This past Tuesday, El Club in Detroit was packed to near capacity with flannel-clad, mostly bearded twenty-somethings eager to see one of indie rock’s most revered bands — the almighty Cloud Nothings. I (also flannel-clad, slightly bearded and twenty-nothing) quickly slipped to the back of the crowd to enjoy the band for what was about to be my first time.
Cloud Nothings expertly seized the crowd by opening with “Pattern Walks” from 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else, showcasing drummer Jason Gerycz’s insane skill. Gerycz’s control over his individual limbs bordered on absurdity, as his arms flailed across his kit and the bass drum beat with incredible dexterity. I couldn’t tear my eyes away until the nearly eight-minute track closed, when I turned to my friend and said, “Just watching him play almost gave me an asthma attack.”
The band is touring in support of their phenomenal new record, Life Without Sound. By adding a fourth member to assist lead singer/songwriter Dylan Baldi in covering their complex guitar melodies, the band was able to achieve a full, complete sound in performance. Highlights from the record included lead single “Modern Act” which had the crowd singing along to the anthemic chorus: “I want a life, that’s all I need lately / I am alive but all alone.” The band quickly fired up the crowd with the heavier cut “Darkened Rings,” exciting the already rowdy mosh pit — and finally motivating me to dive in.
Baldi sounded as caustic and lively as ever, while remaining perfectly precise in his guitar playing. Each song sounded as tight as the recording, only amplified through the wildness of the crowd and the intimacy of the venue. The setlist consisted of tracks that boasted both his more melodic monotone and gravelly screams, commanding the crowd’s intensity with ease.
The band obliged the crowd’s pleas for an encore with Attack on Memory’s magnum opus “Wasted Days” — not only opening their set with a long track but bookending it with another. The crowd matched the band’s energy to the very end, returning every scream of the mantra “I thought I would be more than this,” while throwing each other in euphoric disarray throughout every impressive instrumental section. The band’s unison throughout the chaotic instrumentation was a stunning testament to their musicianship and hard-earned status in the indie rock scene.
The bottom line is, Cloud Nothings have cemented themselves as some of indie rock’s greatest talent. Through their captivating and engaging live performance, and continual ability to put out fantastic records (even according to the “holier-than-thou” Pitchfork) that emanate effortless talent, Baldi and company have proven to be some of music’s most essential artists of the 21st century.