Home Live Review Live Review: Cloud Nothings w/ Speedy Ortiz @ Black Cat — 11/11/22

Live Review: Cloud Nothings w/ Speedy Ortiz @ Black Cat — 11/11/22

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Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Dylan Baldi leads his band Cloud Nothings in a performance at Black Cat on Nov. 11, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)

Successful musicians seem to trust their instincts and the most thoughtful artists have no shame or apprehension in changing course when the time seems right. And when they scrutinize their work with such a careful eye and demanding ear, it can go a long way in realizing their vision for their music.

The genesis story of Cloud Nothings is a peculiar and entertaining one, but over the course of almost 15 years and a slew of vinyl and digital releases, project founder Dylan Baldi has earned the respect of fans and critics far and wide, honing his way as an atypical singer-songwriter since starting the project as a fake MySpace band back in 2009.

Touring to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Attack on Memory, an album that marked a decided shift in the band’s direction early in its existence, Cloud Nothings made a stop in DC this past weekend for an intense presentation of songs heralded for their contrast and their turbulent emotions.

Stream Cloud Nothings’ 2021 studio album produced by Steve Albini, The Shadow I Remember, via Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/album/3TFKi5JsVOYhF3z46GJBLc?si=_oBxJWgWQNK4od6esdW5TA

The night of Nov. 11 saw this band blare and pound out their crucial 2012 release from front to back, including a heavy and haunting presentation of “No Future/No Past” and a deafening, unrelenting take on “Wasted Days.”

Though unassuming and studiously about his business when he took the stage, Baldi would overwhelm and awe listeners in the room just as he has through the choosy music he’s released ever since conceiving Cloud Nothings in his parents’ basement in Cleveland, one of several concept band ideas he created as an experiment intended to challenge himself to pen better songs. After a fortuitous invite to open at a show in New York City, fantasy became reality, and before long, the band was touring and had songs in major motion pictures.

At Black Cat last Friday night, Dylan showed his scream to be mind-numbing in both volume and duration. At times alarming, in other moments pleasing, he’s mastered using his vocals dynamically within what is oftentimes the detonation of Cloud Nothings compositions. He can be delicate, like in the opening to “Fall In,” but he can absolutely throttle and overtake, like he did with the disagreeable “No Sentiment.”

Overlooked in all the terrific noise might be his guitar skills — Baldi handled a large, pearly Gibson Non-Reverse Firebird, and he seemed to take deep satisfaction in intricately fitting fuzz and vibrations into the insanity of each arrangement.

And while no one would know it, Baldi — who now lives in Philly — revealed that he’d been stricken by what he believed to be a bit food poisoning, the result of meal he’d enjoyed just around the corner at a well-known salad bar chain and that he perceived to be a healthy choice.

“You think vegetables are good for you, but they’re not — they make you sick,” he said but continued through the set.

Alongside him, Black Cat patrons would observe an incredible drumming performance, as the limber and tireless Jason Gerycz gave each tune its mighty pulse, electrifying the audience with his speed and his animation — he looked to be in a zone where only the most ambitious drummers want to race.

Watch the official music video for Cloud Nothings’ single “Am I Something” via the band’s YouTube channel:

“We’re just going to do the whole thing,” Baldi said, giving way to a wildly rewarding version of “Separation,” a track that showcased bassist TJ Duke and guitarist Chris Brown, formerly of Total Babes, in the spiraling blitz of a jam that defines the back half of this song.

Making the night a bit more commemorative, the band was additionally promoting a newly released live album version of Attack on Memory, recorded in its entirety right in the nation’s capital a decade ago at the now-shuttered Red Palace.

And if all that wasn’t enough, the visit felt like a reunion of sorts for the band, as they are a longtime roster member of DC’s Carpark Records and the night’s opening act, Speedy Ortiz, is also signed to the same local label and is fronted by songwriter and poet Sadie Dupuis, who happens to be Dylan’s romantic partner.

Fueling a crowd of those either crashing their bodies against their neighbor’s or just banging their heads in total entrancement, Cloud Nothings showed why this album was so important in helping Baldi and company turn the corner and never really look back. Dylan had departed from more industrious pop sounds, even as the band had seemingly taken off, in pursuit of something more raw and advancing.

As a passionate following would indicate, he certainly found it and he’s honed it.

Coming out of the pandemic, which saw Baldi and Gerycz sharing new songs from afar and a couple self-released albums on Bandcamp, Dylan was set on a return to the original sound they created upon the pivot toward what has been referred to as post-hardcore and post-punk revival.

So, the band reconnected with esteemed producer Steve Albini, heading to Electrical Audio in Chicago, where they gave birth to Attack on Memory and where last year they recorded their newest album, The Shadow I Remember.

Listen to Cloud Nothings’ 2012 album Attack on Memory, recently released in a live version, via Bandcamp:

Out to promote this release as well as the new live cut of Attack on Memory, the band would essentially offer up what felt like a second set of music at Black Cat.

Commenting on the new album, and adding some entertaining commentary, Dylan told the audience: “Think about where you were in 2021 when this album came out. Hopefully, life is better for you and you think about that when you listen to this ‘sad’ record.”

Joking about the mood of the album, it does indeed capture the somber aura he and his team seemed to target in the Chicago studio. And though they sampled only a couple tracks from the latest vinyl — “A Longer Moon” and “Only Light” — they’d show the impressive span of their recordings by pulling from 2017’s Life Without Sound, 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else and, going way back to close out a three-song encore with one of the first Cloud Nothings songs, “Can’t Stay Awake” from the 2010 premiere Turning On.

Displaying a workmanlike approach to generating seriously stirring music, Dylan and Cloud Nothings seemed at home within the confines of Black Cat, host to some of the city’s loudest and moist boisterous live performances in its time on 14th Street.

“This is one of my favorite places to play,” Baldi said. “And I don’t usually talk about that stuff, but I’ll say it just because it’s true.”

And with his concerted effort to nurture the band’s distinct accents, and by working with talented and respected people, Dylan has positioned this band to keep building on the success it has already experienced.

Cloud Nothings Setlist
(Attack On Memory full album)
No Future/No Past
Wasted Days
Fall In
Stay Useless
Separation
No Sentiment
Our Plans
Cut You

Enter Entirely
A Longer Moon
Now Hear In
Only Light
Psychic Trauma
Modern Act

Encore
Pattern Walks
I’m Not Part Of Me
Can’t Stay Awake

Speedy Ortiz Setlist

Buck Me Off
Raising The Skate
The Graduates
Tiger Tank
Lean In When I Suffer
Scabs
+1
Silver Spring
Taylor Swift
Plough
Lucky 88
Ghostwriter
Swell Content
Pioneer Spine

Here are images of Cloud Nothings along with Speedy Ortiz performing at Black Cat in Washington DC on Nov. 11, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Casey Vock.

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock 

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Cloud Nothings at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Speedy Ortiz

Speedy Ortiz at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Speedy Ortiz at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Speedy Ortiz at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

Speedy Ortiz at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock Speedy Ortiz at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock Speedy Ortiz at Black Cat in Washington DC November 11, 2022 Photo by Casey Ryan Vock

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