Three live acts in three hours for three hundred audience members on one stage. Such was last Thursday night at Eclectic. Future Islands. Cloud Nothings. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. In reverse order. Who cares about Spring Fling when we get shows like this in intimate spaces on a weekly (or at least bimonthly) basis? I’m being facetious, but also I’m not: is it worth funneling fifty-something grand from the Concert Committee’s budget to Spring Fling so that we can score Childish Gambino? No, it’s not. Sorry, dudes.
First up, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, a freak-punk duo from Baltimore, took the stage at 9 p.m. sharp on Thursday. The duo consists of Ed Schrader, a noted associate of Dan Deacon’s Wham City collective (Zonker Harris Day 2010, whatup?) and Devlin Rice, a bassist known for his work with Nuclear Power Pants. The band is currently following Future Islands around the Northeast and Canada in support of its long-awaited debut, Jazz Mind, which appeared on abrasive favorite LOAD Records earlier this year. I only caught the last fifteen minutes of the duo’s set, but what I caught involved thundering floor-toms, incoherent shrieking, pools of feedback sludge, and—occasionally—a few drifting snatches of melody. Naturally, I was thrilled.
Next, rising Cleveland-based indie-pop-turned-noise-rock-heroes Cloud Nothings took over and offered up only further proof that if you record a few demos in your parents’ basement, drop out of Case Western, and hire Steve Albini to produce your record (“he played Scrabble on Facebook almost the entire time,” Dylan Baldi recalls—“that and writing on his food blog”), you, too, can get big. Seriously, though—Attack on Memory is, more than anything, an attack on the timid lo-fi indie-pop of Cloud Nothings’ records past. It’s the first to feature a live band, buoyed by the harsh dynamic boom of Albini’s recording, and it roars, from slow-burning opener “No Future/No Past” to furious noise workouts “No Sentiment” and “Separations.” It results in one of the fiercest new records 2012 has wrought so far.
The band wasn’t slacking on stage, either: Cloud Nothings offered one of the most energizing sets I’ve seen on campus all year, a blistering full-band run through Attack on Memory that left me hoarse and seeping sweat. Highlights on the stage included the album opener “No Future/No Past,” which pushes fiercely towards a scorching climax (“NO FUTURE! NO PAST!”), and “Wasted Days,” which offers the most patient noise build-up this side of Polvo’s “Stinger (Five Wigs).” The band played nothing from earlier records, which seemed appropriate enough—is it even the same band anymore?
Cloud Nothings wasn’t the closer, though it certainly could have been. Instead, as I dried the sweat off, Baltimore-based electro-pop-whatever trio Future Islands took the stage around 11 p.m., when the crowd reached full capacity. Culling much of its set from 2011’s well-received Before the Bridge, the band’s set merged 80s New Wave fancy with some raw, sad-eyed desperation that only Future Islands can evoke. Gerrit Welmers held down the fort on keyboards and drum programming, and William Cashion kept the bass steady with admirable aplomb, but Samuel Herring held the crowd’s attention throughout most of the 45-minute set; the fearless lead singer and frontman gyrated, dove, and occasionally crawled across every inch of Eclectic’s stage, staring down individual members of the audience with manic glee.
“You guys have got a special thing going on here,” Herring told the crowd toward the beginning of Future Islands’ pulsing set, while smiling at the animated crowd/band interaction. “You should keep it going.”
I agree—I only hope we can match it when Weezer and Green Day come to Eclectic this Friday.