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.