State Street may have been dead Tuesday night, but the Majestic Theatre could not have been more alive as the New York City-based band DIIV took the stage. I stepped into the theater without expectation, having only heard of the band because they were playing at the Majestic. Not only was this my first experience with DIIV, it was my first experience in the theater itself. The venue provided an enclosed setting and as a result, I found myself fully immersed auditorily and visually within the spectacle onstage.
From the very beginning, DIIV came off simultaneously as an emerging band and a seasoned one. They are led by frontman and lead singer Zachary Cole Smith, who is no novice to the musical scene. Smith began working on DIIV in 2011, having previously played in bands like Beach Fossils and Soft Black as a guitarist. This experience was evident Tuesday as Smith and the rest of the band—most prominently lead guitarist Andrew Bailey—played the stage with ease.
I was immediately intrigued by their eclectic sound—an attractive medley of indie rock tones and electric vibes that had me and the rest of the crowd dancing from one note to the next. The quality of performance was nearly on par with those you might see headlining a Summerfest stage, save for a few missteps here and there. Smith’s vocals, although fine in pitch, were drowned out at times by instrumentals around him. This did not detract from the performance as a whole, though. In fact, the band’s strengths seem to lie in these very instrumental sounds, with the lyrics working to enhance the beats rather than the other way around. Their performance of tracks like “How Long Have You Known,” from their 2012 debut album Oshin provided a blend of synthetic beats with a steady, subdued guitar. This offered a nice contrast to newer material like “Dopamine,” an upbeat tune that gave my feet a mind of their own as they tapped and danced to the rhythm. That energy was evident among my fellow spectators, who would go on to call the band back onto the stage for a two-song encore.
The stage production itself was also a nice stylistic touch. Although the Majestic Theatre is small, these effects made the most of that space, like the use of a projector that lit up the stage with a collage of moving pictures. While the curtains on stage distorted these images slightly, the mere use of the projector contributed to the energy of the entire show. Black lights were also used to highlight Bailey’s neon-green guitar. Highlighting Bailey was a good choice, because he was arguably the man that stole the show onstage; energy emanated from every strummed chord as Bailey worked his section of the stage, bobbing his head to the music right along with us in the audience. That kind of energy could have been a little more prominent in other members of the band, who were much more rigid in comparison.
DIIV’s movement on stage left something to be desired, but the musicality of their live performance did not. Their set gave a unique contribution to an emerging genre of music. The show breathed life into an otherwise quiet Tuesday night, and made a fan out of someone who had never heard of them before.