Although I have only recently stumbled across Ohio indie rockers Cloud Nothings a few months ago in my discover weekly Spotify playlist, their live performance correlates very well with the attitude of indie rock these days and what I expected their sound to be—a DIY scene, the fast-pace shred, as if mixing a tang of The Strokes with a touch of late 70s punk—Cloud Nothings is, and does, forge the very craft of what indie rock today encapsulates itself to be: an alternative to the main stream, an eclectic mix of funk, punk, and grunge.
It was snowing while I was walking to Paradise Rock Club on Tuesday, the go-to venue for any up-and-coming eclectic groups. I wasn’t expecting a long line but there was, and I couldn’t help but notice that we—the fans of all things indie—were all dressed the same. Perhaps that justifies the relationship of the indie rock community, because we too, reflect the DIY grunge scene in our attire, our (even critical) attitude to rock, our burning cigarettes, our beanies, our leather jackets, our edge.
New York’s LVL Up immediately, perhaps even urgently, jump-started the pace of the night: a pace that made our heads spin and bob. LVL Up, a group where 3 vocalists alternated performing tunes, was very similar to Cloud Nothings in the sense that they were both 4-piece rock bands, both reliant on the drums to drive their sound, their fast and tanged-out speed. Complimented with the electric and bass guitars, the bands represent what indie rock is coining itself to be today while still on par with it’s origins of The White Stripes, Franz Ferdinand and even to the days of Nirvana, twisting and tuning indie rock’s history to the contemporary present.
Knowing that Cloud Nothings lacks a keyboard in their shreddy-sound, I was still hoping one would appear on stage. Although Cloud Nothings’ sound is more defined and arguably more put-together than LVL UP, the two groups sounded very much the same through the pulsating beat of the drums to make your heart skip a beat, very much putting each band on the same agenda, as if in a race to see who can play the fastest, the loudest. The bands depict the challenge of indie rock these days, the challenge to sound different, to set yourself apart in an alternative world, yet each indie rock band seems to be striving for the same thing.
Nonetheless, Cloud Nothings is a group to look out for. They have been churning out LPs since their first album release Turning On in 2010, and their studio sound parallels to their performance. There were no surprises. Singer and songwriter Dylan Baldi set the lyrical pace in the early half of the show, performing songs off their 2014 LP Here and Nowhere Else including “Now Here In” and a fan favorite, “Pattern Walks” that moved quickly to their 2012 album Attack on Memory. But without drummer Jayson Gerycz, I don’t think the band would be quite as successful.
Gerycz gave his all, and his passion and energy radiated from drums and snare to the energy of the crowd, and almost all of us, were dancing and moving our heads by way of natural response. Gerycz very much set the pace for the entire performance, moving from slow rifts to fast movements in a more articulated an environment, responding to guitarist Chris Browns’ passive moves, enabling Baldi to transcend his voice farther and louder above the crowd.
It wasn’t until the second half of the set when their sound and pace was truly established. The group performed the beloved “Entire Entirely”, “Modern Act” and “Things Are Right With You” off of their latest LP, Life Without Sound. As the pace moved faster and faster, the audience began to lose themselves in their element, and the punk of Cloud Nothings’ sound emulated something true to the bands message, their theme and sound, that really drove the ending of the set and the fire within the group.
Despite the peaceful falling of snow in the city, the noisy nature in the venue brought out a prevailing energy. The nature of performance seeks something of an absolution, something that differentiates and defines one band from another, one audience from another. Yet, we are all the same in the sense that we share and seek a passion for well-produced shred, that acrimonious sound from the drums that relieves anger and life’s anxieties, the obscured vocals and droning distortion, uniting us all based on the passion and sound of grungy rock, the rock that has defined our centuries.