Let’s be real, Cloud Nothings could have sold out Lincoln Hall here in Chicago. For the past three months, the Cleveland, OH quartet – led by songwriter Dylan Baldi – has left critics wetting their pants over their latest LP, Attack on Memory, and that goes double for their sweaty, reckless gigs. Not that anyone with a ticket was kicking around rocks in disappointment, but suffice to say, Baldi & Co. are a very big fish this year, and Schubas Tavern remains a very small pond. It’s the place that slingshots acts into an upper echelon; though, sometimes they luck out and offer a rare, intimate gig.
It’s too early in their career to call a Cloud Nothings gig at Schubas rare per se, but it certainly felt that way Friday night. Shortly after an enjoyable, if not altogether moody set by Italian psychedelic pop rockers A Classic Education, Baldi and his team took real estate on the small stage, readying their deployment of all-out distortion, hook-heavy garage punk, and irrefutable, sticky lyricism. Opening with “Stay Useless”, which sports Memory‘s best chorus, it was easy to lose yourself in the moment, and just believe that this is, indeed, a band that’s on the precipice of bigger things – probably because they are.
There isn’t a weak track off Memory, and on-stage, they prove it. “Fall In” tumbles and ignites, the jettisoned “Separation” is as instrumental (and biting) as The Replacements’ “Seen Your Video”, “Cut You” opens closed wounds for fresh air, and then there’s “Wasted Days”. Let’s talk about that last one for a second. Although the album’s been unanimously acclaimed, there were several detractors upon its release, those who flagged them for breaking and entering into the locked garages of the ’90s. That’s just not the case, and it’s a hard argument to make after witnessing “Wasted Days” live. It could be six minutes long, it could be 12 minutes (at Schubas, it clocked in a little over ten), but similar to Zeppelin’s glory days – think: “White Summer/Black Mountain Side” – the song showcases every strong-armed facet of the band. Baldi plays mad scientist at the pedals, Joe Boyer slices at the guitar, TJ Duke gets catatonic on the bass, and Jayson Gerycz lets everyone know he’s the next Dave Grohl. It’s almost like a fucking art piece.
“Normally we’d be done by now, but you’ve all been so nice, we’re gonna play some oldies for you,” Baldi stated seconds after pummeling through “No Future/No Past”. Call it a soft encore, but the set ended with three past tracks: “Can’t Stay Awake”, “Leave You Forever”, and “Hey Cool Kid”. While enjoyable to hear, and refreshing to know they’re not just confined to material off Memory, they only highlighted how far this band’s come – or Baldi, for that matter. These crinkled lo-fi rasps still pop ‘n’ shake, but they’re hardly as affecting as anything off their latest LP, which only goes to show that it’s really all future and no past for these boys. Can’t wait.
Photography by Michael Roffman.
No Future/No Past
Can’t Stay Awake
Leave You Forever
Hey Cool Kid