Cloud Nothings at Amsterdam Bar and Hall, 9/16/12
Photo by Reed Fischer
With Chomp and Bloodnstuff
Amsterdam Bar and Hall, St. Paul
Sunday, September 16, 2012
If indie rock needs a new anti-hero to rally around, then Amsterdam Bar and Hall might have had just the guy onstage Sunday night. Cleveland-bred Dylan Baldi, frontman and mastermind behind Cloud Nothings, seemed distinctly uninterested in anything resembling decorum, ambling onto stage and kicking into the first song without any introduction. When the show was done, he could be seen out on the sidewalk, mixing it up with some of the crowd members.
Appropriately, then, it's probably also best to leave aside the superlatives and say, quite simply, that the band killed it.
In fact, with a little bit of luck, last night's show could wind up being one of those occasions where people look back and say, "I saw that band play to a half-roomful of people." True enough, Amsterdam was maybe only half full last night (if even), but then there are probably only a handful of shows in recent months that could be compared to the one Cloud Nothings put on. Ty Segall's show at the Entry comes to mind, as does Japandroids' show there in July.
Certainly this concert shared a spirit with those two: the music was loose, occasionally shambling, and almost always shit-hot. They kicked off with "Fall In," probably the poppiest, most radio-friendly song from the band's recent Attack on Memory, where Baldi dropped in a scuzzy sounding solo for good measure. Then, helping to set the tone for the night, they transitioned straight into the instrumental "Separation," blurring the two together so that you almost didn't know if it were a new song or just a tangent on the existing one.
It was just that formula that helped set up the most convincing part of the night, the 10-minute "Wasted Days." The first half of it was a simple riff, with Baldi's raspy croak of a voice shouting over the top, but then came a turn down the rabbit hole as the band laid into a grinding drum beat that marched along for several minutes. Inevitably, it all exploded out the other end, with all four band members briefly running off the rails, before they brought it back around to the original riff. It was impressive stuff.
At the heart of everything was Baldi, who set the tempo for what the rest of the group did. He had a slouching, indifferent sort of demeanor, and he was exceedingly short on small talk. (One of the few things he bothered to mention was that there was a Macy's across the street...) When he sang, he let his mess of hair hang down over his face, so that you invariably couldn't even see his eyes. The lyrics, too, were in a similar vein: We don't care what you do, he snarled at one of the few points where the words were clear; Die! he chanted over and over at another.
Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising for a band with a nihilistic name like Cloud Nothings; after all, saying they were "hungry" somehow doesn't seem appropriate. But, at the end of the day, Baldi clearly takes his music dead serious. The upshot? It was probably more fun to be at Amsterdam than anywhere else Sunday night.
Critics Bias: Based solely on listening to Attack on Memory, I imagined there was something mathy about this band. Based on last night, I was probably wrong.
The Crowd: Okay, it was a small crowd. But jeez, did you see that guy dancing up front during Bloodnstuff?
Overheard in the Crowd: Er, you could hear people talk?
Random Notebook Dump: I missed Chomp, the first opener, but Bloodnstuff were a great choice for the second act -- perhaps the perfect choice among Twin Cities bands.
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