REVIEW: DIIV plays with heart, practices obscurantism at The Fillmore


DIIV performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Dec. 8, 2019. Photos: Joaquin Cabello.

SAN FRANCISCO — Indie rockers DIIV bathed the Fillmore in warm baritone layers of sound on Sunday, playing songs from their new album, Deceiver. The Brooklyn shoegaze quartet explored punchy and mysterious guitar rock and ethereal vocal harmonies.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Zachary Cole Smith exercised six-string sleight of hand. Opener “Horsehead,” a harbinger of consequence and acceptance, swelled into an assertive bridge. “Skin Game” likewise came to life on stage, rippling with rich guitar hooks.


DIIV performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Dec. 8, 2019.

Unavoidable comparisons to My Bloody Valentine were corroborated. Lead guitarist Andrew Bailey, clad in a green high school varsity hoodie, made extensive use of mellow wammy dive-bombs and effects pedals. The interplay of Bailey and Smith’s guitars created staggered jangling harmonies and natural flange. The pair made good use of the dual guitar setup. The J-Mascis-like Bailey wailed on deep-bending solos and rocked out hardest of the group. Smith, who looked like a monk or an accountant, framed each song with sweeping chord progressions, chiming arpeggios and repeating melodic licks.

The lyrics were difficult to decipher. Smith sang in an unassuming style from the edge of the shadows at stage-right. The songs bloomed sonically during the choruses, when Smith and bassist Colin Caulfield sang harmonies and the guitars blasted loud. The misty and opaque vocal harmonies added an important dimension to DIIV’s tapestry of sound, augmenting its visceral impact and impressionistic obscurity. The lengthy “Acheron” marked a return to hard rock as stage fog billowed in, the band all but vanishing in a shoegaze haze.


DIIV performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Dec. 8, 2019.

Throughout the evening, Caulfield and drummer Ben Newman played straightforward rhythms, giving the songs a stolid hypnotic backbone. Caulfield exhibited a lean, infectious energy to drive the band from stage-left. Caulfield, celebrating a birthday, waved to his parents in the balcony for a heartwarming interlude.

At times DIIV sounded like the sludgy, slowed-down nephews of East Coast power rockers The Smithereens. Formidable pop choruses echoed among the shifting slabs of temperate chordal mass. A plaintive chorus elevated “Taker” with an emotional release from its churning doom vibe. A giant stutter-step rhythmic hook heralded the declarative chorus of “For The Guilty,” contrasting with its quiet, forlorn verse.

Perhaps surprisingly, the band coaxed a few rowdy moments from the mostly polite audience. The punk-like “Doused” revolved around Smith’s reverb-delay mid-range riff and got some teens pogoing. Under the auspices of the sinister “Blankenship,” with its creeping hook, a highly uncoordinated mosh pit erupted. Though this chaotic moment was brief, it was reprised to greater effect during encore “Dust.”


Froth performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Dec. 8, 2019.

Earlier, L.A.’s Froth performed for 30 minutes, led by singer-songwriter Joo Joo Ashworth. Ashworth’s melodic sensibilities were strong, traveling similar indie rock paths as the headliner. In the band’s stronger moments, Froth approached Cocteau Twins. The band lulled concertgoers into the womb-like warmth of its gently undulating living room jams. Pastel blue and green lights waved overhead, accenting a slow-core aesthetic.

A throbbing bass sound, evidently a pre-recorded and synchronized track, created a disconnect. “Where’s your bass player?” shouted one person. One song later, the drummer stopped playing but the beat continued, which made for an off-putting experience.

Storefront Church

Storefront Church performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Dec. 8, 2019.

Opener Storefront Church performed a 25-minute set. Solo artist Lukas Frank, accompanied by his down-tuned Epiphone 335 and a capo, played finger-stretching open chords and reverbed dream-pop. The songwriting resembled early Cat Power. The clean-cut Frank sang darkened nostalgic soundtracks with a slight vocal shiver and impassioned yelps.



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