DIIV brings modern shoegaze ‘rock show’ to The Fillmore

Pooja Bale/Staff

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A dim, dreamy fog filled The Fillmore in San Francisco on Dec. 8, while fans hoping to push away the thought of Monday approaching eagerly looked through it and toward the stage, sensing that at any second DIIV would hop on and begin playing. Amid rehabilitation, parting ways with cornerstone members and general chaos, DIIV was more than successful in recouping and delivering a powerful and well-executed show.

DIIV hails from Brooklyn, New York, born from lead singer and guitarist Zachary Cole Smith’s solo project in 2011. The band, having undergone various lineup changes since its first two albums — Oshin in 2012 and Is the Is Are in 2016— is now made up of Smith, bassist Colin Caulfield, guitarist Andrew Bailey and drummer Ben Newman. With the release of its new album Deceiver on Oct. 4, 2019, DIIV channels shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine while incorporating aspects of post-punk energy.

Storefront Church, the stage name of solo act Lukas Frank, opened the show, serenading the growing crowd with nothing but his melodic voice and guitar. LA-based alternative, dream-pop band Froth followed Frank with an energetic performance, a perfect segue into DIIV’s set.

As the band set up its instruments, Caulfield greeted the crowd with, “Welcome to the rock show,” garnering a roar of approval. DIIV began the show with the somber, driving track “Horsehead” off of Deceiver. For the first few songs, Smith wore a full parka while Bailey wore his signature green sweatshirt. Both kept their hoods pulled up, eventually taking them off as the group progressed through its set — possibly representative of the new and improved DIIV behind Deceiver. This, of course, caused much cheering from the crowd. “If it were this easy, we wouldn’t have f—— practiced,” Smith said with a smile, referring to the clear satisfaction of the audience.

Most of the show was draped in dark red, green and purple lighting with the occasional strobe when the beat picked up. Smith marked each song from previous albums by saying, “Here’s an old one.” Overall, the show consisted of a balanced mix of songs from Deceiver and from the band’s other two albums. The already dreamy atmosphere of the vocals on the studio recordings was further blurred by the heavy, distorted guitar and the soft delivery into the microphones by Smith and Caulfield. “Between Tides,” arguably one of the more lulling songs on the new album, showcased Smith’s soft vocals juxtaposed with hard-hitting drums and wailing guitars, further underscored by Caulfield’s soothing “ooh’s” and backing vocals.

The next day was also Caulfield’s birthday, generating various comedic interludes between songs. As they switched pedals for a new tune, Caulfield jokingly said, “It’s my birthday — where’s my cake?” to which Smith responded by patting his behind. “You’re all invited to Colin’s birthday party at the Travelodge,” Smith said afterward before jumping into the next track.

DIIV played a lengthy 80-minute set, ending with the dark and heavy number “Acheron,” sparking a mosh pit full of laughs and cheers from those being pushed around. The band briefly left the stage for a break before returning for an encore consisting of the energetic song “Dust” from Is the Is Are

New, starry-eyed fans, as well as those who were seeing DIIV for the 40th time since it first played underground shows in New York, nodded their heads together to Bailey’s and Smith’s fuzzy chords and Caulfield’s and Newman’s backbeats. Despite DIIV’s discography being characterized as mellow, each song ironically packed a loaded punch, with Bailey’s hat flying off of his head multiple times in the heat of the power chord-inspired moment. 

Smith’s calm demeanor and soft voice demanding attention, combined with Bailey’s show-stealing prancing around the stage and Caulfield’s headbanging to his own bass, made for a performance in which fans could do nothing but lock their eyes onto the stage and feel the music course through their bodies. DIIV is undoubtedly bringing back shoegaze, complete with barely audible and drowned-out vocals. But instead of just staring at their feet throughout their performance, members of DIIV commanded the attention of their loyal fanbase and beyond.

Highlights: “Blankenship,” “Acheron,” “Dust,” “Doused”

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected].