It’s easy to discount Divine Fits. With the groovy specter of Spoon lingering just beyond bassist/guitarist/gravel-voiced front-moaner Britt Daniel’s eternal bedhead, dude didn’t have to wait too long before A Thing Called Divine Fits, his debut album with ex-Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs dynamo Dan Boeckner, was earning respectable NPR airplay or pop-rocking Fallon‘s studio audience into a frenzied cheergasm. Life, fresh as it is for these indie vets’ new venture, has been pretty easy so far—so that’s why when Daniel says stuff like, “It’s a real record. It’s a real band,” well, it’s easy to pull a McKayla. But then they go and put on a show like last night’s at Music Hall Of Williamsburg, and suddenly a silver medal seems pretty damn impressive, after all.
Completed by the muscular rhythms of New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown and “barely legal” multi-purpose keys/backup guitar man Alex Fleschel, Divine Fits tore through the 11 tracks on their debut album, plus two covers, in an hour that fleshed out, beefed up and totally validated the crew’s already solid dance rock cocktail. Many among the Spoon and Wolf Parade zealots who comprised the sold-out, Sunday night crowd may have anticipated from past gig experiences what rock would come, but Daniel and Boeckner, befuddled into smiling repetitions of “Thank you…thank you…thank you” and “Seriously, you guys are SO nice,” proved themselves more surprised than anyone by the energy exploding from Divine Fits’ first NYC set.
Some cred should definitely be given to show opener Sean Bones, a breezy Brooklyn foursome captained by its eponymous frontman, who whisked the growing crowd away on a brief but convincing digression to some fire-lit Long Island beach. The band’s Facebook page tags its style as a “Tropical Disease,” which turned out at least half-applicable on stage last night. Singer/guitarist Bones’ floating, vaguely-nasal delivery channeled an MGMT with the caps lock turned off, maybe sipping a Corona with lime on Atlantic shores in lieu of mainlining Amazon psychotropics, while the mammoth grooves of bassist/filmmaker/way-cooler-than-you snowboarder Saara Untracht-Oakner set a Rastaman’s eterna-chill pulse. The overall effect was an undeniably danceable breeze that blew the crowd into swaying cliques, if never into full-blown head-banging tribes.
The rockness came soon enough though, when half an hour later Daniel grabbed a bass, Boeckner slung his guitar around his shoulders and this thing called Divine Fits hopscotched right into the Daniel-driven declaration of (b)romance, “Flaggin a Ride.” On record, the song is a slow-building, Spoon-y march of tickling guitar trills, and a great teaser of things to come.
But live, Daniel’s mannered, neck-bulging dedication to note-by-note perfection was neatly opposed by Boeckner’s guitar-thrashing rock’n’roll energy. The playful buddy cop chemistry that characterizes the Fits’ debut is pushed to even cartoonier extremes on stage—Daniel tall and tousled in a white tee, Boeckner clad in a black, sleeveless getup that showed off his snarling cat tatt; Daniel rigorously hunched, tweaking his pedals into the perfect pitch for each of his patient rock strolls, Boeckner delivering his synth-pop pick-me-ups in head-bangs and serpentine writhes on the stage floor; Daniel all divine, Boeckner providing the fits.
For all the excitement stirred up by this tension, the set’s most satisfying moments came when all four Fits were unified in the challenge of playing someone else’s material. The cover of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” was pitch-perfect synth pop worship, elevated to Indie Prom levels of audience participation thanks to Fischel’s lush keys and Boeckner’s moody blues bellow. When the band ecstatically emerged for their encore performance of “Shivers,” Daniel delivered a visceral impression of Nick Cave melancholy (“I’ve been contemplating suicide/ but it really doesn’t suit my style”) that creeped fluidly into a Brown/Boeckner drum’n’guitar freakout. The show ended with a coordinated stage hop from the band’s co-pilots, driving home in a unified power chord what Daniel’s been trying to convince us all along: This thing called Divine Fits? It’s the real deal, man.
Divine Fits Setlist:
Flaggin A Ride
Baby Get Worse
What Gets You Alone
Would That Not Be Nice
My Love Is Real
Doom Town (Wipers cover)
Like ice Cream
You Got Lucky (Tom Petty Cover)
For Your Heart
Shivers (Boys Next Door cover)