LIVE: Cloud Nothings @ Band on the Wall

WORDS BY PATRICK PRESTON       PHOTOS BY PIRAN ASTON

Sitting just on the outskirts of the city centre – as well as the buzzing gig hive of the Northern Quarter – it only makes sense that Band on the Wall has found itself inching into the touring rock band arena as of late, with no better ambassadors for niche millennial punk angst than prolific Cleveland noisemakers Cloud Nothings.

The cosy bar area and relatively ornate architecture lend a sliver of prestige to tonight’s scruffy clientele, who betray an excitable buzz over cold pints and warm chatter. In the imposing main stage room, Salford-based newcomers Chew Magna lead the charge with some spiky, rough-hewn alt-rock, doling bristly power chords underneath softly pining vocal melodies. If you’re confused about the name, you aren’t the only one; lead vocalist and guitarist Simon takes a moment to mention how most listeners know them as ‘Chew Magma’, rather than the namesake of a parish of Somerset.

A few more numbers are led with masterfully slacker-esque soloing, bringing to mind the sunniest of Dinosaur Jr. cuts, but it’s the lengthy closing track that most deftly weaves together their disparate influences, with a driving krautrock bassline and skittery drum work – just a touch more honing, and the group will most definitely be ones to watch for 2019.

The crowd of denim and indoor beanies swells with fervor for Cloud Nothings, who tease some mournful, airy chords before launching into some ferocious, heart-wrenching punk rock. Bandleader Dylan Baldi’s endearing rasp is stricken with soulfulness and pain, trading tender harmonised melodies with the rest of the group and building to fevered emotional climaxes. Unmoving from a tight, intricate stage formation, the band unleash a slew of blood-pumping hits from last year’s excellent ‘Last Building Burning’, as well as some moodier and more contemplative cuts; the audience remains oddly passive, however, opting to soak in the experience, despite a number of inviting, repetitive lyrical snatches just begging for a crowd singalong.

This eventually falters into some aimless between-track noodling, which builds for just slightly too long into a pumping, yet tuneless one-note riff – a rare glimpse of the band’s rhythmic prowess over its melody. “Now time for stuff that would appear on a Greatest Hits, if we had one,” Baldi teases, before an array of songs from a steadily-growing back catalogue; culminating in a somewhat rusty performance of Stay Useless, a tightly-crafted, crunchy power-pop number, which pricks up most of the crowd’s ears.

Come to their closing track and the group successfully leave the room clamouring for more – gratefully obliging, it’s a rousing encore of the epic Wasted Days, played with a burning intensity, which rounds off tonight’s successful Manchester stop. “It feels good to do something today,” Baldi muses at one point. “We didn’t do anything today.” What more could a touring indie rock band ask for?

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