Richmond, VA. – Philly shoegazers Nothing tore up Richmond Music Hall on Tuesday, December 7th. Highlights of the show included a guitar- specifically a newer-model Fender Jazzmaster- being thrown into the audience, cheesy dad jokes while frontman Dominic Palermo fixed his pedals, and yours truly getting right up in the band members’ faces for pictures. The band even went on to hang out at Helen’s after.
Don’t let their name confuse you, Nothing is a band that’s anything but; especially when you look at everything they’ve been through. Frontman Dominic Palermo went to prison for aggravated assault and attempted murder after stabbing someone in a fight, went on to sell cocaine after prison because he couldn’t get a job, dealt with the loss of his father while recording their third album, Dance on the Blacktop, while also recovering from being jumped, the list goes on and on…if that’s not enough to convince you to give this band a listen, I don’t know what will.
Nothing channels hardcore influence from Palermo’s former band Horror Show and combines it with Philly grunge and shoegaze. The East Coast grit in their music matches the angst found in any number of punk bands, but the washed-out, reverberated dreaminess of their vocals evoke tears and heartache. The cherry on top of it all is the watery lead lines full of delay and reverb swells.
This year’s tour is one of the first to promote their fourth album, The Great Dismal, that came out in October 2020. Many of the songs on their set that night came from this album, like “Say Less,” “April Ha Ha,” “Catch a Fade,” “Famine Asylum,” and their encore song, “Bernie Sanders.” They also played one of my personal favorites, “The Dead Are Dumb,” off of their second album, Tired of Tomorrow.
This is the first tour they’ve been on since COVID-19. Before this, they played a few shows alongside Every Time I Die in 2020 which was cut short by the pandemic, and a co-headlining tour with Basement in the spring of 2019. Before these, they toured with Swirlies and Big Bite in late 2018.
Shortly into the set, Palermo’s guitar pedals stopped working. He did what good musicians should do when this happens; he put his guitar behind him and continued to sing. Rather than letting the lack of effects- effects being obviously vital to shoegaze- derail his songs, he and the band continued to push through. This led to some dad jokes from the lead guitarist while guitar and sound techs jumped on stage to troubleshoot.
Following this, the band was able to tighten up and finish their set strong. This was easily one of the loudest shows I’ve been to. The band’s wall-of-sound style incorporates high-wattage, high-output amps in conjunction with fuzz pedals to add contrast to the shimmery effects while cranking up the volume.
While Nothing played tight and strong, I think the band that stole the show that night was BAMBARA. The New York post-punk five-piece was the second to play, just before Nothing. Following Midwife’s set, BAMBARA’s energy was the perfect match to lead into Nothing.
BAMBARA opened with “Miracle,” the first track off of their 2020 album, Stray. Most of the songs on their set came from this album, with a few coming from their 2018 album, Shadow on Everything.
I don’t know if it was the pent-up energy released on the first night of their tour, the energy of the crowd of Richmonders, or if this is just how they are, but the band was spilling beer, crawling on the stage, walking throughout the crowd, and putting on the show that they wanted to as performers. I had only briefly listened to their music before seeing them, but now they’re a band that I can’t get enough of.
Their music fuses storytelling with surf rock, post-punk, hardcore punk, and noise rock. There’s unmistakable punk D-beat drumming in many of their songs, which is not surprising based on the talent of Blaze Bateh.
While each band had similar sounds, they were all wildly different. The show opened with a melancholy slowcore set from Midwife. The energy was ramped up with BAMBARA and then kept up with Nothing.
Nothing, BAMBARA, and Midwife were all on tour into the end of the year. Due to a positive COVID-19 test result from someone in the touring party, the groups have decided to postpone the remainder of the scheduled dates. Nothing hopes to still celebrate New Year’s Eve with Mannequin Pussy in Philadelphia. Tickets are on sale now.