A cacophony of heavy guitar riffs and frantic percussion filled the room and floated around the crowd at the High Noon Saloon Friday night. The music was provided by the indie critic favorite, Cloud Nothings, and the crowd consisted of individuals who reflected the band’s eclectic style: a combination of indie, punk and lo-fi fans. Although the crowd was a hodgepodge of different tastes, everyone came together to celebrate Cloud Nothings’ exploration of a new, more hardcore punk sound: shoegaze.
The opening band, Protomartyr, wholeheartedly embodied the sentiment of the shoegaze genre. The musical style got its start in Great Britain in the 1980s but is now most popular among Japanese artists and amorphous, experimental, indie and/or punk groups. The genre is named for the behavior of the band members of these groups who tend to keep their gaze trained on their shoes, perhaps out of complete apathy or maybe purely for performance’s sake. The band’s music had the characteristic loud, “wall of sound” guitar and bass combination.
The lead singer donned a very professional, button-down shirt and jacket combination and a perpetually unpleasant, shoe-facing gaze. The band sipped on their PBRs, while holding onto heavy guitar riffs. The crowd responded with light head nods and heel bouncing, mirroring the enthusiasm of the band. Their set was succinct and consistent, but when they announced Cloud Nothings, the heads started banging in approval. Protomartyr served as an introduction to the Cloud Nothings more evolved shoegaze sound.
Cloud Nothings was all business; they focused on the music and stayed true to their sound, never sacrificing quality for onstage shenanigans. There was little interaction between the crowd and the band, but there was a potent energy that surged between the crowd members with every push and pull of the mosh pit. The High Noon Saloon was a perfect venue for the performance. The room’s capacity isn’t massive and the stage is low, forging a level of intimacy so those at the front could thrust their bodies on the speakers and play their air instruments. Although there was a lot of movement in the crowd, there was little crowd-surfing or other obvious displays of belligerence. It was fairly tame compared to other punk shows at the High Noon, like The Orwell’s performance that left the venue’s sound system destroyed and the band permanently barred from returning.
Cloud Nothings’ setlist centered on their newest LP, Here and Nowhere Else, but they did play a few crowd-pleasing favorites from their previous album, Attack on Memory. Both albums have a more mature and fast-paced sound that created a high-energy atmosphere inside the High Noon. The crowd was electrified when the band started playing “Fall In,” a track from Attack On Memory, but the mood was really intensified when they performed other songs that were more conducive to head thrashing and mosh pitting, like “Separation.”
Here and Nowhere Else, the album the band is promoting, is marked by an edgier sound gained through heavy guitar, light bass and that distinct wall of sound. Although the album maintains the same high-energy atmosphere, it is shrouded in a darker umbra of hardcore punk. Unlike their previous albums, Here and Nowhere Else has long tracks with plenty of room for experimentation.
The album is a departure from Cloud Nothings’ more textured, alternative LPs, but it does borrow elements from previous albums, like strong percussion and vocals that playfully dip between high and low. All these sonic elements reverberated around the High Noon Saloon Friday. Although the new album is different from the classic Cloud Nothings style, it was well received by the crowd Friday night.