Cloud Nothings and Herzog take stage at the Rock Hall
Two great Ohio bands came together in front of a big crowd and under some beautiful weather to kick off this year’s Summer in the City concert series at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Who can ask for more?
Herzog took the stage unassumingly and immediately started turning some heads. Flawless harmonies, sturdy but melodic bass lines and spastic whammy pedal-infused guitar licks made for some interesting, catchy power pop. The band played selections from both of their 2011 albums, including “Living Alone” and “Paul Blart and the Death of Art” from Search and “Fuck This Year” and “Rock and Roll Monster” from the more recent Cartoon Violence.
Many of their lyrics deal with playing in a band in a garage and growing up through your teens and 20s. While the band seems a bit past that stage, it’s all played with an upbeat smirk that shows that these guys are just in it for the fun of doing what they love. And that fun is infectious.
After a warm-but-dopey introduction from a director at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland’s current pride and joy, Cloud Nothings, took the stage. After a couple false starts, they started off with their two most well-known tracks at the moment — the comparatively poppy “Stay Useless” and “Fall In,” the latter of which segued into the brutal instrumental track, “Seperation.”
I’ll just get this out of the way, lest I bring it up a few times and make it sound like it was a bad show — the guys were a little sloppy. Drummer Jayson Gerycz was noticeably frustrated with his drum kit, and they seemed to have trouble listening to each other due to monitor levels. The whole string section could benefit from new equipment. While it looks cool, a vintage single-speaker amp just isn’t going to sound all that great in a large live setting.
Now that I got that out of the way, let me stress how much of an insane turn the show took right around the time they started playing “Seperation.” I saw the band for the first time at Ingenuity Fest 2011, before Attack On Memory was released. They played early versions of what became the songs on that album, and they were loud, long and noisy. And it was glorious. The songs were polished on the album (in a good way), and while I expected some good old noise freak-outs, I wasn’t prepared for what came next.
Cloud Nothings proceeded to play the rest of Attack On Memory, but every single song was laden with extra noise and intensity, and they did it right. I looked forward to the interlude in “Wasted Days,” but I did not see the near-or-over 20 minute jam coming. The bass and drums kept a steady beat while guitarist Joe Boyer showed off some serious chops and Dylan Baldi was hunched over his pedal board making some echo-y, feedback-y goodness. They managed to bring it all back together cleanly only to rip it apart again with Baldi’s scorching screams of “I thought/I would/be more/than this.”
The rest of the show continued on in the same fashion, playing the rest of Attack On Memory with some noisy breakdowns within and in between, “No Sentiment” getting a particularly loud and glitched-out treatment. Dylan Baldi announced that they were on their last song, only to go into another extended noise jam, followed by album opener “No Future/No Past,” which they somehow managed to make even more sinister than the album version.
All in all, it was a great way to kick off the Rock Hall’s summer concert series. While the general sloppiness and noise of Cloud Nothings may have turned off those in the crowd who didn’t know what they were getting into, the rest of us had huge grins on our faces with every echo and blast of feedback.
Heads up: Check out Cloud Nothings tonight on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. That’s on NBC at 12:35 EST.
Photos by Kyle McDonald