Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings @ (Le) Poisson Rouge

Cloud Nothings

I seem to be going solo to more and more shows these days. Hell, I didn’t even bother with the whole thing where I keep checking my watch and looking back toward the door as if someone is joining me. I’ve become okay being the creepy middle-aged dude hanging out at rock shows in my plaids and Vans. I’m a cliché. The funny thing is, I was one of the younger concert goers fifteen minutes after the doors opened. And even after the first opening “band,” Home Blitz (a semi-bizarre solo act and cross between Daniel Johnston and Wesley Willis), took and left the stage, I was a spring chicken. Less so when second opening band. Hurry (a power pop band with super-simple lyrics who clearly idolize throw-backy Teenage Fanclub), played. And then, by the time Cloud Nothings started in on their drum-heavy barrage, I was, once again, the old man standing on the edge of the pit watching young lads bump into each other like drunken dummies. Frat boys, all.

I was honestly not sure what to expect of a Cloud Nothings show. They’re a band I’ve been listening to since their amazing, Steve Albini-produced sophomore album, Attack on Memory in 2012. But I’ve honestly never thought about who might be a Cloud Nothings fan. They’re not a band I’ve really ever discussed with anyone else. They’ve never organically come up in conversation when chatting with the rare listener of modern-day indie rock. So it could have been a bunch of older white dudes looking for the adrenaline rush of a post-hardcore band that doesn’t really espouse that lifestyle and/or attract that kind of crowd. The 90s straight-edge dudes who decided that maybe bacon and coffee were worth changing for. You know the type. And at first it looked that way. After all, they’re a Cleveland trio made up of three bespectacled dudes who would look totally at home walking the streets of Williamsburg on the way to a small studio to record some sort of mellow bleeps and bloops album. Hardly the shaved-head, tattooed hooligan types you might find beating the shit out of hippies or whatever.

Cloud Nothings

As is their wont, the band decided to play their new 2024 album, Final Summer, in its entirety. I believe it was in track order as well, but I can’t be certain. That’s all fine, I suppose. But I don’t know if anyone came there just to hear the new stuff. That would be weird. Especially considering the album had only been out for about three weeks prior to the show. I had listened to Final Summer a few times with the assumption they’d sprinkle in the new tunes. But this was a bit of a surprise. In fact, when they did finally blaze through the ten songs and about 30 minutes of new music, lead singer, Dylan Baldi, seemed almost relieved to be through it. Or he was resigned to the fact the audience didn’t quite have the enthusiasm for this relatively unknown music compared with the primo, older tunes. Whichever, the show was dominated by this record, which is actually really great live. The energy was there, but didn’t really kick into gear until they dialed up the classics.

(Le) Poisson Rouge is definitely an odd place. I’d seen one show here previously, Spencer Krug. He sat at a piano placed in the middle of the room and we sat dinner-theater style in the round watching him writhe as the smoke machine went absolutely wild. This was a more traditional setup, the floor cleared and the stage front and center. The club before you get in the actual performance space feels a bit like a subterranean sex dungeon. Not a thing I’ve been to, but not totally out of the realm of possibility. They’ve also gone to gender neutral bathrooms, which I’m still not sure I’ll get used to. A line of urinals with a few stalls for everyone. Sure, it’s efficient and avoids any awkward questions or concerns, but using a urinal while women walk in and out right by you is still an experience I have a little trouble with sober. Luckily there were like four women at this show, so there was very little worry of anything of this type going down. The beer choices aren’t much, and like every other venue, the booze is incredibly overpriced. Though I do like that they serve the draft beers in reusable shatterproof pint glasses rather than the usual tiny disposable plastic cups.

The thing you always take away from a Cloud Nothings record — and it turns out to be exactly true live as well — is the drumming. Jayson Gerycz is absolutely out of his mind. And is the person I imagine is the reason Albini agreed to engineer two of their albums. You know, because the man is known for his incredible ability to engineer amazing drum sounds. Their music always feels as if its running out of control, which is definitely driven by Gerycz’s octopus-like qualities, incredible ability to do like 47 non-annoying fills in a row and the fact his arms don’t break off and fly into space. Not that he wasn’t sweating up a storm and looked pretty damned gassed after a particularly punishing spate of fast-ass songs. Each time another song started up and I heard the opening chords, I could just fast-forward to the drum part in my mind and a quiet “oh no” would escape my lips as I watched him launch into what had to be another three minutes of sheer torture. Much like Gerycz’s appendages, I’m really surprised Baldi’s voice lasted the whole show. He sounded like he was absolutely shredding his vocal chords on every song. He struggles to reach notes normally, but at least he gives himself some rest on record. But live his voice is constantly straining for notes, and flying apart in a yelpy rasp that can’t be good for long-term voice health. But, hey, it’s rock ‘n’ roll and you gotta leave it all out there, I guess.

The band did sound good, and had a great blend of tightness and sloppiness. I am definitely glad I brought earplugs, however. The venue is pretty small, the stage not very deep and the band really cranks it up. I was standing dead center in front of the drum kit, which itself sat up on the stage directly between the guitar and bass. So all of that onslaught was going right into my rib cage and ear holes. While giant speakers overhanging the stage focused their energy on the top of my head. If it weren’t for the two dorky seven-footers to my left and their mass somehow absorbing some of the sound, I don’t think the plugs would have been enough. Point is, they are a loud band. Now, about “slam dancing.” Or “moshing.” Or whatever these seemingly college-aged boys thought they were doing… It looked really dumb. You can see some of it yourself in the video above. I was directly off the edge of “the pit” and never once felt like someone was even going to bump me slightly. It was a friendly pit as far as those go. Not as wimpy as the teen girl swirl I witnessed at White Reaper, but it was up there with dumb frat boy energy. Also the place smelled as though one of those illegal weed stores that now dot NYC had exploded inside the venue. I’m still thinking of burning the clothes I was wearing, even after a good wash.

Anyhow, go see these dudes live. You’ll be in for a fun rock ‘n’ roll treat. Even if you aren’t that familiar with them, but like fast, loud indie rock and/or punk stuff, you’ll find their musicianship and occasional knack for melody pretty damned entertaining.

Poisson Rouge
So, doors open at 7:30 you say? I’ll be there at 7:45 just to be safe. You’d think I’d learn.