CMJ 2014: DIIV, Splashh, PAWS and Nuns at Brooklyn Night Bazaar
DIIV at CMJ 2014; All photos by Laura Baker-Finch
Brooklyn, New York -- As part of CMJ Music Marathon's return to New York City, DIIV, Splashh, PAWS, and Nuns took over Brooklyn Night Bazaar. Here are the sights and sounds of what turned out to be a remarkable night of music.
The boys and girl in Nuns, the brainchild of songwriter Hank Hanewinkel III, sort of address the idea of psychedelic rock from a few different influential angles. At the start of their set, the songs fell more into the category of straightforward, guitar-driven blazers, or what you would expect from members of the San Francisco psych scene like Ty Segall or Thee Oh Sees. But as the show progressed, the crowd was treated to a more diverse collection of sounds, like a trippy guitar loop that would have fit nicely into "Tomorrow Never Knows" or more synth-y tones found in more contemporary psychedelia like Tame Impala. These sonic influences came to fruition in the set closer "Opportunities" - a rocker whose climax rounded out the set in a nice, epic fashion.
By the time the Scots in PAWS took the stage, much of the audience had dispersed into the bar, vendor, and gaming areas of Brooklyn Night Bazaar, forcing lead-singer Philip Taylor to ask into the microphone, "You guys have been to a show before, right?" The set was a constant struggle between the band playing their asses off and in turn receiving lukewarm responses from a crowd that must not have expected any rock 'n roll at the rock concert. No matter, PAWS soldiered on delivering their abrasive post-punk with an astounding amount of vigor.
One particularly impressive aspect about PAWS is their ability to find dynamics in volume without resorting to the must-go-faster-and-louder pitfall that hurts some of their contemporaries. The loud-quiet-loud factor is what makes a verse from PAWS incredibly earnest and a chorus especially brain-melting, and when this is coupled with self-deprecating songwriting and genuine emotion, the result is really something to behold.
The first thing you notice about a Splashh live show is the sheer scope of instrumentation. Guitarist Toto Vivian surrounds himself with a few synths and a somewhat extensive pedalboard while the group's keyboardist (who must be a recent addition) is cornered in the back of the stage by his various samplers and controllers. Add into the mix electronic and acoustic drums from Jacob Moore as well as Thomas Beal's electric bass and lead-vocalist Sasha Frantz Carlson's second guitar, and the audience is left facing a wall of sound.
While few analogues can certainly be drawn to various indie staples (putting airy vocals in the back of the mix like My Bloody Valentine; throwing in goofy, Flaming Lips-esque effects; coupling heavily distorted guitars with synthy psychedelia, again, like Tame Impala), what comes through the speakers is probably closer to the Britpop of the '90s than anything else - though a super spacey, weird version of somewhat depressing Britpop. This inability to fully pin Splashh down is what makes them such an interesting group.
The anticipation was high when Zachary Cole Smith wandered on stage for DIIV's headlining set and the band launched into "(Druun)" - the album-opener from 2012's excellent release Oshin. The set, lasting over an hour, consisted of known hits like "Air Conditioning," "How Long Have You Known," and "Sometime," with several unrecognizable new tracks most likely to be featured on the band's upcoming untitled release, which was finished last summer.
One must really consider a DIIV show as an entire entity rather than looking at the individual songs themselves, not unlike the listening experience of Oshin. Many of the tracks are reminiscent of one another, which allows the band to streamline their set by omitting breaks between songs. Though even within the songs themselves, DIIV's three-guitar setup and massive reverb effects make much of what's heard mesh into a bigger sound rather than stick out independently. Whereas most artists on the punk side of things will punch attendees in the gut with fast beats and loud guitars, DIIV is content to let the wave gradually crash over its crowd - hence why the pit wasn't full of moshers, per say, but rather bodies sort of ritualistically circling into one another.
A particular highlight of the show came in the form of a "cover" - or what I'm calling another DIIV song with the lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" superimposed overtop - that lasted for a good eleven minutes. As the band closed with Oshin's lead single "Doused," an overall dizziness was palpable in the audience, like we went out to sea for an indiscernible amount of time and upon return had forgotten how to walk straight. That kind of feels like the point of this music: it engulfs the listener and by the end, they're left lightheaded but entirely satisfied.