One of the most enjoyable, defining aspects of Cloud Nothings lies in their practically unfathomable sonic energy. While walking out onto the stage, loud and indistinctive noise slowly built to a frenzy, accompanying the three piece band. As the noise expanded, shadows rippled across the stage floor, seemingly emulating the tumult blaring through the speakers with increasing viciousness. The noise continues to build for what feels like minutes and much of the audience, while intrigued, is at this point noticeably confused. A middle-aged man standing next to me sporting a Fleetwood Mac t-shirt audibly mutters, “What the fuck is this bullshit? I cant hear myself think.” I am confused as to why he is here in the first place. This is not the sort band for sensitive and bitter types let alone a legitimate, old school, hard boiled, Fleetwood Mac fan. I mean, Christ. This is a band for savages and mad, ex-kings alike. Bassist TJ Duke and drummer Jayson Gerycz seem to agree as they suddenly lock eyes, beginning to play in a borderline punk style, with Duke aggressively strumming the bass while Gerycz punishes the poor drum kit before him with passionate yet somehow sloppy hits.
By the time lead singer and guitarist Dylan Baldi utters his first delightfully strained vocal, the audience is intrigued. Well, most of the audience anyway. The man standing next to me is still not having a good time. Meanwhile, I am all grins, taken by Baldi’s primal screams. Oh yes, and the drummer is wearing shades. He must know that his future is bright.
Cloud Nothings were a well-oiled machine, keen on hard-rocking tunes from the garage and seemingly not much else–let alone vapid banter that might halt their locomotive-like momentum. They do not seem to all too concerned with their sound quality but instead with putting on the most vibrant fucking show possible: If that means that you can’t always hear the lead vocals very clearly or that backing vocals cannot be heard at all, so be it. This is uncooked rock n roll. It’s, dare I say it, raw.
It’s exactly what goes down during “Stay Useless,” which I was a little bummed about at first because, among other reasons, I particularly enjoy the track’s lyrics. I am definitely not alone in considering this track to be one of their best. It’s a clear fan-favorite that sends the audience into hysterics. Everyone is jumping and it is at this point that I notice for the first time that the track has an incredibly similar melody and an even more similar feel in the chorus to that of The Strokes’ “Under The Cover of Darkness.” Only later would I discover that Attack On Memory, Cloud Nothings’ 2012 debut (on which “Stay Useless” is featured) came out just under a year after The Strokes’ Angles. But the similarity does not feel deliberate. The foremost difference between these bands is that The Strokes sound more glamorous. It’s almost as if you can hear Julian’s four thousand dollar leather jacket through the track. “Under The Cover of Darkness” is an enjoyable example of corporate cool, while “Stay Useless” is far more grounded in messy realities.
Oh and by the way, my Fleetwood friend has finally had it. He actually stormed out midway through the track’s guitar solo, a sonic peak that manages to be rude, semi-melodic, and driving all at the same time. He wouldn’t have lasted long anyhow. The surge is growing at this point and it’s quickly turning into a get-in-or-get-the-fuck-out sort of situation down on the floor.
By the time the third track begins to play, I am deep in the thick of the fray, engulfed in a tornado of throwing elbows, stomping feet, and spilling beers. All around me, former non-believers (more accurately but less satisfyingly classified as those previously unfamiliar with the band) are joining the cause before my blurring eyes, inspired by sonic madness before them.
It is important that I note this show is an unusual one in that it was one hundred percent free. Yesssir, one hundred percent certified free for you and me thanks to the good folks at Converse corp. Five hundred tickets were made available on a first come, first serve basis two weeks prior to the show online. The end result: It is clear that a fairly significant portion of the audience is new to Cloud Nothings. While this might be detrimental to some new bands still struggling to define their appeal, Baldi, Gerycz, and Duke need not worry. As the show continues, I float into a self-induced beer haze but the band does not, successfully selling their brand of manic passion throughout the remainder of the night.
When the final song commences, the mosh pit reaches a new level of mania, violent but ebullient, the perfected combination of the Apollonian and the Dionysian realized. Tonight’s show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg seems to have exceeded the expectations of fans and newcomers alike. It has been a punkish triumph. Let’s get another round.