Cloud Nothings with Promartyr and The Ray-tones
Riot Room, Kansas City
April 29th 2014
The Ohio post-emo outfit Cloud Nothings returned to the Riot Room in Westport last night in support of its just-released third LP Here and Nowhere Else
. Singer-songwriter Dylan Baldi's trio began as a home recording project in the late '00s, but has quickly blossomed into a powerful and visceral touring act.
Cloud Nothings' breakthrough 2012 album Attack on Memory
, produced by Steve Albini, garnered universal critical praise as it drew notable comparisons to Nirvana's seminal album In Utero
(also produced and recorded by Albini). Although the similarities in Baldi's snarl and vocal strain are unmistakably reminiscent of Kurt Cobain at times, the group's newest release actually presents more of a streamlined and less jagged approach to Cloud Nothings' fast and rough take on emo-tinged punk. And despite some sound and equipment issues, the band's show last night offered a glimpse into the controlled chaos of Dylan Baldi's ever evolving song craft.
Opening up the evening was local psych-pop group the Ray-Tones, who announced immediately that this was only their second live show. Despite a cloying name (the group is from Raytown, the fictional setting of Mama's Family
), the band seemed earnest in their playful approach to Nuggets-era garage and psychedelic surf rock. In keeping with the innocent and diminutive vibe, one of the members deadpanned through the swirling stage lighting that their first single "What You Want" was "about... getting what you want."
Touring openers Promartyr followed soon after, and offered an appropriate and literate post-punk compliment to the bill.
Cloud Nothings started things out with the opening tracks from Here and Nowhere Else
. Both "Quieter Today" and "Now Here In" display the kind of poise and maturity that Attack on Memory
began to hint at amidst the dissonance. Gone is some of the cathartic and unbridled anger of the band's earlier tracks, replaced instead by a reliance on more driving rhythms and alternating more basic attempts at tension and release.
"Stay Useless" followed soon after, which was the first entry of the evening from the band's prior LP. They would continue to alternate between material from both albums, while leaning more obviously towards the new release.
During "Fall In," another Attack on Memory
track, Baldi began to encounter obvious issues with his guitar. He silenced his axe midway through the song to tune and the noticeable emptiness thwarted what otherwise is an alternately pummeling and melodic track. At this point he asked for a little help from his friends in Promartyr and eventually, after a brief intermission, donned Greg Ahee's guitar for a portion of the set. Whatever the set lacked due to the technical problems was quickly remedied by drummer Jayson Gerycz's unrelenting assault. Although his fills are relatively simple in nature, they hit in such immediate succession it's clear he's the driving force behind the more rhythmic and fast paced material.
The group closed out their roughly hour long and succinct 12-song set with a trio of tracks that reflected their versatility and continued growth. "Pattern Walks" seems to be one of the lone holdouts from the more angsty and experimental material still surfacing on the newest recording. Clocking in at over seven minutes on record, live it was even more tense and chaotic as it progressively built up a storm of noise and perhaps allowed the band to revel in an appropriate release from Baldi's admission that they "were having a lot of fucking technical difficulties."
Following in succession to close the evening was "I'm Not Part of Me" which reflects upon Baldi's growth by proclaiming It starts right now, that's the way that I was before/But I can't be caught how I was those days anymore. Perhaps counter-intuitively, "Wasted Days" came next offering a stiff rebuttal to the idea that Cloud Nothings had left any of their world weary anxiety behind.
The group's live show offers an interesting counterpoint to the recorded material that Cloud Nothings has built its reputation on. Even as their song craft and lyrics continue to demonstrate a willingness to change and grow, their live show intimates that at heart they're still exorcising the demons of their youth. Teenage angst may have paid off well for Dylan Baldi, but it's clear he's not at all bored and old yet.
Now Hear In
Giving Into Seeing
I'm Not Part of Me