there’s more to us than these perfect pop songs. As the group’s lead singer and frontman, Baldi, who is just in his young twenties, seems to both disavow and distance himself from his uncanny knack for a great hook. At times he appears almost embarrassed by them, hiding in the hardcore gestures and noise-rock instrumentals he alternates with his arena-ready choruses. Though they’ve so far avoided it to so far, the Cloud Nothings are a band that, had they existed ten or fifteen years ago, would have had a very hard time avoiding mainstream exposure to an emo pop-punk audience.
Performing on a bigger stage at Irving Plaza, the only thing different about the band’s straightforward stage-show was the expanded, semi-fancy lighting rig the group employed to dramatic effect throughout the set. Bassist T.J. Duke and drummer Jayson Gerycz gives the band its contained chaos with their pounding, dynamic rhythm section. The group surely conquered the larger surroundings, from the mosh-pit of young kids at the front of the stage to the array of young punk dads and thirty-something couples that populated the back half of the floor. After another album and a few more accessible tracks, the band will be one small step away from filling up Terminal 5 before long. The group has little charisma or interest in dramatics on stage when they’re in between songs, but the group’s sturdy material gives them all the magnetism they need to translate to a large audience live. If the band ever has to get to a point in their steadily ascending career where they have to change up, modify or compromise their well-oiled, no-frills basement punk show, they haven’t gotten there yet.
As the group’s set got progressively noisier, their material more meandering and drawn out (just a few songs, like “Wasted Days” towards the end set took up a good fifth of the group’s set time), the crowd didn’t lose interest and stayed with the group the whole way, further proof that Baldi’s right all along with his bold set-list sequencing.
For the second to last song of their main set, Cloud Nothings went into their album closer from their most recent album, “I’m Not Part of Me.” Writing about the song his Pitchfork review, Ian Cohen–who calls it the band’s “finest song to date”–says, “After the satisfying sensory deprivation that precedes it, the song acknowledges the bigger stages the band occupies right now, generously expanding the prior, potent austerity of Baldi’s songwriting to include an EP’s worth of hooks.” That seemed right on Tuesday night: for the mid-tempo sing-along, the front of the floor erupted into their biggest mosh-pit of the night, and the band fed off the crowd for the night’s most perfect pop moment, the type that showed the Cloud Nothings’ casual, shrugged-off knack for writing perfect songwriting. “I’m not telling you all I’m going through,” Baldi repeated to the overjoyed crowd, in a line that perhaps best sums up his distanced stage persona. “I feel fine.”
Opening for Cloud Nothings were Tyvek, a scrappy punk outfit from Detroit. The trio ran through their grungy indie punk to a large crowd that had already all showed up to see Cloud Nothings. “They reminded me of the soundtrack to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3,” said a man standing nearby after Tyvek finished up their quick set. It was a preview of things to come.
“Cloud Nothings at Irving Plaza,” wrote one fan at the show on Twitter as soon as the band finished up their condensed set, summing up the evening as well as anyone else. “Fast+Loud+Great songwriting= a beautiful thing.”
Cloud Nothings Concert Setlist 10/7/14 Irving Plaza NYC
There is not a setlist available for this show yet.