When I last saw DIIV, they were playing at the 714 Club on Girard. I had never heard of the 714 Club, but it did have a Vitamin Q angle to it that I kinda liked. I knew the Girard was not the nicest of cross-town streets in Philly. Nonetheless, I loved DIIV’s debut album, Oshin, and Brian and I went for it.
We passed by the club a few times before locating it. It wasn’t marked outside at all. Hmmm, sketchy area, sketchy club? We also didn’t notice the side entrance because it was partway down 7th street and didn’t front Girard. Hmmm, that’s oddly disconcerting, too. Oh well, in we went. The club was divided into a few rooms, and there wasn’t much of a stage - It was about 1 foot above the floor. But the place was packed, and when DIIV got up on stage and started to play, we stayed back as the crowd devolved into one of the most active mosh units I’ve ever witnessed. Bouncers stood on the outside of the pit just to toss people out of it, and the action was furious, but fun to witness.
DIIV was great, playing tons of stuff off of Oshin, but the 714 Club basically sucked. It had lousy sound and you could barely see the band given the limited rise of the stage. We left that night thinking that if we got the chance to see DIIV in a real venue with good acoustics that we would go for it.
Flash forward a few years, and DIIV was playing Underground Arts. Cool! We bought our tix day of the show, and headed to see them. Of course, the show wasn’t very pricey, so the less you pay, the more bands you have on the bill.
Here’s an issue. The first warm up was one dude with an electric guitar playing and singing the same song (not really but it sure sounded that way) for ½ hour. While earnest, he simply wasn’t very good. Ouch, what did we do to deserve this treatment? C’mon, openers should be people that have a shot, not some kind of amateur hour that resembles a bad open mic night.
We struggled through that, and then out came a real rock band named Chastity. Not the band Chastity Belt, which would have been great, but simply Chastity. I didn’t think that they were that good, but compared to guitar boy, they seemed like the Beatles. Or at least Nirvana. Still, after the moment of relief passed that we weren’t going to sit through yet another ½ hour of schlock, we hunkered down to ½ hour of average rock.
Finally, DIIV took the stage. DIIV has a new album out, Deceiver, and, shockingly, it’s about addiction and recovery. That’s a first for a rock band. Unfortunately, I had only heard a couple of tracks off of that new effort, and thought “they’re ok, but they’re not Oshin.” Also unfortunately, DIIV decided to play a lot of songs from Deceiver.
What I like about the DIIV of old is the dreamy, shoe-gaze-meets-jangly-Byrds/REM-guitar-thing with driving, catchy tunes. Like early REM, you can’t understand a word of the lyrics, but also like REM, the tunes are so good you don’t really care. You put this stuff on the car stereo and you simply want to keep on driving. Want a sample? Of course you do, so check this out:
It’s not that DIIV didn’t play stuff from their previous 2 albums, but the new stuff is more grungy with slower tracks building into a heavy drum freakout near the end. They’re good, but the move away from the earlier sound was a bit disappointing to both Brian and me. However, given that the show was at Underground Arts, the sound quality was far superior, the staging was much better, and the crowd (which included many more women) was not moshing at all. That’s perfect stuff for me to move close to the action so that I can get you some good pictures.
Here's something I haven't seen before. Both guitarists (Zachary Cole Smith and Andrew Bailey) were very much into fiddling with their footboards between songs. I noticed that each had a notebook, and they would adjust the various reverbs, etc, for each song that they were about to play. It was cool to see the craft and the thought and effort that went into making the guitar on each song unique to that particular tune.
But while the show had its moments, it was not the musical equivalent of the 714 Club performance. In my opinion, that was an opportunity missed. There is still no better way to take the wind out of a crowd than for the band to announce that they are going to play something from their new album. When they do it about 6 times, it begins to wear on you. Still, the show ended with a bang, and we left satisfied if not fulfilled.
Hey, on the bright side, I found a parking lot about a block away from the club that only charges $6 and you can get out super fast. There is the lot directly across the street from the club, but it has a very clumsy way of processing payments at the end of the show that leads you to think that somehow you ended up in the Linc’s parking lot after an Eagles game. I’ve been able to snatch a street spot only 1 time in this fast-gentrifying neighborhood. There are some other bars around, and maybe their patrons have the skinny on how to get those coveted freebies? I don’t know, but the lot down the block was a bit of a revelation.
Up next, it’s off to sunny and warm Florida to catch Elton John. He announced that the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour would be his swan song so that he could spend more time with his kids. Fair enough, but when that tour started in Allentown on September 8, 2018 and I’m going to see him over a year later (and with two more years of shows still to come), maybe the kids aren’t such a factor after all. Regardless, you’ll soon read about my experience … assuming you come back for more.
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.