The Cloud Walls—Joe Novelli (Orkesta Mendoza, Nive and the Deer Children) on lap steel and guitar, Geoffrey Hidalgo (XIXA) on bass and filling in on drums, in Gabriel Sullivan’s absence, the venerable Chris Kallini—played two inspired, at times beautiful at others mind-blowingly raucous, sets to a near full house.
The sound was a genre-jumping hybrid of fuzzed-out soul, noir-folk, dirty-country and punk-blues with Novelli’s guitar and lap steel leading the melodic surge. It formed a lush (and welcome) musical backdrop to a cold, wintery night. In the first set, Novelli went solo, deftly fingerpicking “Magdalene,” a beautiful lament to love gone awry. Then, like a runaway train about to derail, it became a face-melting rocker to close out the second set, as Novelli leaned back, sliding and slashing away at his distortion-saturated lap steel guitar while Hidalgo and Kallini fell into a tightly powered, yet finessed, lockstep—the kind that’d make John Paul Jones and John Bonham shiver. The show was such that it had us looking forward to the bands' first full-length, which is due later in 2017.)
Opening the evening, backed by The Cloud Walls, was resident West Texan singer-songwriter/guitarist Charlie Stout—in town for a recording project—whose experience as a photographer and filmmaker obviously informs his music. His songs were filled with imagery from the American Southwest and keen storytelling.