I tossed the Cloud Nothings gig on my website months ago. I announced it on the podcast weekly. I didn't think I could make it, but I was sure others should. When on the day of the show the stars aligned, and I saw that I could make the gig, I looked to see the last time I shot the band. I hadn't. I thought for sure I had. Then I checked my library. I didn't own one album. Odd. Then I realized that Wild Nothing and Cloud Nothings are different bands. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how Too Much Rock picks what shows to cover – it's based entirely on my bad memory. A quick visit to Bandcamp told me what to expect. Indie rock with some noise and hooks. Fair enough, let's find out what had been sending everyone out to see.
The evening opened precisely at 8pm with Cleveland's Mourning [A] BLKstar. In their own words, "We are a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora." Sound heady? Nope, just real talk. A trio of musicians playing keys, samples, and drums started the night. Horn players (trumpet and trombone) soon walked through the audience and joined the mélange on stage. Three vocalists were added after the first song, bringing the total to eight artists – all but one forming a line of confrontation at the stage's edge. For the first 20 minutes no one addressed the audience. That's a long time for artists who have a lot to say. Maybe they were countering George Clinton and believe first they needed to free the mostly white audience's asses, before they could free their minds? Musically the artists built their unique sound from disparate elements of culture. It's soul. And jazz. And hip hop beats so grimy as to verge on industrial (remember Consolidated?). All three voices were astonishingly powerful with unbelievable ranges. LaToya Kent carried most of the weight throughout the night, but the contributions of James Longs and Kyle Kidd provided necessary spot-on counterpoint. Before the set I had no idea what to expect from the curiously named band, but by the end of its 40-minute set, I knew I still wanted more.
The stage turned over quickly for Cloud Nothings. At 9pm the lights went dark, and Foreigner's "Jukebox Hero" (really?) began to play. Soundman Paul Malinowski likes it loud, and the band had given him the green light to punish us all. When the music faded, and the lights came up, the fourpiece band launched into a pummeling instrumental introduction that was 90% chaos. A statement. This wasn't dream pop. Sure, there would be elements of melody introduced in songs deeper into the set, but even those gave way to entropy at one point or another. Most of these explosions felt tacked on and masturbatory, but when stars aligned, this sense of abandonment recalled the messy energy of The Replacements. When calmed even further there were hints of Beach Slang. This might be a more apt comparison as Cloud Nothings is also a former solo project. Befitting that, only founder Dylan Baldi was truly visible on the stage, with the rest of his cohorts only backlit by dim lights all evening. Baldi, however didn't make much use of his spotlight, and only addressed the audience to announce the final song of the night. When returning for the planned encore, the band invited with Theresa May (trumpet) and William Washington (trombone) from Mourning [A] BLKstar. The assemblage then offered a grand finale that stretched nearly ten minutes. Despite having only played an appropriate hour-long set, as the lights came up, I felt beaten, tired, and exhausted. Had Cloud Nothings accomplished its goal? Based on the introductory mission statement, I suspect so. And if the secondary goal was to ensure I didn't confuse the band with a different dream pop act again, then it certainly succeeded.