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It’s slightly odd that Cloud Nothing’s steadily increasing popularity in their last five years hasn’t yet seen a Brighton headline show – they did play a Great Escape concert around the time of third album Attack On Memory – when their brand of accessible grungey indie rock has been wowing audiences as grand as those of Primavera Sound, Fuji Rock, Pitchfork Paris and Coachella. Primarily in Europe to play Le Guess Who Festival, the chance to see them in venues of Sticky Mike’s size won’t be around for too much longer, if ever.
The project was started originally by Dylan Baldi as one of many fake bands to showcase different sides of his music. Bridgetown Records offered to release the EP Turning On, on the strength of the Cloud Nothings myspace and subsequently Baldi formed a band in late 2009 for a support slot with Woods and Real Estate.
This early EP and the self titled first album were lo-fi affairs with their distorted and powerless sound giving away their basement or rudimentary studio origins. However, the hooks, a constant of Baldi’s work as Cloud Nothings, shone through. 2012’s Attack on Memory was a revelation; a crystal clear production courtesy of Steve Albini captured the three-piece tearing through the eight-song 30-minute record as if it were an urgent support slot. It was crammed full of instantly likeable but sonically dense songs.
This year’s Here And Nothing Else changed producer – John Congleton coming on board – but very little else. It’s another urgent, precise, anthem-laden half hour. Cloud Nothings are a modern rock band with an ear for melody that aren’t afraid to go into the red.
Tour support is honey voiced, finger-picking, singer-songwriter Ryley Walker. The 24 year old from Chicago spent time in his hometown’s experimental noise scene, before settling on a sound that hits a sweet spot worthy of his heroes Tim Buckley and Bert Jansch.
The key to Cloud Nothings is their complete lack of pretension. Visually and sonically they are alt-rock/grunge, but as this headline set demonstrated, their strength is their pop-punk like ability to consistently write hooks as big and strong as anchors.
An absolutely frantic Sticky Mike’s was in full-on mosh mode – so much so that any attempt to get close to the stage without joining in was pointless – owing to the intense, play-up-fuck-off nature of the performance. Drummer and bassist locking in tight for the gig, leaving main man Dylan Baldi’s piercing sharp guitar and sing/scream vocals to dominate. The give away though was the constant string of sing along choruses from ‘Psychic Trauma’ to ‘Fall In ‘, with the biggest of all being ‘Stay Useless’ where it was actually physically impossible not to join in. People ate up those hooks.
More expansive moments such as ‘Pattern Walks’ and ‘I’m Not Part of Me’ were played with a frightening force. This was a band so well rehearsed they were beyond tight, though these longer tracks did give the sweating front rows a chance to get their breath back. The pick of the the night’s songs, ‘Wasted Days’, combined both the shout along “I thought I would be more than this” with an extended outro featuring a punishing rhythm section and a rare chance for Baldi to show off some dextrous guitar work. Unshowy – the band barely addressed the crowd all night – and excellent.
Listening to Ryley Walker in advance of the show, it felt like his one man, one guitar, singer-songwriter act might get a little lost between two traditional rock bands. Despite the crowd’s best efforts – why do people choose to talk over an acoustic set when there is a lovely lovely bar upstairs? – his set was a roaring success. Specialising in a bluesy-folk that recalls the playing of Bert Jansch with the voice and look of Tim Buckley, there was a real Anglo-American feel to the show. His songs are strong and it wouldn’t be surprising if he finds success, with or without a band.
Opening the show are the familiar Broadbay, who do that tight but loose RAWK thing. Totally proficient but with no defining characteristic or big songs to get hold of. They’re in a very crowded place with the proliferation of garage rock/grunge outfits in Brighton right now, and lack the songs of a Tigercub or the personality of a Spit Shake Sisters.
Founded by Alex Murray, One Inch Badge (or OIB it’s also known) is an independently minded music collective based in Brighton. Disheartened by the lack of support the true Brighton scene was receiving at the time, OIB Records launched as a label that focused on the artist and did justice to the innovation and creativity of the underground.
While One Inch Badge Records has expanded beyond its original parameters, releasing records for acclaimed international artists as well as less established acts, they remain dedicated to supporting the local scene that built and inspired them. This is particularly evident in the April 2011 released 18 track compilation ‘Sea Monsters’ which is a comprehensive 18 track compilation of the most crucial bands out of Brighton right now.
The One Inch Badge collective are also active and prominent local promoters on the Brighton scene, recently promoting Brighton shows for MF DOOM; Wire; Venetian Snares; Sage Francis; Nina Nastasia; Why?; KRS-One; 65daysofstatic; Health; Wolf Parade; Vashti Bunyan; Pains of Being Pure at Heart; Liars; and many more.