More Philly boys tonight; following Modern Baseball last time out, this time joining us from the City of Brotherly Love is the intriguingly named Nothing, another band I’ve only picked up on recently – from the same freebie mag that introduced me to their compatriots, in fact! I checked out some rather splendid little rockers on Youtube, then picked up Nothing’s current, sophomore album “Tired Of Tomorrow”. Superficially, it’s an intriguing collection of guitar-heavy, melancholy mood pieces operating in an early 90’s post-grunge/ shoegaze/ slacker rock headspace, with the likes of Ride and Dinosaur Jr. immediate comparisons, however repeated listens reward perseverance, revealing other, more esoteric influences, ephemeral hints and hidden depths. A real grower, then, from a band potentially possessing great substance, totally at odds with their name! And who says Americans don’t “do” irony…!
Tim picked us up at 7 for this, a nearby and early-doors date in their rather intensive European Autumn tour, and we parked up in Trenchard after a stunningly quick drive down. A lot to catch up on; it’s been too long since I’ve seen my very good friend Tim! Noise was already emanating from the venue as we approached at 10 past 8, so after a quick loo stop upstairs, we wandered through the pub and through the curtains into this corner venue to catch openers Chain Of Flowers, who’d kicked off at 8. They played a selection of quickfire, breathless numbers in a definitely post-punk early 80’s haunting pseudo goth “rockist” style, with chiming resonant guitars embellishing some moody rockers, and the angular Ian Curtis dancealike vocalist’s occasionally yelping, Robert Smith-like vocals submerged in the mix. A bit too heavy on the occasionally suffocating keyboard for my liking, but this stuff was right in my Bunny/ Joy Division wheelhouse, so I enjoyed their set, the galloping climax of which saw the vocalist jump offstage into the front rows.
The place cleared to the bar thereafter, as is its’ custom, and before we took our spot down the front on the dancefloor we had a brief chat with a passing Domenic Palermo, Nothing’s vocalist, who seemed to appreciate my Boo Radleys comparison, which was cool. A quick set-up, then they came onstage in short order after the place darkened just before 9. A mumbled intro, then straight into the powerful, palpable crashing riffery of new album opener “Fever Queen”, a tremendous, towering wall of sound setting the tone for tonight’s performance. This was going to be a loud one, no messin’… A searing rendition of the excellent “Vertigo Flowers”, one of my favourite tracks of the year with its’ fast-paced, laze rock groove overlaid with some shimmering, “Giant Steps” era Boo Radleys psych-pop melody (hence my mentioning the Boos to Domenic) was next up, after which the softly spoken Domenic revealed, “it’s my birthday! 9/11! Yeah…!” then regaled us with a story of rocking up in France in the early hours of this morning in the middle of a police-heavy sting operation, then eating Pot Noodles at 4 a.m. Phew, rock’n’roll…
The feeling of space and heavy melancholy of the wallowing, slow-burn “Dead Are Dumb” recalled a heavier “Heaven Up Here” Bunnymen through a shoegaze filter, before “Get Well”, a careering riff-fest, the climax featuring some echoing, resonant guitar work from co-vocalist Brendan over its’ MBV base. Then, the morose, brooding “Eaten By Worms”, with its’ bleak, stripped back, “it’s unavoidable, it’s uncontrollable” hookline segued perfectly into the thrillingly noisy “7/4” via a textural interlude link which recalled the excellent early Pale Saints. Domenic commented, “Kyle’s cymbal is hitting me in the back – it’s like getting tazed!” which drew a laugh from the unusually silent Bristol crowd (attentive? Or simply stunned by the wall of noise?). The backwards drumbeat and widescreen haunting chorus of “ACD” was titanic, a sonic cathedral of despair, insular yet strangely epic at once, and probably my highlight of the night. Then, “Curse Of The Sun”, a possible latter-day twin for Ride’s classic “Drive Blind”, closed out a superb 45 minutes of rock, delivered with power, passion and the volume cranked up to 11.
Brendan kindly grabbed me the sole set-list and I got it signed, grabbing brief chats with the boys (especially Domenic, clearly a man of excellent musical taste and a respect for his rock history) and a rather superb t-shirt, before a nice and early exit for an equally swift drive home, back before 11 to surprise the missus! Another great gig from the second Philadelphia band in a row – I don’t know what they’re putting in the water there right now, but I’m a Phan(atic)!