Sunflower Bean, the first of two New York bands, opened in hazy fashion, but they quickly brought the fire with molten rock ‘n’ roll. Their guitar lines ascended and then plummeted into swampy psych. Heavy-handed chops dominated on songs like “2013”.
Sunflower Bean showed their versatility with catchier, more straightforward songs – shambolic janglers, shotgun blasts of noisy rock, and numbers with hints of sweetness, a seemingly natural, perhaps even inevitable, by-product of male-female vocal-swapping; guitarist Nick Kivlen and bassist Julia Cumming traded off on some of the band’s punchiest tunes. Timbre, if you’re listening, bring Sunflower Bean to Levitation next year!
Whereas Sunflower Bean only teased shoegazing tendencies, Montreal’s No Joy almost ripped Fortune Sound Club from its foundation with powerful gusts of distorted guitar and thunderous drums. Their gutsy cacophony gained momentum through ritualistic repetition, hypnotically locking the audience in while climbing towards dizzying heights. Feedback occasionally moaned through the sonic cyclones, giving the songs a living, breathing, beastly character.
No Joy’s pummeling attack sucked in most of the crowd, but it alienated others. The apathetic sat expressionlessly on the couches on the right side of the club and waited for a more mellifluous enveloping experience.
Everyone including the previously couch-bound came alive for DIIV. “I forgot to set up our projections. Whoops,” core member Zachary Cole Smith told the crowd. But the audience may have been better off without the distractions. Plus, they had enough to feast their eyes on with Smith’s long, baggy Garfield shirt and one of the members’ neon green-yellow guitars.
Smith introduced their songs with flat humour that he had to have been aware of. “This song’s called ‘Ocean’. It’s off our album, Oshin.” Fans cheered material both old and new. “Sank you,” Smith repeated accordingly throughout the night.
Songs including “Human”, “How Long Have You Known?”, “Sometime”, and “Dust” got the reactions one would expect, but fans took to the already familiar “Dopamine”, the first single from DIIV’s upcoming second album, Is the Is Are, just as enthusiastically. Smith has opened up about the importance of Is the Is Are‘s lyrics before (and there were moments of vocal clarity that emphasized as much), but DIIV’s new tracks also stood out for their more rigid, less free-flowing structures. On one, bass took primacy while the usually submerging guitars merely whined in the background for ambiance. Another fresh one, which contained a strong backbeat, may have been one of DIIV’s least musically melancholic, most accessible tunes. Smith has described the disarmingly heartfelt “Waste of Breath” as “like nothing [they’d] written before.” At one point during the song, Smith turned his back to his mic and sang over his shoulder while looking out with coy eyes.
If DIIV’s ebbing and flowing dream-rock didn’t settle the crowd into a groove, watching the band members sway in their individual fluid motions did. The band’s aloofness put fans at ease while DIIV’s energetic delivery kept everyone fully tuned in. And with a highly anticipated new album on the way, DIIV devotees will be paying more attention than ever.
As great as DIIV were, Smith was on point in giving props to the night’s supporting acts: “Thanks to No Joy and Sunflower Bean for opening. If you missed them, you fucked up.” After racing through the sprawling “Doused”, he bid goodnight with a final shout, in his usual flat tone: “Vancouver, B.C. Home of Nardwuar.”