Still only in his mid-twenties Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi already has four critically acclaimed records under his sleeve, not a bad hall for a boy from Cleveland who started out recording in his dorm room.
Tonight he’s joined by Massachusetts rockers The Hotelier, a group with a further three records released since 2011 for a night that is not short on young talent.
The Hotelier’s Christian Holden has already established himself as one of the leading lights of an American emo scene reasserting itself in the aftermath of its impeccably eye-linered hostile takeover by the likes of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco.
Arrayed in scruffy t-shirts the group are certainly less concerned with doing their make-up and shofting records than Pete Wentz and co, taking the genre back towards its soul-baring roots.
In the form of ‘An Introduction to the Album’ from their dark and raging 2014 record Home, Like Noplace Is There, they’ve even delivered their own early masterpiece; a dark, unflinchingly chronicle of loathing and alienation, albeit one that can still get a few audience members chanting along.
It’s queasy listening but undeniably evidence of a band channeling something personal through the medium of their chosen genre.
Though the room seems half empty, our headliners seem in good spirits with Baldi asking the audience for requests and peering out from underneath a large baseball cap at the back of the room.
Opening with ‘No Future / No Past’, a gang shout-along that segues into the brilliantly energetic ‘Modern Act’, the best melody on their recent fourth album Life Without Sound, the young band are off like a stolen shopping trolley rocketing downhill.
‘I’m Not Part of Me’ is a rollicking riot while ‘Wasted Days’ is a furious mix of whip sharp lead guitar lines and furious chords.
‘Stay Useless’ is a bratty, yowling singalong that shows off Baldi’s ability as a rhythm guitarist and before you know it the penultimate track is disintegrating into a stew of feedback that is far more thrilling than it has any right to be.
After barely an hour the band are off stage and the audience can draw breath.
With his impressive mastery of melody, it’s tempting to wonder what Baldi would produce if he set the distortion pedals aside and produced a pure pop record.
The strongest criticism you could level at him is that though blessed with a surfeit of hooks, he doesn’t always stitch them together into truly memorable songs, but the new tracks show he’s not afraid to push himself and as he picks audience requests for the encore, it’s clear how far he’s come in a short time.
The entreated tunes – ‘Fall In’, ‘Cut You’ and ‘Now Hear In’ – are duly dispatched but there’s no chance of ‘Can’t Stay Awake’ as Baldi has forgotten how to play it.
Sloping away he tells the crowd that the band are off to catch another show across town.
They’ve still got a bit to learn but no shortage of willingness to find out.
Words: Max Sefton