Joe Mulherin is still something special. Better known as nothing,nowhere, Mulherin returned to Phoenix on Monday in support of 2018’s ruiner, putting all others in his genre to shame.
Mulherin’s had a tough and triumphant year. Forced to cancel a late summer headlining tour due to mental health issues, he came back to arena stages with Fall Out Boy before this winter run. Mulherin has always been candid about his struggles with mental health, most notably in his music. His live performance turned Mulherin into a live wire, an exposed nerve of raw emotion and soul searching.
While I fully stand behind the idea that SoundCloud rap is a genre that needs to burn, Mulherin could easily build a career on its ashes. The emo rapper/singer blends trap beats with melancholy guitars for a sound that instantly tugs at the heartstrings. The opening instrumental segued seamlessly into 2017’s “Clarity in Kerosene” and Mulherin instantly held his audience’s captivated attention for the rest of the night.
The crowd had been shifting restlessly through the evening’s openers but the energy elevated for nothing,nowhere. Mulherin hasn’t been on the scene long but he’s already amassed an impressive catalog, one that he referenced every era of on Monday. Fans in the middle started the mosh pit to “Letdown”, and kept moving (and screaming) for “Skully” and “Deadbeat Valentine” in the middle of the set.
Of course, there were also songs from Mulherin’s new album, with “better” as a standout moment. After a brief, flute-assisted meditation break, Mulherin apologized that “Chris (Carrabba from Dashboard Confessional) couldn’t be here”, but the audience was more than happy to shout his featured verse in “Hopes Up”.
Mulherin paused the steady stream of emotive music, finding his cocky side on“hammer”. He was definitely feeling himself and the fans were fully down with it. He closed the set with “Nevermore”, returning once more for a pseudo-acoustic version of “I’m Sorry, I’m Trying” to end the night.
Nothing,nowhere’s graduation from club stages to mid sized rooms possesses the same kink in the chain as his last headlining appearance in the spring- the lack of qualified openers. This time around, Mulherin chose St. Panther, smrtdeath and Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. From a distance, it would make superficial sense to group these guys together, but the cracks are apparent up close. St. Panther’s overly affected stage voice overshadowed any lyrical genius that may have been hidden in her bland and monotonous performance.
Sadly, smrtdeath and Wicca Phase were cut from the same mold. Heavily autotuned Canadian rapper smrtdeath attempted to wax poetic about the joys of smoking weed, sad women and smoking weed with sad women. He was followed by Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, another cookie cutter monotone “rapper” who seemed to inspire pretty strong feelings from the audience (read: they loved him). Unfortunately, even from my vantage point, he was completely unintelligible, each song seeming to bleed into the previous with no end in sight.
Watching Mulherin blow his openers out of the water doesn’t bring any more joy to the experience; instead it serves to show a casual observer why he should be supporting larger and better tours or picking more talented support for his own headlining jaunts.
Despite the purgatory of sitting through three support acts that could have been the same person had we not watched the changeover, nothing,nowhere continues to own every stage he graces. We’ll be excited to see him move to the next level- provided his tour support levels up with him.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel