Concert Review: Cloud Nothings Bring the ‘Emo Revival’ to Bowery Ballroom

Over the past few months, many pixels have been devoted to the discussion of a so-called “Emo Revival.” Prominent sites, ranging from VICE to Huffington Post, have written at length about this new crop of bands that are making music that falls somewhere between Sunny Day Real Estate and Jimmy Eat World. At the forefront of this “new” movement is Cloud Nothings. The band is currently touring in support of its recent release, Here And Nowhere Else. Monday night, the Ohio trio took the stage at New York’s historic Bowery Ballroom.

Cloud Nothings at Bowery Ballroom

Upon entering the venue, it was obvious that the so-called “hipster” crowd is a bit reluctant to fully embrace the “emo revival” trend. The crowd was a pretty random collection of business-casual types and college aged kids (the band had just played Music Hall Of Williamsburg the night before, so it is possible that the hipsterati chose that show instead).

There was a weird vibe–or lack thereof–throughout the venue Monday night. For a sold-out show featuring a major player in indie-rock’s latest trend du jour, something was amiss.

Opening act Ryley Walker delivered a solid performance. But, the choice to have an acoustic psych-folk act open for a lo-fi pop-punk band was kind of baffling. Walker acknowledged as much during some charming mid-set banter. It was strange to see a two-band bill that featured two artists with virtually nothing in common. Also, the mellow mood of Walker’s set did not do much raise the energy level in the room.

Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part Of Me” (Live at Baby’s All Right)

Eventually, Cloud Nothings took the stage and ominously informed the crowd, “We’ve had a really weird day,” before launching right into “Quieter Today.” The band’s set drew heavily from their current album, with a handful of tracks from their debut full-length, Attack On Memory. 

A couple songs into the set, Dylan Baldi busted a string on his guitar and disappeared from the stage. Bassist T.J. Ward joked that Baldi had quit the band mid-set, but it felt like there may have been some legitimate tension on stage. The room basically sat silent while Baldi re-strung his guitar, save for some banter between Ward and the crowd.

The whole set was pretty informal and kind of felt like that one time you went to see your friend’s college band play a basement show. The big difference here is that Cloud Nothings has two stellar albums under their belt and was playing one of New York City’s most iconic venues.

If this review seems harsh, it is only because the expectations were so high. Compared to the band’s energy on recorded material, the lack of enthusiasm was really a disservice to themselves. Every band has bad nights, and unfortunately this was one of them for Cloud Nothings.

On more of a grand scale, this may serve as an indicator of the adverse affects that come with media hype. Though it usually starts in earnest, creating these “scenes” and “revivals” thrusts young bands into positions where they are destined to come up short. For every new scene that emerges, another scene implodes or fades into obscurity.

Emo never really died, it just lost its luster among newer, shinier movements. Asking a band like Cloud Nothings to “revive” the genre while bands like Taking Back Sunday and the Used are currently selling-out big rooms across the country seems a bit unfair, if not just plain silly.

Article by Jason Schellhardt

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