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Live Review: Cloud Nothings @ The Echo, March 2nd, 2012

By Chris Gedos

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The venue was already near max capax by the time I arrived at The Echo Friday night for Cloud Nothing’s sold out affair, their first headlining show in Los Angeles (they opened for Toro y Moi at The Troubadour last March). The Dylan Baldi project has garnered a bevy of adulation since the Steve Albini produced Attack on Memory dropped at the end of January. It’s an abrasive, thirty-three minute screamfest, but infused with pathos throughout. I was initially doubtful that Baldi could replicate the frenzied kinesis of the recording.

Opening act Mr. Clean more strictly adhere to the hardcore / postcore manifesto than a band like Cloud Nothings. Attack on Memory has hardcore elements, but Baldi’s previous releases show very explicitly his facility with three minute songwriting. As a fellow native Clevelander, I’m sure he’s familiar with the rotation over at the much lauded OBG station, WMJI Majic 105.7. That being said, I think Mr. Clean could use a little more time with Seeger’s old time rock n’ roll. They’ve got some cool elements, they pay The Ramones / Gang of Four / Pavement / usual suspect homage, and a lot of people were getting into them. However, it would probably do them well to listen to a contemporary like Outfit or Slothbear and find a way to harmonize those wildly divergent influences. But they play loud, they force an opinion from the listener, and they prepared us for the powerful Cloud Nothings set.

Taking an atmospheric overview in between sets, I notice that there’s a lot of white guys in attendance, more so that your usual Los Angeles melting pot experience, and it reminded me of so many concerts I enjoyed in Cleveland during my college years. Maybe Dylan Baldi was at the Cleveland Heights, OH Grog Shop when he decided to forgo his Case Western education (my fellow alum) and start his professional music career a touch early. One thing’s for sure, Baldi would have a difficult time going back, as the discerning music public has grown to expect something out of him.

It’s pretty early into “Stay Useless”, the set opener, when I realize that this is a fully functioning band. I’d read that the other band members, TJ Duke, Jayson Gerycz and Joe Boyer, each had a hand in the songwriting, but that only becomes evident after seeing Cloud Nothings live. This is no longer “merely” a solo bedroom project. Baldi doesn’t take a majority of the solos, but prefers to sit back and let his bandmates have their moment in the spotlight as well, while he can focus on his vocals – he may have a non-traditional voice, but he knows how to hit his notes. “Fall In” appears second, in order reversed from the LP. Whether Albini or Baldi came up with the sequencing, I don’t know, but it shows how the individual tracks function well as singles while still remaining part of a larger work.

As the band rolls into the instrumental, “Separation”, and “Cut You”, the moshers are really starting to have at it. I only got slammed into once. Baldi’s furious rhythm guitar really revs up the energy, to the point where you wonder if elbows are gonna start flying, but fortunately we’re not at a Limp Bizkit concert. Everybody knows proper decorum; it didn’t seem like anybody got hurt. It’s admirable though that Cloud Nothings can get people worked up in such a manner. There may have been a moment during “Our Plans” where Baldi set his guitar on loop and began to dicker with an MPC on the ground, but I’m not too sure in retrospect. The set’s sheer decibel level left many of us quite punch drunk, and I mean this in a very good way. Well done Cloud Nothings.

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Cloud Nothings- Stay Useless

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Cloud Nothings – Our Plan

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Rating 9.11

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