Cloud Nothings (Photo: Gary Magill)
For pretty much the entirety of METZ and Cloud Nothings at the Great American Music Hall, a young couple was making out in the front row, center stage. They paused their session to watch the more blaring, grinding moments of the sets, only resuming when the mosh pit slowed down a little.
It’s the intention of bands like these to funnel the extremities of human emotion into four minute salvos, with sweaty eagerness and screeching guitar lines acting as proof. The songs are angry, or rabid, or dejected, or ecstatic—and though you won’t get lost in the song, you also won’t necessarily be able to tell the direction in which you’re heading. Should I be irritated about the couple when it’s the point of music like this to invoke a strong visceral reaction? What is the difference between their emotion and that of the moshers next to me?
METZ (from Toronto) has gotten along in the post-hardcore genre without having to compromise a great album (in 2012’s METZ) for a roaring live show. By the end of their set, Alex Edkins drenched his button-down shirt in sweat, leaving it stuck to his back guitar strap as he unleashed screaming guitar lines while bassist Chris Slorach gave a foundation to the deafening maelstrom of wild punk. Hayden Menzies’ drum breaks sound even better live as he pummels out fits of fury, bruising tracks like their closer “Wet Blanket.” This was the best opening act I’ve seen this year so far, and the next time METZ plays San Francisco, I’m sure they’ll be headlining a grand gig of their own.
Cloud Nothings’ April release, Here and Nowhere Else aimed to shed traces of poppiness in favor of the grimier scuzz that only accented 2012’s Albini-produced Attack on Memory. It didn’t quite succeed in that, because Dylan Baldi (as Pitchfork points out) can’t not write a pop hook, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They have the forceful presence of having garage band roots, and Baldi, in his Amoeba San Francisco shirt, barely moves during his playing, but the songs are unmistakably hysterical in their own way, swinging from euphoric bursts to bitter runs of scraping solos.
But he always pulls it back to pop. The distorted and fuzzier aspects to the live show are almost stratagems, shrouding the melody’s hooks. Even when he speeds or slows the tempo into an inconsistent disarray, he returns the song to its neat little place, packing it up with clean haste.
At least until the finale. Cloud Nothings reached a fugue state, finally reaching the hard edge they’d been approaching. The last few minutes were messy, loud, violent, and heavy. And the emotions were boundless—for the lovers and the moshers too—proving that sometimes a chaotic ending is the best kind.