It’s been a tad busy at work this week so Lampy and I have had to do actual real work-related stuff late in to the evenings rather than escape and explore the weird and wonderful world of the London music scene. Clearly this was a most shocking state of affairs, requiring remedial noise therapy at the first opportunity… So it was with considerable excitement that we arrived at Rough Trade on Friday to hear a band renowned for being one of the loudest grunge bands out there. Hailing from Philadelphia in the US, “Nothing” are known for pushing shoegaze towards its more deafening limits leaving the audience to sift punk and hardcore-influenced drums and guitar and the rumour of vocals from somewhere behind the solid wall of droning noise.
Having weaved in and out of the crowd of Friday evening shoppers at Rough Trade we arrived at the back of the store back of the store to find the stage set up, microphone stands positioned, set lists left on stools, but no sign of the band or their guitars and pedals… It turns out that Nothing had already soundchecked, then had legged it up to the Moth Club in Hackney to soundcheck there for their second gig of the evening. With the stage set, Lampy went to work to sort out the lights…
It’s at this point that I should suggest that if you are reading this and happen to be the person who “faffed with” the DMX cabling for the power-bricks, and (let’s be polite…) may have inadvertently wandered off with the cabling for Lampy’s mobile power-bricks, I think it’s fair to say that Lampy is “somewhat miffed” with your continued existence and would appreciate the return of her cables… There may have been coarse language from up the ladder while the cantankerous power-bricks were once again bent to Lampy’s considerable will and made to talk to her laptop from which she controls the Rough Trade lights. With about 20 minutes to go before the set was due to start, a rather intriguing crowd had gathered and the lights were pointing in roughly the right direction and (mostly) doing as they were told, but the band were yet to reappear… However, almost bang on time, the band magically appeared, the crowd reverently parting to allow them to get to the stage.
Nothing make getting their pedals and guitars set up look ever so slightly shambolic, but it’s alright, there’s smiles and banter within the band and between frontman, Dominic Palermo, and the crowd that makes it feel like you’ve got four mates in your living room for an evening’s jam rather than a band playing one of its only two UK shows before heading back to the US for a packed summer of touring. I’ve positioned myself out front and to the right of the stage, bassist Nick Basset sits down more or less straight in front of me and Lampy has lit him perfectly – there will be good shots.
As the band finish their set-up and adjustments, Dominic declares to the crowd, “This’ll be something a little different. We hope you enjoy it!” and with that the launch in to their first song of the set, “Fever”. I’m expecting the musical equivalent of a nuclear blast wave, but instead Nothing deliver something altogether different and to my ears much more alluring. No howling wall of fuzz to shake the fillings from your teeth and liquify the remaining neural pathways that have made it through the week to Friday, this instead is a delicate, stripped back sound. Kyle Kimball’s drumming is delicate and feather light, combining perfectly with Brandon Setta’s distortion-rich guitar and Nick’s minimalist bass playing to create a beautiful melodies, rich in melancholic chord progressions which are the perfect backdrop for Dominic’s and Brandon’s delicate vocals and harmonies. The lyrics are delivered in ethereal tones, but their content is introspective and dark, they talk to a lot of history and a lot of sorrow and regret. Guitars are passed around, Dominic and
Brandon switch sides of the stage for Brandon’s song. Nick snaps a string when retuning for his song, “Everyone is Happy” much to the amusement of the rest of the band. It’s not a smooth set, there are technical difficulties (Grant, Rough Trade’s resident soundman courageously re-wired Dominic’s electric acoustic guitar mid-song), false starts, knowing smiles as tracks go a little “off-piste”, and even Oasis lyrics looked up on a smart phone for a cover of “Married with Children”, but these only seem to create a more intimate atmosphere, endearing the band further to the audience.
The set felt somewhat rough around the edges, but also very human and real. This is a band known for its cavalier approach to the upper end of the decibel scale who instead chose to give Rough Trade something a little special (and quieter!).
Rough Trade East – 13/05/2016