I saw a genuinely weird thing at the Cloud Nothings concert at the El Club. During the opening act of The Moon Bros, I spied a man reading a book of all things. Here was this guy, standing near the back of the crowd, using the dim blue light to read as The Moon Bros played a set of odd folksy, bluegrass-tinged tunes. To be fair, I couldn’t blame him: excusing the fact that he brought a book to a concert in the first place, The Moon Bros were quiet, laidback, and they had absolutely nothing in common with Cloud Nothings. In short, though they were interesting, they’re not a group I expected to see nor would see, a sentiment which I imagine he shared too.
Even the amount of people in the concert hall was fairly scarce as The Moon Bros played, with many opting to stick to the bar-side of the El Club while waiting for Cloud Nothings to get on. As the sustained first note of “Pattern Walks” began to play however, the people started to mill over to the tiny concert hall, carrying drinks and filling up the small venue until there was little room to move. I couldn’t tell you whether that man stopped reading his book or not as I couldn’t see him through the throng of people. I can’t imagine he did anything else but throw that damn thing down though because when Cloud Nothings finally got into their set, they proved that, above all else, they play noise rock.
When the sustained note finally gave away and the drums kicked in, it became clear that the Moon Bros were merely a moment of peace before the distorted chaos of Cloud Nothings. “Pattern Walks,” already one of the bands heaviest selections, was more aggressive than ever with singer Dylan Baldi wailing in a struggle to be heard above the wall of noise. The rest of the set continued in the same way with Dylan often rendered unintelligible at one point or another during many of the tracks. It didn’t make a damn difference though: even if he couldn’t be heard, the violent spasms he sometimes made as he played expressed his sentiments perfectly. While the group has always used lo-fi recording techniques in the studio, this live performance was something else.
The set itself was varied, though the only track to appear off Attack on Memory was “Stay Useless.” Both Here and Nowhere Else and Life Without Sound got equal play however, with “Now Hear In,” “Pattern Walks,” and “I’m Not Part of Me” making appearances alongside new tracks off Life Without Sound. While I found Life Without Sound to be lacking in a certain energy overall, that energy was not lacking live. In fact, new tracks “Sight Unseen” and “Realize my Fate” ended up among the heaviest selections. Notably, “Realize my Fate” devolved into a sonic hell of cacophonic proportions in its final minute as Cloud Nothings ended their set.
Though Dylan said few words, with the only other thing he said besides “this is our final track” being his claim that his friend normally made the pizza here (but was on vacation in Iowa right now), the set was an intimate one. Between the noise and the small space, there was a boundless amount of energy in the air that made it impossible to even have a dull thought. Since their inception, Cloud Nothings have continually proven they’re experts at crafting high-energy noise rock and while their new subdued approach on Life Without Sound may worry some, they’re as sharp as ever on stage.
Cloud Nothings is composed of Dylan Baldi (lead vocals, guitar), TJ Duke (bass, backing vocals), Jayson Gerycz (drums), and Chris Brown (lead guitar). Their latest release was Life Without Sound on January 27th, 2017 through Carpark Records.