Cloud Nothings @ Urban Lounge 11.12 w/ Mourning [A] BLKstar
I’ve long been an advocate for musical eclecticism. As someone who cut their artistic and aesthetic teeth entirely in the digital age, strict genre and scene boundaries always ran a little cold. Imagine my delight, then, at seeing two of my favorite (though very sonically different) groups billed together for a night at Urban Lounge—avant-soul masters Mourning [A] BLKstar opening for indie heartthrobs Cloud Nothings. What the two groups shared that night arrived on the back of impeccable musicianship and a focus on powerful emotional outpourings.
Unsurprisingly, Mourning [A] BLKstar blew the crowd at Urban away; after their set, I chatted with a few friends who were previously unaware of the group but walked away fervent disciples. Not a minute too late, the eight-strong outfit took the stage and dove into a set of sweaty, sexy and scathing numbers. The core groove of each song seemed to percolate together, bubbling from one member to the other—Dante Foley’s snare shots ricocheting off of RA Washington’s bass and electronic scatterings, the spare horns lines of trumpetist Theresa May and trombonist William Washington slithering over everything in serpentine counterpoint.
Supported by the power and elasticity of this band (which also included guitarist Peter Saudek), the band’s scene-stealing highlight came from its three lead vocalists—James Longs, LaToya Kent and Kyle Kidd. A combination of a soul-band showmanship and the mysticism of a trio of sirens, the singers elevated the already cosmic music to astral planes; spiritual paeans looking out-of-bounds. Sometimes the trio would ramble over each other in fervent chaos, sometimes they’d reach a fever pitch of cohesion and harmony. As a soloist, Kidd, especially, delivered a litany of memorable moments, spiraling to wicked highs and bellowing out into the stunned audience.
If one element of Mourning [A] BLKstar’s set faltered, it was that they almost felt too big, too much, for the smaller Urban sound system. Especially in the moments where the band pushed toward a collective fever pitch, the octet’s onslaught of sound muddled together in the mix. Such an intimate viewing of a band with this much power is a special experience, but Mourning [A] BLKstar was literally—sonically—bursting past the four walls.
Cloud Nothings, on the other hand, felt and sounded like an Urban Lounge poster band—four dudes playing loud, fast, sad rock music. The band opened their set with the fan-favorite “Psychic Trauma” from their 2014 record, Here and Nowhere Else, barreling into the song’s concluding panic rush with an urgency that immediately jolted the crowd into action. The band littered their set with material from across their catalog, from the reflective “Oslo” off of this year’s The Shadow I Remember to (of course) indie hits from the band’s breakout days such as “Stay Useless” and “Wasted Days.”
Despite their surface-level stylistic differences, Mourning [A] BLKstar and Cloud Nothings provided equal displays of technicality and musicianship. While the whole Cloud Nothings quartet was awash with cohesion and skill, the interplay between drummer Jayson Gerycz and lead singer/guitarist Dylan Baldi shone brightest. The pair also release free improv as the Baldi/Gerycz Duo, and their rock-oriented playing displays a comfortability with collective discomfort that made for many a gymnastic moment—leaping between tempos, between arrhythmia and rigidity, into speeds so fast that the band felt like they could collapse.
Perhaps the crowd was slimmer than it should’ve as a result of torn indie fandom with The Complex’s Julien Baker show that same night, but those present affirmed the singularity of the night’s showcase. Mourning [A] BLKstar knocked us into oblivion while Cloud Nothings pushed us back in our heaving, breathing bodies. –Audrey Lockie