By Christopher Alexander | 30 January 2012
Now here’s an interesting night out: Cloud Nothings, a whole two days removed from their album’s release date, are headlining a sold out show at Webster Hall’s smaller basement annex (the fire code sign, clearly visible by the door, states 326 capacity) while upstairs is J. Cole’s weekly Ladies Night Out. Either way, the bouncers checking ID have their hands full. Standing near the bathrooms allows me glimpses of the two crowds mingling: young women in snug platinum dresses bewildered at a room full of flannel; dudes with beards sipping PBRs relieved to unabashedly ogle. Each group snickered at the other, and each group was right.
Nobody dances in the basement, which one understands while Bleeding Rainbow warms the stage. Presently they’re a mélange of interesting ideas (Ramones-influenced songwriting with X’s male/female vocals—though for all I know it could be Green Day meets Mates of State—under the usual buttload of fuzz/reverb/delay/tom-heavy early garage rock rhythms) but they lack a true identity—Hallucinogenic Enthusiasts notwithstanding. The crowd, though, remains inert during Cloud Nothings, and that’s a shame, because this band is making some of the most nakedly physical, ballsy, corporeal indie rock heard in quite some time. Let it be known I am as big a fan of Attack on Memory as any content generator, fully aware of the serious debt that “Wasted Days” owes to the Wipers’ epic “Youth of America” and old enough to remember seeing innumerable bands with the Nothings’ touchstones (Wipers, Cursive, Fugazi) on stages and Knights of Columbus floors.
I guess I’m trying to say that maybe I’m old enough to know better, but Dylan Baldi isn’t. Already a veteran of the bedroom pop circuit, at twenty years old he decided he wanted a challenge instead of a car commercial. The band which shares his stage tonight has been together for a year, but they’ve revolutionized his sound. They, as much as he, are Cloud Nothings, and tonight’s their moment as much as his. They stretch out for long improvisational passages between songs (none leftover from Baldi’s auteur pop phase), veer out of control, build a pocket only to violently erupt from it, and, in general, kick ass. Never mind that the first three rows are a forest of professional cameras. The band gives its all for forty-five minutes, and then Baldi gently places his guitar on the stage floor, and goes to man his own merch table. That’ll do, kid.