A wet and rainy Saturday night. Late May, but chilly, feeling more like early April. A drive down Girard Avenue into a rugged area of Philadelphia that I never frequent. The sidewalks are empty, the storefronts of the check cashing and beer store variety. What am I doing here?
Going to see a great band called DIIV (pronounced “dive”). And man, was it worth it. Why they chose to play the 714 Club in Philly, an unmarked dancehall that looks like a former church converted to a lower purpose, who knows. I had never heard of the club before, but then again, I’m not an urban hipster. I’m 55, double nickels, the speed limit, 5 on 5 full court, and no one else in the club (well, except for my buddy Brian) appeared to be over 35. But there we were, two Main Liners attracted to this dismal area of Philly to see a hot indie band in their element. You should have been there.
You want to know about DIIV’s sound? Check out this Youtube link for their song “Doused”:
If you listened, you know that the music has spacey, trippy guitar melodies on top of a driving beat. It’s quite infectious, bouncy yet intricate, and great to listen to in the car when you feel like exceeding the speed limit. DIIV has a few albums out, and have been on my radar for about a year and half. They are one of the many new indie bands that I have been hoping would come to Philly, and when I saw that they were playing on a Saturday night at the 714 Club, I was all over it. I gave up the opportunity to see Beach Slang at Union Transfer on the same night, but since Beach Slang is from Philly, I figure I’ll get the chance to see them again soon. So down to the Rohrer-sponsored 714 Club for some rock action.
I can’t remember how I found out about these guys, but I’m pretty sure it was a random hunt for new sounds. You know, one of those moments where you’re bored with everything on your iPod, so you go on to Amazon and type in names of bands that you like to see what others bought with the album you already enjoyed. Do you do that? Probably not, because you have a compelling real life, but I do, and have found some great (and, to be honest, not so great) bands as a result. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that’s how I discovered DIIV.
DIIV is based in Brooklyn, a town located somewhere north of Philadelphia. The singer/songwriter is Zachary Cole Smith. Like a lot of indie rock veterans, he has been associated with a number of bands, none of whom I have ever heard. It’s interesting to see a guy with such an extensive professional biography still appear to be such a young guy, but then again, more and more people seem young to me because, compared to me, it’s the truth. Anyway, Zachary was low key, wearing a Beach House baseball hat and talking to people he knew in the crowd before going up on stage. Zachary is joined by 4 other musicians, Andrew Bailey (guitar), Ben Newman (drums), Colin Caulfield (keys) and Devin Ruben Perez (bass). Andrew rocks out hard, and if you know a good chiropractor, you ought to let him know. He is going to need that medical contact in a few years for chronic neck pain. But Andrew, I get it: this band rocks out, and my neck was a bobble-head, too, put in motion by the finger of DIIV’s incessantly great songs and fast-paced beats.
The band rolled through a number of songs that the crowd recognized. And it got them moving. Could we go so far as to say moshing? Well, hell yeah, it was a very, very active mosh night, sending many (but not all) of the women and sober pencil necks in the crowd scrambling for the no-contact zone on the fringes. We were skillfully positioned at the bar, an immovable object that even those on club drugs and alcohol recognize as a danger zone, but it was as active a “dance” floor as I have seen in a while, with multiple crowd surfers and other zaniness. At one point, I looked at the floor, and it was soaked. I pointed it out to another guy, and he used the word “moist,” which was a nice way of saying that it was beer soaked from healthy mano-a-mano contacts.
The club itself is ill-suited for live music. There are no stage lights. None, nada. Usually, there is a rack of about 15 lights that hangs above the stage, but that was not the case here, which didn’t do much to help my photos. In the middle of the room there was a very large mirrored disco ball; it was inspiring me to bust some moves, but it did nothing for the lighting by the stage. There also didn’t appear to be a dressing room. The band members just moved through the crowd and then climbed onto the stage, tuned up, and kicked into song, which was kind of cool actually. The floor was flat and not sloped toward the stage, and the stage was stuffed in a corner (think old 9:30 Club in DC for those who remember that venerable venue) and the stage itself was not elevated enough. This made sight-lines poor for those further back from the stage – my crappy photos are a testament to that. And the acoustics were average at best, and only after substantial tweaking. (There was an opening act who should be thankful that the acoustics were bad enough that I didn’t catch their names because they sucked; thank god for ear plugs, right?) Oh, and there is another small room adjacent to the main space that had a DJ who continued to play during the live show – you could hear it during breaks between songs, which was weird. So all in all, despite the alluring name, this space is made for DJs and dance floor moves, not live music.
And as noted above, it’s not located in the best part of Philadelphia. I’m used to live music venues being located in less gentrified parts of town, but I was thankful for the cool and wet weather as it kept street activity to a minimum. We parked on 7th Street in front of a mid-rise residential building that I would suggest looked like a 70’s era public housing project. But my mobile music machine was still parked in the same place we left it and fully intact when we left the show. So no issues despite the Robocop set of modern-day Philadelphia.
We concluded on the ride back to Valhalla that these guys are really good, play well together, and have a good live show. They would have been so much better playing a real live music venue. But I’m glad I saw them, and happy to have experienced another venue in Philly that I had not previously known about or visited. And on the way home to my house at about 1:30 am, I saw a beautiful fox tear across the street and leap over a four foot wall, one of the pleasures of living in the suburbs.
Here are some photos. I clearly need to learn how to use the camera of my iPhone better. But my photography-savvy friends also tell me that location counts and it helps to push through the crush and get closer to the stage. But that would mean giving up my choice spot leaning against the bar, and hey, let’s not get ridiculous about this blog thing, ok?
Thanks for reading again. Next up is Courtney Barnett on Thursday at the Electric Factory, and then another show next Saturday. I’m not giving up any clues on that Saturday show – it will be shocking, yes shocking, to the 5 loyal readers of this site, and set me up for being pilloried and losing all of your respect. But that’s why I have thick skin.
Until next time, rock on and enjoy your life.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.