with Ryley Walker, Out Go the Lights
The Social, Orlando, FL • April 21, 2014
Dylan Baldi, the mastermind behind Cloud Nothings, doesn't seem to allow himself any emotions onstage -- be it a laugh, or even a confused shrug when the bass amp craps out in the middle of their second song. Hiding behind a mass of hair, and a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, the singer/guitarist coolly leads his trio through a dazed set that does little justice to the band's otherwise energetic, muddy pop sound. The pile of happy moshers down in front of the stage had more energy then the band, and thank the concert Gods for 'em, because otherwise there would not have been much to look at while the music played!
Inside of that pit of unhipster-like joyous behavior were the members of opening band, and Orlando locals, Out Go the Lights. College kids with a taste for indie pop, these three may not be old enough to buy a beer at the bar, but they've got the attention of everyone in it. Songs like "Big Balloon," off the debut album the guys are in the midst of making, recall Local Natives or Vampire Weekend with a more simplified sound. They are a hell of a lot more interesting to watch and listen to than the tour's official opener, Ryley Walker.
Walker, backed by a second guitarist and a keyboardist, plucked his way through a dry set of psychedelic folk rock that had very little personality. He's obviously a capable guitarist, but his style and presentation was so pedantic as to be a major turn-off. Yes, you can play the guitar, we get it! I thought to myself, and waited for Cloud Nothings to give me something with a little more umph.
What the Ohio band delivered may not have had the careless, eruptive quality I was expecting, but what they lacked in visual dynamics, their irresistibly catchy, fuzz filled, drum heavy pop made up for. "Stay Useless" and "Fall In," both from Attack on Memory, demonstrated Baldi's ability to marry a well constructed melody with just the right amount of snarky vocals, while "Wasted Days" put on display his more experimental side -- with its jam session fade in/fade out/fade in again that rattled on even longer in person than it did on record.
I know that a lot of people love this side of Cloud Nothings, but after a minute or two of fuzz and noise, my mind feels near to exploding... and not in a good way. Not in a my mind is BLOWN kind of way, but in a I'm getting a friggin' headache sort of vein.
Give me the melodies. Give me more songs like "Now Hear In" or "I'm Not Part of Me" (both off of their insanely good latest record, Here and Nowhere Else). Give me the volatile side of Cloud Nothings, like "Psychic Trauma," with its shades of The Jesus Lizard. Save the noise jam for the 420 crowd.
These songs are right on the cusp of chaos, and yet they never quite tip over into it. Maybe it's the sterile air of the smokeless club (don't get me wrong -- I love that The Social is now nonsmoking, but unfortunately it does make for a more antiseptic atmosphere), or the fact that the show is happening on a Monday night, but the night felt like a promise that didn't quite get fulfilled. Like a hangover that's faded enough to allow you to function, but won't quite loosen its grip behind your eyes. Musically the band couldn't have sounded tighter, but I didn't want tight, I wanted passion and, in that, Cloud Nothings fell short.