DIIV w/ Cloud Nothings
Thursday, July 12
Towards the end of DIIV’s set last night at 285 Kent, lead singer Zachary Cole Smith looked out over the packed house and took a moment. At this point, the band had played its dreamy shoegaze for about 30 minutes; after each song, the crowd responded with cheers. His facial expression wasn’t one of pretension, or fear, or anger, or even happiness—dude just stared in amazement. DIIV had just finished unintentionally leading the crowd in a singalong version of the blissful “How Long Have You Known,” one of the first singles from the group’s debut Oshin, and it seemed like, just for just a second, Smith wanted to take it all in.
Who could blame him? After the sometimes Beach Fossils guitarist cut the world out and started DIIV as a solo project in his bedroom last summer (then called DIVE, an apparent tribute to Kurt Cobain), it’s doubtful he expected his first full-length to be called a “gorgeous and usually melodic dream-pop record.” Or for it to be hailed as having “a charmingly low-budget kind of grandeur.” Or for his band to be labeled “blissed-out bringers of rock ‘n’ roll.” Or for one of their first few performances to sell out one of Brooklyn’s most important venues (and I mean sold out; about five hours before the show, the entire press list got cut). But there DIIV was, appropriately not giving a shit and simply enjoying their moment.
DIIV are tight live. Following the pattern of Oshin, the group sprinkled their most catchy tracks, like “Past Lives,” the aforementioned “How Long Have You Known,” “Earthboy,” and “Sometime,” throughout the set, linking them together with melodic, euphoric instrumental spurts that somehow emphasized both the entire record experience and its catchiest hooks at the same time. Smith and his guitarist bounced around stage, mirroring each other in their wobbly movements as their haircuts—shaggy, bull-cut mops—flopped around inside the music’s shimmering, enchanting sound.
During “How Long,” one of the evening’s best moments, Smith grabbed the mic and stood at the end of the stage, his guitar swinging side to side. “How long have you known? How long has it shown?” he cried, his voice barely audible among the jangling melodies. Then he answered his own question, the crowd singing with him, echoing off the graffiti’d walls of 285. “Forever, if ever.”
As evidenced by his three-times-too-big, short-sleeved button-down, Smith is clearly going for some type of image, whether “cutesy” or “twee” or some other condescending term that I can’t think of right now. It’s easy to look at the wrongly spelled band name or album title and cast DIIV off into a sea of Brooklynites who won’t mean anything in a few years. But what separates Smith from the crop is this: He doesn’t care. He’s not doing this for you, reader, or you, blogger, or you, critic, or you, Brooklyn. He’s doing it for himself; DIIV emerged out of his own bedroom. Maybe he wrote some stuff down on a night that he had too much to drink. Maybe he recorded another time when he had too much to smoke. Or maybe he wrote the entire album on a sober afternoon after he ate some pizza. Whatever the case—it doesn’t matter. DIIV’s buzz might wear off; it might not. But just like now, Smith won’t worry about it. Instead, he’ll just take a moment to appreciate what’s happening.
Critical bias: I listened to Oshin for about 12 hours straight the first time I heard it.
Overheard: “This room is so hip it hurts.”
Random notebook dump: Oshin. DIIV. When is somebody going to spell an aquatic-related term right?