There was a lot to choose from among Saturday’s Noise Pop 2013 festivities. So thank the gods of psych-pop that I ended up in front of DIIV‘s second consecutive sold -out show at Brick & Mortar. I’ve been hooked on DIIV’s Oshin for the past few weeks, so I had high hopes for the heavily-anticipated Noise Pop ’13 act – but I was not expecting to be so thoroughly winded by their gorgeous dreamy gloom and varied paradox of a live show. I’m not sure how they’re able to mix floaty shoegaze and echoey grunge so eloquently, but I’m sure as hell not complaining.
Before DIIV emerged, the show was already off to a great start. Oakland-based LENZ opened the night with just the right degree of sunny rock ‘n’ roll. Howling vocals and swirly, postpunk influenced, self proclaimed “ice-pop,” sounded solid backing up unfussy lyrics like “I feel like hell.” But following LENZ, SISU spun the sunshine a 180 and turned up the reverb. The reminded me a lot of their fellow LA-based musical hypnotists Warpaint, while they intertwined falsetto harmonies with melancholy goth-psych. A few songs were more heavy with dark synth, while others like “Cut Me Off” and “Light Eyes” were definitely not afraid of the wah pedal. The hypnotic stage projection was a given.
The crowd began to build at this point, and tons were audibly impressed by Wax Idols, another Oakland act who plays their own badass brand of screamy riot grrrl. Hether Fortune, Wax Idols’ charismatic front-woman, was undeniably entertaining and gives approximately zero fucks. Unapologetically loud and vicious, their official bio says Wax Idols sounds like Joan Jett “tearing through Best Coast with a chainsaw.” Basically. The band is one of few words, but they kept the crowd enthralled with uptempo post-punk filled with explosive, metallic guitar and cerebral lyrics (“Time doesn’t exist…”). Someone to my left gushed, “Well…back to the merch table then,” when their set ended. I would have to agree.
DIIV took the stage shortly after, launching into an hour-long set with the first track from their 2011 debut, “Druun.” It quickly became apparent they get a kick out of confusing people – cartoon line-drawing tattoos; one guitarist’s completely inside-out clothing; frontman Zachary Cole Smith donning a ski mask for half the set. It’s like the band is trying to distract the audience until they don’t know what hit them, so that, before they realize it, they’re flailing about, grooving on DIIV’s atmospheric sound and floating through reverb without a care. This totally happened to me, I won’t deny.
Smith is the mastermind behind DIIV, named after the Nirvana song. And it’s fitting, because he looks vaguely like a baby-faced Cobain. The five-piece live band that formed later was equal parts mellowed-out and headbanging, as they ambled through just about every track of Oshin. They ventured into post/prog-rock territory for a while, with an epic, elongated version of “Past Lives” that had to have been at least ten minutes. This was my favorite part of the show; they were able to completely dive (heh, pun intended) into their cerulean sound and jam for a while before going into “How Long Have You Known,” a new song “Dust,” “Oshin (Subsume),” and the crowd favorite “Somewhere.”
“This is our last song,” Smith eventually proclaimed, and then the whole band…left the stage. Compelling encore tactic there. The audience obviously wanted more, so DIIV soon reemerged to play three more songs. With their droney, Joy Division-y track “Doused,” the crowd formed one of the most fun dancing mosh pits I’ve ever been in. They ended their set (for good this time) with the more down-trodden “Home.”
DIIV proved to be the perfect combination of sun and gloom, airy and anchored – all mixed together and dunked into the ocean. They’re genre-bending, a little absurd (dare I say, postmodern?), and they put on an amazing live show, if Noise Pop 2013’s Saturday night was any indication. I’m hooked.