Review: Cloud Nothings rip through a ferocious set at Crowbar in Ybor City
Slowly but surely, names are getting crossed off the “they never visit Tampa!” list of grievances. On Tuesday night at Crowbar, it was Cleveland indie group Cloud Nothings, riding the wave of critical acclaim off their last two albums.
Starting off as a lo-fi, home-recorded act, the band got clearer and louder on 2012’s Attack on Memory and their new record Here and Nowhere Else. Tuesday’s show was a stop in several months of dates spanning several countries and sets at Bonnaroo and the Pitchfork Music Festival.
Opening was Tampa’s Zulu Wave. If the group’s synth afro rock sound didn’t exactly match Cloud Nothings’, it was fitting in its intensity, including singer Michael Barrow’s onstage gymnastics.
A far more unorthodox choice as an opener was folksy Chicago finger picker Ryley Walker. (It’s hard to imagine many other acts playing Crowbar while sitting down.) Towards the end of the set, it started to make a little more sense — while he might recall Nick Drake on his record All Kinds of You, his voice has a rougher howl to it live.
And far from a stately folk figure, Walker was a profane and chatty presence onstage, describing Tampa as being “f---ing tropical as s--- down here, and I like it.” He introduced one song as a slow-burner “about f---ing or something,” and described the pleasant, innocent-seeming Primrose Green as being about a homemade alcoholic drink with hallucinogenic properties.
The differences between the two artists became even more apparent once Cloud Nothings took the stage. While Walker’s set was half music, half freewheeling banter, their set offered little conversation (singer-guitarist Dylan Baldi brushed off the traditional concert catcall of “Take off your clothes!” with a brusque, “No, no way.”)
And while Walker focused on quiet acoustic folk, Cloud Nothings’ sound opted for loud, noisy indie-punk. Whenever the band gets described as “loud” or “punk,” it usually seems relative to their indie rock contemporaries. But no, they’re indeed ear-ringingly loud live.
Yet not lost in the noise was the band’s musical prowess, in particular Jayson Gercyz’s ferocious presence behind the drum kit. The closing drums of Psychic Trauma may not immediately capture your attention on record, for instance, but it’s impossible to miss Gercyz’s sweat-drenched drum-smashing live.
Their set included the entirety of Here and Nowhere Else, and found time for a few songs off of Attack on Memory as well. Choices included Stay Useless and Fall In — two loud, catchy tracks that could’ve likely found room on Here and Nowhere Else.
They closed with their new single I’m Not Part of Me, the band’s best and most infectious song yet. It even inspired a small, awkward mosh pit of indie kids.
This seemed as fitting an end as any to the show, but then the band came out for an encore performance of Attack on Memory opener No Future/No Past.
The brooding slow-burner may not have been as slam-dunk a closer as I’m Not Part of Me for Cloud Nothings. But it was well-received by the audience, who were surely happy to get as much as they could from the band’s inaugural visit to Tampa.
-- Jimmy Geurts, tbt*