TVD Live: DIIV at the Grog Shop, 7/16

Extraneous bullshit always draws us to bands.

Nirvana had the Kurt Cobain cult of personality. The Stones had drugs. Led Zeppelin had groupies. Ozzie had the Alamo thing. The Stooges had Iggy smearing himself with peanut butter and cutting himself on stage. There are a million other examples, but for better or worse there has to be a certain amount of myth around a band to make the general public sit up and take notice.

DIIV is in the business of myth building. Pop singer girlfriend? Absolutely. Alleged(?) drug use? Check. Comparisons to rock icons? You know it. High-end modeling gigs? Yup.

Not to say any of this is intentional or crafted to make the band a brand, but there’s a lot of non-music stuff going on here to sort through. Being candid, I would have never heard of them without all this shit surrounding them. All over the world there are talented, but uninteresting, bands toiling in bars for good reason. We all love the hype.

Go back to my initial list there for a second. While all those bands had myth that pushed them over the edge, all were fucking incredible artists. So the question stands: can DIIV play?

Kind of.

I’ll start with saying I love their record Oshin. The now two-year-old record ebbs and flows with a swirl of guitars and a heavy rhythm section. As a pretty standard dream pop/shoegaze band, the lyrics (when you can hear them) aren’t really the main draw as much as the lush atmosphere the music creates. And it’s fucking beautiful. It’s amazing to put on headphones and just get lost. Real “lay on your bed and get lost in the sound” type shit.

But seeing them live highlighted one of my biggest problems with them as artists; the songs just aren’t terribly distinctive and you can easily get lost from song to song in a “wait, didn’t I hear this song a second ago?” confusion. Working their way through their just over hour-long set, I was lost without lead singer/guitarist Zachary Cole Smith mumbling what the name of the next song was. I don’t obsess over this band by any means, so maybe it’s on me, but I kept trying to figure out if the song they were currently playing was played earlier.

All this said, DIIV wasn’t bad at all. They clearly played with passion and energy, driving the audience to connect and bob their heads in unison. Hell, even some people full on dancing like idiots with their hands flailing around, so I guess that’s awesome. Through that mess of hair, Smith’s face was obscured two-thirds of the time and bassist Devin Ruben Perez kept his head hung low, hidden behind his long hair the whole set. The band sent good vibes to the audience however and genuinely seemed to enjoy the proceedings.

Also, the band’s purpose for this July tour is to play songs that will be on their new record and that portion was a huge success. The new songs have a stronger emphasis put on the vocals which give them unique characteristics to stand as individual pieces, rather than just fading into the beautiful swirling guitars of Oshin. I would say people seemed more excited to hear the music they were familiar with, but the new material was far stronger in the live setting.

Contributing to my DIIV live ambivalence was opener LODRO stealing my attention for the night. I hadn’t heard of them coming into the show, but now I’m in.

The three-piece plays a dark (and I mean DARK) mix of psych/noise/punk that sounds like your worst hallucination realized. We’re talking like stuck out in the desert fucking high on peyote and just waiting to die. Bassist Lesley Hann has a terrifying calm to her while she sings, while guitarist/sometimes singer Jeremy Cox attacks his guitar to create an unsettling soundscape. They were fear inducing in a completely captivating way. These three were fucking awesome and I would absolutely go out of my way to see them again.

I in no way want this to be like I’m shitting on DIIV or anything like that. They’re a really great band that made a killer album two years ago and sounds like they are going to keep that going on their yet-to-be-released new album. I just wasn’t feeling it on this night, but there were a ton of other kids there really enjoying themselves. Maybe DIIV is truly going to be the next great band that speaks to this generation of indie kids.

I guess I’ll see on their next tour.



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