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Last night, Irving Plaza was once again enveloped in shades of black and grey (and a touch of red) as it hosted “Painted Black, Act II,” the second installment of the ongoing concert series presented by NYC MATTE Projects. Although several concertgoers had gathered to see Brooklyn’s indie rock poster-childen, DIIV, perform for the umpteenth time in NYC, the crowd at this DIIV show was treated to the band alongside the works of visual artists, stage builders and sculptors, resulting in an incredible, sensory-soaked performance.
Before DIIV took the stage, the crowd enjoyed a transition to a room full of reverb via New York’s Guards. Although somewhat timid and awkward in demeanor, Guards nevertheless won the audience over with their smooth take on indie rock. Frontman/guitarist Richie Follin’s long, flowing locks were all over the place as he laid down distortion-loaded guitar chops alongside his crooning vocals, followed by the contrasting ambient psychedelic rock melodies featured on their debut LP. The set was a perfect mixture of both ends of Guards’ musical spectrum, and never did the band seem to stay at one end for too long. However, for those audience members looking for some visual stimulation—if they weren’t already entranced by Follin’s guitar-gun movement and the rest of the band’s intense instrument-thrashing performance—the visual artists’ pairing were certain to catch the eye. The band’s performances of tracks like Silver Lining and Ready To Go were complemented with TVs offering loops of black and white TV static and X-Ray-esque pictures, befitting of the “black” theme.
As Zachary Cole Smith walked onstage and tuned up the guitar, clad in an oversized sweater, he cheekily greeted the audience with “Hi, we’re Dave,” smirking as he then corrected himself with, “Hi, we’re DIIV.” The band plunged immediately into their debut album’s opening tracks Druun and Past Lives. Although the band’s movement seemed a bit lifeless, compared to Guards at least, several audience members found themselves jumping around feverishly, eyes closed as they rocked their bodies back and forth to the band’s signature oceanic sounds.
Just like Guards, DIIV found themselves partaking in the realm of visual artistry as their songs were paired with various sets of visual works on the stage’s TV monitors. The newer tracks, like Dust and a handful of untitled songs that notably contained poppier melodies, served as the soundtrack to the visuals of rolling, bloody red clouds against a matte black background. On the other hand, “oldies” like Air Conditioning and How Long Have You Known (which, as per usual, brought out the awkward DIIV mosh-ish pit) were played alongside a black and white video of taxi lights and several pairs of pen-inked eyes. The metallic harshness of the song went alongside the eerie monochromatic gaze of the eyes perfectly.
Having been paranoid about time—evident by Smith asking over and over when the band would be cut off—DIIV shortened the setlist slightly. After performing Wait, Smith said goodnight to the crowd and dove straight into the staple, punked-up closer, Doused. Amongst the thudding bass riff, Smith’s hollowing vocals simply enveloped around the crowd members’ heads, getting them amped one last time. As the stage lights flickered all around the venue, saturating the room in a scheme of black and white just like the taxi video playing on screen, and while the members of DIIV threw their bodies all around the stage, one could only feel caught inside this perfect maelstrom of DIIV and Painted Black’s visual-auditory bliss.
Photos by Jacob Spetzler.