MusicNOW Night One: Cloud Nothings and Will Butler

The tenth edition of the MusicNOW Festival got underway last night at The Woodward Theater. It’s a landmark year for the event, sprawling out to five nights (three more than in 2014) at four venues, and boasting a lineup that’s eclectic even by the festival’s diverse standards. The packed house at The Woodward was buzzing with excitement and anticipation, and as in years past, the musicians mingled freely in the audience before the show started.

View Photos from the event HERE

Will Butler took the stage to start things off the day after the release of his debut album, Policy. His Arcade Fire bandmate Richard Reed Parry was in the crowd, along with festival curator Bryce Dessner and composer Nico Muhly, whose works will be featured over the coming nights. Butler’s kinetic set included the entirety of the record, brought to life by Antibalas drummer Miles Artnzen and keyboardists Sara Dobbs and Julie Shore (Butler's sister-in-law).

The new songs crackled with passion, and the audience wasted no time dancing to “Take My Side” and dark-edged synthpop of “Anna.” The distinct David Byrne influence so often heard in Arcade Fire’s work was on full display here, musically and philosophically: this was a group of musicians having an immense amount of fun onstage. In addition to the Policy material, Butler also played “Madonna Can’t Save Me Now” and “Clean Monday,” two songs from his recent project with London’s The Guardian. He wryly dedicated set closer “Witness” to “the SWAT team I saw today while I was eating my Graeter’s ice cream. I hope they got the guy.” (They got the guy.) 

Cleveland trio Cloud Nothings were up next, and wasted no time blasting eardrums with Here and Nowhere Else opener “Now Hear In.” Guitarist and singer Dylan Baldi blitzed through the rough-edged punk songs with clockwork efficiency before finally stretching out a bit on “Pattern Walks.” As the show reached its climax, the first mosh pit in MusicNOW history erupted, a sweaty mob thrashing through ”Giving Into Seeing” and “I’m Not Part of Me.”

The band had one more in store for us: Attack on Memory leviathan “Wasted Days.” The track stretched out to nearly fifteen minutes, with Dan Saleh laying down the firm bassline as Baldi and virtuosic drummer Jayson Gerycz repeatedly brought it to the brink of collapse and back. The song roared back to life for its big finish, and the howled staccato incantation sent us out into the spring night: “I THOUGHT/I WOULD/BE MORE/THAN THIS.” An extremely impressive performance from one of Ohio’s best young bands. 

MusicNOW returns to The Woodward tonight with Jeff Zeigler (formerly of Kronos Quartet) and concert:nova performing selections of contemporary classical. Rumor has it some big-name guests may make an appearance, so be sure not to miss it. 

Cloud Nothings setlist:
Now Hear In
Stay Useless
Psychic Trauma
Fall In
Quieter Today
Pattern Walks
Cut You
No Future/No Past
Giving Into Seeing
I’m Not Part of Me
Wasted Days 

Will Butler setlist:
Take My Side
Finish What I Started
Son of God
Sun Comes Up
Madonna Can’t Save Me Now
Something’s Coming
What I Want
Clean Monday
Sing to Me


MusicNOW Night Two: concert:nova with Jeffrey Zeigler 

After Wednesday’s rollicking opener, it was time to quiet things down a bit. The second night of MusicNOW was a joint effort with local chamber ensemble concert:nova, made up primarily of members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra [View photos here]. The Woodward Theater had a seated...