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Review: DIIV at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen

24 March 2016
Review: DIIV at Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen
DIIV played a less than perfect but emotionally charged set at Belgrave Music Hall on Tuesday 22nd flanked by two support bands Aldous RH and Ulrika Spacek. As technical problems plagued their set, frontman Zachary Cole Smith was very vocal about his dissatisfaction with the compromised sound but this dampened his mood more than the sold out crowd’s who gave off an energetic vibe.

Unusually, having become jaded from too often wasting my standing energy (believe me it takes a lot when you’re convinced one of your legs is longer than the other) on support acts that have clearly been slotted in last minute, I caught both support bands before DIIV’s stage time of half 9. But my optimism was matched by quite a thick crowd already waiting out in the upstairs gig room, perhaps largely due to the talents of the two support acts in their own right. Aldous RH (and band) opened with soft, reedy vocals and prog-laden, warped basslines heavily synonymous with Connan Mockasin and with a similarly seedy undertone. This set was like a pleasantly gooey time warp. On second were Ulrika Spacek who are similarly difficult not to compare to other iconic sounds. They compound the motoric qualities heard in Hookworms’ records with uncanny flecks of Radiohead (not least because of the singer’s vocal likeness to Thom York) plus the obvious nods to Sonic Youth fuzz , this is not to their detriment as their sound is a groovy, droning masterpiece.

DIIV Review - Article 1

Suddenly apparent troubles with monitors made DIIV’s section of the night more problematic, and after many false starts and some sharp words with the sound guy, they resolved to play the entirety of their set ‘deaf’. It certainly didn’t stop the sold-out crowd from getting their money’s worth, which frequently erupted into a sweaty pit, fringed by enthusiastic head bobbers from the beginning. Frontman Zachary Cole Smith repeatedly apologised for what he felt was an unforgiveable drop in quality. Much of this discrepancy was sucked into the ‘live vacuum’ however and the crowd still whooped in encouragement.

It’s amazing what crowds seem to be able to convey through a whoop. Here it was largely, ‘don’t worry we won’t feel like we’ve wasted our money if you just keep smiling and playing the songs we like’; perhaps a hallmark of British positivity, reclaiming this attitude from the naff ‘keep calm and carry on’ franchise seen on tea towels everywhere, or perhaps the comparable youthfulness of an audience content with a rough around the edges sound. Admittedly, Smith often had to wince his way through particularly challenging octaves, but the band displayed an admirably tight rendition of numbers from 2012 album Oshin and last year’s greatly received Is The Is Are.

What perhaps won us over was the general band’s positivity; flouro-guitar wielding Andrew Bailey especially with his boundless, loveable demeanour. Smith’s reaction to the circumstances - which admittedly began slightly haughtily - gulping back tears at one point, positioned him as an artist who seems to genuinely care for his craft and who is not content with sub-par. Also to his credit, we were still granted a full set without any diva walk-offs. While at times, the tension was tangible, and the sound clearly compromised, DIIV still delivered a punchy set.

Emma is a Freelance Writer for Leeds Living. She has a degree in English literature from the University of Leeds and specialises in writing cultural editorials.
Photography provided by Mark Wheelwright