By Lauren Smalley
This was the sentiment shouted by one, but shared by all at the Luminary Center for the Arts on Monday night during and after the incendiary set by Cloud Nothings. I thought it was going to be difficult to top the performance that 1,2,3 put on, but I was completely unprepared for the wall of sound that hit.
I got there early enough to catch the first act, Volcanoes, a local group which I have heard a lot of hype about. For a duo, they project some loud, intense noise rock. I definitely enjoyed the heavy barrage of sound made by the drum-and-bass-soaked-in-synth combo, and the enthusiasm of gregarious “front man” Eric Peters was infectious. Both members shared time on the drum kit, adding a different twist to each song, since each has his own unique drumming style. The highlight of their set for me was “Exploding Hands” with its gritty, fuzzy bass line – which caused the kids in the front to completely lose inhibitions and became dancing fools.
After a seemingly short set up, 1,2,3 took the stage. As soon as singer Nic Snyder stepped up to the mic with his denim shirt slightly teasing hints of sweat, I noticed the girls around me moving a little closer to the stage and sharing those aside looks that only girls share. They opened the set with the hit “Work”, which I first heard on last season’s premiere of HBO’s Hung. After reading numerous tweets touting the greatness of the band from the show’s star Stephen Amell, I checked out their stuff and became a quick fan. 1,2,3’s sound is a perfect confluence of '60s era pop and white boy blues – sometimes with tinges of soul or a punk attitude.
The album New Heaven is a great listen all the way through, but if you want to really grasp what 1,2,3 is about, you need to see them live. No recording can capture how Snyder’s ardent vocals caused the females in the audience to twitter and flush. During “Scared, But Not Scared” and “Wave Pool” he was moaning, sweating, growling, whispering, screeching, oozing passion into the crowd. They finished the set with a new song that will début on their second record (according to their Facebook page) called “Leave Me in the Sky With a Lawn Chair.” It was a definite crowd pleaser, short and sweet, and a great indication of what’s to come.
Cloud Nothings took the stage at 10:00pm and did not stop their electrifying onslaught until after 11:00. I have been to hundreds of shows, but I am not sure I’ve ever been more impressed with a drummer’s live performance. The closest comparison I can think of is David Haik from the post-hardcore, screamo outfit Pianos Become the Teeth. Cloud Nothings have been playing festivals and getting a lot of press for some time, even from acclaimed critics like Michael Azerrod.
After opening with “Stay Useless” and catchy “Fall In”, two tracks from the new album Attack on Memory, Cloud Nothings launched into “Separation”; an instrumental breakdown that showcased the tightness and synchronicity of the rhythm section. It was such a frenetic and unexpected explosion of talent, that the aforementioned “Holy shit!” was shouted at the culmination.
“Cut You” was a worthy follow-up with the lyrics “Does he hurt you like I do / Can he be as mean as me / Can he cut you in your sleep” being spit out in a rage by wiry front man Dylan Baldi. In the middle of “Wasted Days” the boys catapulted into another strictly instrumental furor, this one lasting a full 12 minutes. Usually jam sessions annoy me during a song, but I was completely blown away by the skills of this band, as a unit and singularly. Guitarists Baldi and Joe Boyer were the highlights this time, with searing, emotional melodies and solos over a dredging bass line.
By the time the set ended, the crowd was sweaty, exhausted, and screaming the lyrics “No future! No past!” right back at the stage. The encore was the showcase for the older songs, and included a funny anecdote about Baldi’s recent run in with Wilco. Even with the pause, everyone was left with ringing ears and heart pumping. “Holy shit” was the perfect reaction.