LVL UP — Too Good For Bad Headline Puns

By Carter Shelter, Contributing Writer

LVL UP have been staples of the Brooklyn indie rock and DIY scene for the last couple of years, but last year’s release of their album “Return to Love” — their first record on Sub Pop — saw them starting to garner more attention as a true force to be reckoned with. The group’s growing success was rewarded with a spot opening for part of Cloud Nothings’ tour, and WSN was lucky enough to watch them tear down a packed Webster Hall before the night’s headliners even made it to the stage. For 45 minutes, the band powered through their signature mix of tight, poppy melodies and destructive guitars with such aplomb that it was easy to forget this wasn’t even their own show.

They opened the set with a pair of tracks off their 2014 album “Hoodwink’d” — the pop-punk inflected “Annie’s a Witch” and a blistering performance of “Angel from Space” — before breaking into new material with “Spirit Was.” The band let their music do the talking, and each burst of fuzzed out guitar or room-shaking drums spoke volumes.

While some in the crowd seemed to be saving their energy a bit for Cloud Nothings, there were quite a few who couldn’t help but head-bang along to the show’s heavier moments. The audiences members really got into the groove during the more subdued moments of songs like “Pain” and “I Feel Extra-Natural.” The latter tune also got a number of people in the crowd to sing along to its refrain “I keep trying to lose.”

LVL UP carefully and craftily veered towards near-chaos at times, ending songs with waves of distorted echoes and crashing cymbals before coming back into focus for the next one. The set seemed to end too soon, with room for just seven songs, but the band more than made up for it with the pure sonic assault of their closer, “The Closing Door,” another song off of “Return to Love.”

As the song came to its finale, the relentless, thundering beat from drummer Greg Rutkin allowed for guitarists Mike Caridi and Dave Benton, along with bassist Nick Corbo, to layer their sounds into pure, electrifying, fuzzed-out goodness. For those in the audience unfamiliar with LVL UP, it seemed almost impossible they could have seen their set and not be converted. Back in 2015, both LVL UP and Cloud Nothings played NYU’s annual Strawberry Fest, and it’s been a thrill seeing them work their way up. How long until they’re headlining Webster Hall?

Email Carter Shelter at music@nyunews.com.

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