Live Review: Despite Interruptions, DIIV Powered Through Their Noise Pop Headlining Set

DIIV
with Tennis System and Summer Peaks
February 27, 2016
Brick and Mortar Music Hall

DIIV’s first headline set of Noise Pop was a fight to the finish.

The adversaries came early and often. Guitar and amplifier woes plagued frontman Zachary Cole Smith, who kicked his pedalboard back to life almost as many times as he used it to distort his guitar sound. At one point, someone from the audience started making chirping bird calls which created some confusion and distraction onstage. Smith had little in the way of easygoing stage banter, instead muttering, “We’re DIIV, we’re from New York,” at every given opportunity. Dude, we know who you are. It’s written in giant white letters behind your head.

[jump] Smith’s unwillingness to engage and understandably diverted focus on equipment troubles left keyboardist and guitarist Colin Caulfield with the brunt of the banter, a task he performed admirably. Both Caulfield and guitarist Andrew Bailey supplied the energy, the former whipping his hair back and forth from behind his synth and the latter hopping around the stage like a five-year-old after one too many Pixy Stix. On the other side of drummer Ben Newman, bassist Devin Ruben Perez was happy to stand in place and sway to the groove. Next to him, Smith hardly looked at the audience unless actively singing into the microphone. It’s one thing to turn around to squeeze reverb out of your amp a few times; it’s quite another to spend the first third of your gig barely facing your audience. To his credit, he loosened up as the gig rolled on, asking for requests, calling out the rental company for the faulty equipment (justified gripe or not, the move registered more as unprofessional than rock ‘n’ roll), and acknowledging that he was indeed wearing his pajamas.

Sleepwear as stage costuming aside, “Under the Sun” and the highly requested “Dust” from sophomore album Is the Is Are shined in a setlist replete with songs from both DIIV’s albums. Getting past the halfway mark proved a formidable challenge, but DIIV slowly found their confidence and kaleidoscopic sound as the at-capacity crowd sang along to “Oshin” – an occurrence that did not go unnoticed by an appreciative Caulfield. A sharp rendition of “Doused” ended the regular set. Smith took the opportunity to poke fun at the feigned sincerity of the modern encore, saying, “If you yell encore, we just might come back. We like playing that game.”

So did the audience, who chanted for one more song. DIIV obliged with two, closing loud and hard with a jammed out “Wait.” Smith managed the last of the thank yous as the song spiraled to a close and one last “We’re DIIV, we’re from New York.” And thus, in spite of the malfunctioning equipment and first half awkwardness, DIIV from New York reached the finish line at Brick and Mortar in San Francisco – to the sound of lively cheers, no less.

Critic’s notebook:
In a surprisingly Morrissey-esque move, Smith donned his own DIIV sweatshirt for the entire gig. Apparently the wardrobe choice was a tad on the warm side – “I’m incinerating,” he noted between songs – but 2016 is still the perfect time to bring back bands wearing their own merch. It’s not alienating; it’s endearing. And even if it is alienating, so what? Father John Misty built an entire career on being alienating and his upcoming tour is selling out like crazy. Bring it back.

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