DIIV are becoming a special band. Three years removed from playing hometown shows to small crowds of friends, the Brooklyn quintet is now the sort of act that can fill almost half a set with new, unrecorded songs and leave the crowd captivated with anticipation for LP number two.
This was the story Friday night (July 11), as DIIV flooded Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg with its expansive, ever-evolving sound for the second of two sold-out shows.
Frontman Zachary Cole Smith has a lot of muses — shoegaze, krautrock, Kurt Cobain — all none too unusual for an indie rock act these days. What sets DIIV apart is how they synthesize these influences (among a sea of others) into an aesthetic that’s completely their own. Their 2012 debut “Oshin” did just that, earning praise for its dense, mood-setting grooves, while Smith got attention for his mystifying fashion sense (all things baggy, long and flowing) and romance with industry-challenging, major-label girlfriend Sky Ferreira.
Ferreira appeared onstage a few times (via grainy DIIV home movies shot around town and projected against the band’s black-and-white backdrop) and the band’s wardrobe (recently shouted out in Esquire, of all places) followed suit. Even against these distractions, DIIV’s music insisted on being the focal point.
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Even opening with the same three-song sweep that begins “Oshin,” the DIIV live show exists on its own. Sprawling and contemplative on record, the DIIV first-person-experience is invigorated with a punk energy and accelerated BPM, allowing 16 songs to be played in barely an hour’s time. The opening sequence of “(Druun),” “Past Lives” and “Human” — which takes ten minutes on “Oshin” — was over in seven or eight, springboarding the band into the first of six new songs that peppered the set.
The new music, which has been gradually unveiled live since last year, showcases a clear evolution of DIIV’s sound, with enhanced vocal interplay between Smith and his bandmates, more direct song structures and dramatic buildups that sounded like they could’ve led to War on Drugs epics. But for a band that views the stage and studio as two different worlds, there’s still no telling what version of DIIV will emerge on its sophomore album, still in the middle of the recording process.
DIIV’s sound is hardly physical or violent but it still managed to inspire a circle pit of sorts (filled with some good-natured bumping around) and some hesitant, very polite stage divers who emerged for the encore performance of “Wait.” Even DIIV’s now-regular cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” brought out a frenzied response. It’s one of the strongest songs in DIIV’s live repertoire, which should come as absolutely no insult to the originals. Barely recognizable from the original (save for the “How does it feel!” hook) it exists as a more rocking, more lyrical extension of the sound DIIV has been onto lately, stretched out into the longest song in their set.
As DIIV’s label, Captured Tracks, looks to expand into a trend-setting, Rough Trade-inspired empire, album number two is shaping up to be a small spectacle in indie rock circles, and rightfully so. The Music Hall crowd was treated to an enticing preview last night, but then again, there’s really no guessing what version of DIIV is coming around the corner.
— Captured Tracks (@capturedtracks) July 10, 2014