Live Review: DIIV, Totally Mild

12 February 2016 | 4:20 pm | Joel Lohman

"DIIV are kind of cool, but ultimately superfluous. And as it stands, we, the audience, are doing more for them than they are for us."


As their band name suggests, Totally Mild aren't going to change the world. But the winsome combination of Zachary Schneider's shimmery guitar tones and Elizabeth Mitchell's siren-like vocals and sunny disposition make them easy to root for. Totally Mild are good, clean, fun.

DIIV take to the stage, all five members wearing caps with brims at various angles. Beginning with Human and Bent (Roi's Song), the band faithfully reproduce the hazy, propulsive sound of their two albums. But something is missing. DIIV have all of the signifiers of a rock show in place, but with little of the excitement. Screens either side of the stage display home videos of messy apartments, plus close-ups of tins of lentils and a license plate with the number 666, as if to provide visual evidence of the band's indie cred to compensate for the tepidity of what's happening onstage. It is clear that frontman Zachary Cole Smith yearns to be the sort of musician whose life is made into a biopic, but tonight he and his band come across as five method actors playing at being a rock band.

Some of the set's issues are out of DIIV's hands. Sometime is plagued by technical difficulties. The crowd is fairly unresponsive during the first few songs, prompting Smith to ask at one point, "Are you guys asleep or something?" But it doesn't feel like the band are particularly invested in their music and they certainly don't give us reason to be. After several unsuccessful attempts, a few people start crowd-surfing. This makes what's happening look more like a rock show, but it honestly feels like the crowd is making its own fun, with DIIV providing a wishy-washy, good-enough rock backdrop. One of the many baffling aspects of tonight's lacklustre performance is Smith's bizarre compulsion to repeatedly remind us of the band's name and the fact that they are from New York City. This happens, without exaggeration, a dozen times throughout their set, making Smith seem like a malfunctioning rock robot in need of fine-tuning. You know how you should repeat your name and facts about yourself to potential attackers in order to humanise yourself? It's like that, but has the opposite effect.

The set starts to gain momentum in the second half, when the band allow some of the new album's highlights — Mire (Grant's Song), Take Your Time, Dust — to stretch out a bit. DIIV clearly have a 'sound' and they are at their best when they let it build and fill and swirl around the room. Before signature song Doused, Smith says, "This will be our last song, unless you want to give us an encore, which would be cool but not necessary". And that pretty much sums it up. DIIV are kind of cool, but ultimately superfluous. And as it stands, we, the audience, are doing more for them than they are for us.