Cloud Nothings live in New York
- By Tom Noonan -
- Oct 17, 2012
On Monday, at Terminal 5 in New York City, Cloud Nothings put on one of the best sets I’ve seen in a while. The only problem is that no one seemed to notice.
It didn’t make too much sense. Earlier this year, I wrote that 'Attack on Memory', Cloud Nothing’s terrific new album, could be what finally brings the basement-rock band upstairs. This is why Terminal 5, a converted factory that was first a night club shut down by the DEA in 2003, seemed like the perfect setting for the next part in the Cleveland band’s narrative. I wanted so badly for them to own the three-tiered club, but, on Monday, Cloud Nothings were simply playing in the wrong context.
It took me about half of the headlining Silversun Pickups’ set to figure out how such a great set could have gone unnoticed by just about everyone in the room. During the California natives’ set, I watched a girl get dragged from the fairly stagnant pit for “dancing too violently”. As the yellow-shirted bouncer dragged her towards the exit, I heard her scream, “I thought this was a rock show”. I didn’t see what had caused her removal, but I did agree with this sentiment. What happened at Terminal 5 was not a “rock show”, or at least not in the way I’ve come to know them.
What happened on Monday was a gathering of people more interested in documenting the night rather than experience it, and Cloud Nothings deserved better than this. Their set started with the quasi-90’s hook drenched 'Fall In', which seemed like an interesting choice considering the fact that Attack on Memory felt so cohesive and well put together that it should serve as their gig template. This leadoff worked, and I almost recognized a band pandering to an outwardly apathetic audience.
Then the song swelled from its three-minute album running to time to somewhere around six minutes. All bets were off for pandering, and Dylan Baldi, the band’s snarly frontman and a Patrick Carney look alike whose matted hair hid his eyes for most of the set, set the pace at breathless, literally struggling to finish lyrics at the speed he needed to get them out. The bands set was unrelenting, dwelling in Nirvana-Live-at-the-Paramount-type crescendos, in a way that needed a destructible space to survive. What was happening on stage was completely separate from what was happening directly in front of it, and I loved every minute.
The standouts were 'Stay Useless', a song that could have been written by Pinkerton-era Weezer if they grew up in Ohio, and 'Wasted Days', the 8-minute epic that met its climax with Baldi screaming incoherently as he riffed over a steady bass line. Their final song was the anti-anthem of 'No Future/No Past', a song that ends loudly, but abruptly, and then they were gone.
The Silversun Pickups, a band built from spare Smashing Pumpkins parts, followed, and played with complex, possibly seizure-inducing, light cues. It was a forced spectacle, a set that seemed specifically designed to keep the audience disoriented and distanced. The most enjoyable part of the set was their standout track 'Lazy Eye', which has a wandering, improvisation-friendly riff at its center. Then, as the song reached its stellar breakdown, the light scheme exploded into an absurd rainbow that flew across the walls behind the stage. This brought the crowd to life and ended the night with some semblance of energy. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is how “rock shows” will exist moving forward. And if the Cloud Nothings will ever get the context their breakneck sets deserve. I found myself wondering if this context even still exists.
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