Bands Wage War Against Technical Difficulties to Deliver Sludgy Goodness

Photo by Emily Bennett
Dylan Baldi, frontman of Cloud Nothings, opened for Japandroids at Stage AE.

Written By Emily Bennett, Editor-Elect

It was a gutsy move on PromoWest’s part to book two guitar bands to fill Stage AE’s Halloween bill Tuesday.

With the past two October 31st shows drawing mainstream crowds with acts like The 1975 and Icona Pop, it was a shot in the dark to bring in noisy Canadian duo Japandroids alongside Cleveland garage rockers, Cloud Nothings.

Initially, the concert drew a modest crowd for an AE show, but the house was full of costumed adolescents and adults alike before the clock struck midnight and the carriage turned back into a pumpkin.

Dylan Baldi’s amp wasn’t working and he was trying really hard to fill the quietude.

“Where’s everybody from?” he would ask.

The Cloud Nothings’ frontman experienced a downright elusive amount of technical difficulties throughout the entirety of their opening performance, including but not limited to: a serious pause after their fourth song, resulting in a poorly-mixed stage reorientation.

It’s not a surprise, so much as an understood truth, that drummer Jayson Gerycz stole the show, because he steals the show every time. Gerycz’s intensity and vitality are a highlight of the band, who released their new album “Life Without Sound” in January.

Before the show started (late, of course) Gerycz was hanging around the bar talking to a group dressed in a slew of sexy Mario costumes. He was holding a bag of takeout and parenthetically leaning against a structure. If you weren’t a fan, you would have never known he was part of the band, especially considering he was fittingly masked for the entirety of their act.

They totaled out at nine songs, tossing in crowd favorites “Fall In” and “I’m Not Part of Me” alongside newbies “Modern Act” and “Darkened Rings.” The four veered to the edge of riffy irreverence – an on-par performance for the Cloud Nothings – a band that opts for repetitive choruses, leaving room for those sweet swells of grime. They sweatily concluded on “Wasted Days” and made room for the main attraction (by this, we mean the Japandroids’ triple stack HI-WATT amplifiers).

What the Japandroids lacked in members they made up for in amps, but it’s hard to watch anything other than the drummers from both acts, and drummer David Prowse would have equaled the energy of all combined members of Cloud Nothings, if it would have been possible to stand up from his kit.

Frontman Brian King (sans costume) doesn’t sing so much as growl through his nose amidst flailing limbs. It’s impossible to overlook the Smashing Pumpkins influence – a notion that was overtly confirmed when the duo rang out a nod to the Pumpkins’ “Today” in the middle of a break during popular stadium rock-esque “The House that Heaven Built.”

Stage AE’s sound guy seemingly got his act together in time for the Japandroids. The two experienced considerably less technical difficulties, save for one dead pedal during “Continuous Thunder,” where King said, defeated but half-joking, “That wasn’t supposed to happen.”

King made time to hail Pittsburgh in between their equal parts classic/punk rock anthems, citing his girlfriend as a diehard Steelers fan and continued to add Burgh anecdotes throughout their generous 80-minute set.

While the band returned to tried and true bangers like “Younger Us” and “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” the songs that seemed to be most well received were tunes from their January release “Near to the Wild Heart of Life.” The first few rows were pumping fists and belting along to the line about sunshine girls on “Young Hearts Spark Fire” and the catchy chorus of “North East South West.”

Before playing No Known Drink or Drug” and delivering those sweet, cinematic lines, “a whirlwind, a woman and a famous feeling” – the venue sang King “Happy Birthday,” paying homage to his Halloween b-day with a heavy wall of distortion behind the melody. There was a sheet cake brought out by two roadies dressed as Garth and Wayne from Wayne’s World; it was all very pure, and King said humbly and sweetly, “I’m celebrating my birthday with all my closest friends in Pittsburgh.”

Japandroids ended loud, opting for no encore, and proclaiming to the costumed crowd:

“Cheers, Pittsburgh. It’s Halloween!”