Friday, July 6, 2012

From Talent Show to the Rock Hall: Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings Plays Summer Series Wednesday

In 2008, Dylan Baldi was one of many students playing an instrument in Westlake’s talent show, The Green and White Revue. The program included a blank page for autographs, an idea that seemed laughable.

From the catwalk hanging over the audience of Westlake High School’s Performing Arts Center, I shined the massive spotlight on Irish dancers, baton twirlers and cute four-foot-tall elementary school pianists who punched the ivory keys as if they were those of a typewriter. What were the chances that any of them would produce a signature that someone might actually look back on?

No one knew that just a year later, Baldi would drop out of Case Western to begin writing songs. Or that his band, Cloud Nothings, would become one of the country’s fastest growing indie bands, featured in the New York Times and Rolling Stone and touring the United States and Europe. Or that, this Wednesday, Baldi, will play in front of the temple of musical greats: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Cloud Nothings just returned to the United States after playing two shows in Japan, performing in Osaka and in Tokyo before a crowd of 2,000.

“They actually know who we are, which doesn’t make any sense to me,” Baldi says. “It was pretty weird to go over there and play for that many people.”

Cloud Nothings’ live set relies heavily on their newest album, Attack on Memory, recorded in Chicago and released this Jan. 24. Baldi describes it as more complex than his previous record.

“Every time I sit down to write a song, I want to do something new with it that I haven’t tried yet,” he says. He hopes to keep moving farther away from his start, determined that experimenting with sound will push his music to a better level. Cloud Nothings’ edgy, alternative style is certainly a product of evolution from where he started as a little kid: piano lessons and the saxophone.

Now music is Baldi’s full time job. His songs, once written solo, are now truly a collaboration. “I write the words and the melody and my guitar part, but whatever [the other band members are] playing, they figure it out on their own for the most part.”

Attack on Memory recently made MTV’s "Best Albums of 2012 (So Far)" list. An autograph no longer seems far-fetched.

Cloud Nothings will kick off the Rock Hall’s Summer in the City Series this Wednesday at 7 p.m. with Herzog, another Cleveland indie rock band. The free concert will take place in the plaza outside the museum, or inside in the event of rain.

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