Live Review: St. Nothing at Middle East in Cambridge, MA

Material: Waves of ennui emit like radiation from a decaying reactor when this synth-pop project (winner of 2014’s Boston Music Award for Electronic Artist of the Year) takes the stage. Dubbing themselves “nocturnal bedroom pop,” Joy Division/New Order remains their obvious primary influence. Wispy, romanticist cello is backed by programmed beats and live drumming, while their guitarist’s indigo hum locks down a sense of existential longing. Singer Garzoni-Lawrence’s emo purrs bleed an ocean of sadness.

Musicianship: Three-quarters of their genetic makeup—guitar, drums and cello—unite smoothly against a velvety digital backdrop 
to create a stirring yet familiar sound. Their ultimate flaw rests with their singer, whose inconsistent vocals, while a supple match for their melancholy style, are further hampered when technical issues arise. Nothing can be said regarding their keyboard, as the instrument faced a hurdle the players were unable to surmount. Their compositions, which rarely moved beyond their teary formula, compounded these setbacks.

Performance: St. Nothing deliberately burden Garzoni-Lawrence with the task of filling the spotlight, leaving the others to blend into the background. This sensible decision becomes a fatal error, as he leaves the impression of a soul in search of an identity. At times, the music courses through him like a jolt of electricity; others, he appears detached and laconic. Movements range from jerky to fluid, vacillating without reason. His incongruous outfit worsens this confusion. Although he bookended their final number by calling out the group’s name, one could hardly be expected to decode his rapid-fire mumbling.

Summary: One may wish for a revival of ‘80s-soaked new wave pathos, but St. Nothing will never spark that revolution unless their vocalist makes strides. In need of confidence as much as an outward persona, he must refine his sense of self before sharing it with audiences. Once that happens, a larger group of listeners will be drawn to the band’s new take on an old style.

The Players: Marco Garzoni-Lawrence, vocals; Sophia Carreras, guitar; Jenna Calabro, cello; Felix Nicholson, drums.

Venue: Middle East
City: Cambridge, MA
Contact: stnothingmusic@gmail.com
Web: stnothing.com

Photo by Apple Kaufmann