LIVE: Cloud Nothings / Chew Magna @ Band on the Wall, Manchester

By Tom Walsh

In the brief moment of calm in the relentless, fraught energy, Dylan Baldi speaks of his day wandering the frosty streets of Manchester prior to the show. With a stomach struggling to adjust to the nuances of English cuisine, Baldi seems downbeat and eager to fill his day with something that will provide a brighter spark.

“I guess it’s just nice to do something,” the throwaway line from the Cloud Nothings singer-songwriter has a certain bleakness. An almost distant longing for a purpose that many of us can feel in our lowest moments. Despite his demeanour, and ensuing battle against a rebounding lunch, the indie-rock darlings provide a chaotic demonstration of why they are so revered within their genre.

Prior to Cloud Nothings, Manchester’s Chew Magna are quick to avoid all confusion by confirming they’re not, indeed, called “Chewing Magma”, which seemed to be a common misconception. The four-piece’s short and sweet half-hour set of melodic indie has tinges of post-hardcore with moments of guitar squeals and thrashing drum beats which will go on to be a feature of tonight.

Cloud Nothings allow a few seconds of grace as they slink on to the stage before exploding into ‘On An Edge’. It’s an intense opening which sucks the audience into the headspace of Baldi as his guttural cries fill one of Manchester’s most iconic venue. It is the type of start that gets the adrenaline pumping, the blood boiling and opens the valve to release all the pent up energy.

The relentless drumming of Jayson Gerycz holds the whole ship together as Baldi and Chris Brown’s guitars hum with feedback and hit screeching staccato notes. Cloud Nothings have a little surprise up their sleeve as they proceed to play their excellent recent album ‘Last Building Burning’ in its entirety, completely unannounced.

At the time of its release, Baldi described the latest record as attempting to encapsulate the essence of a Cloud Nothings show and this performance brings it all to life. From the almost pop vibes of ‘Leave Him Now’, to the the static shocks of ‘The Echo of the World’, to the 10-minute feedback laden opus of ‘Dissolution’ which demonstrates the four-piece at their furious best.

“We’re going to get into the greatest hits section of the set”, Baldi smirks as the release of angsty vibrations seems to improve his mood. The swinging ‘Enter Entirely’ provides a moment’s breath with the row of heads nodding in approval while the beautiful ‘Stay Useless’ and closer ‘Wasted Days’ take us back to the DIY origins of the band.

It is a set of contrast with the rendition of ‘Last Building Burning’ proving a hugely intense ride through a frantic and immediate record while the “greatest hits” section acts as the tonic – a celebration of Cloud Nothings’ evolution to where they stand today. The juxtaposition between the two highlights again why they are the band’s band of the noise rock and post-hardcore genres.

For Baldi, however, his self-deprecating demeanour belies a deep love for his craft and his throwaway comment – while perhaps a little overanalysed – can be said with a knowing smile. Walking back through the frozen Mancunian streets, I guess it is nice to do something.