Live Review: DIIV and the human emotion of feeling on display at the Sinclair in Cambridge


The inside of the Sinclair felt like a giant mood ring, like the ones we all rocked proudly at ages 6 and 7 and 8 (…and probably even later than that). Colors and sounds melted together, and the iridescent tones of blues and greens mixed. This told me that my mood was calm? Relaxed? Happy? Yes — to all three of these. It was a Saturday night, October 10 to be exact, and New York City guitar-rock heroes DIIV had blown into Cambridge, bringing along with them that oh-so-needed breath of fresh air.

A little before 11 p.m. frontman Zachary Cole Smith and Co. shuffled on stage; all of which harboring smiles that wreaked of unadulterated excitement and enthusiasm. They looked like a bunch of little kids: clad in baggy pants, mixed prints, and electric tones of blues and yellows. Their energy was contagious; like they had all just ripped off the tops of a hand full of pixie sticks back stage and guzzled them down. Heads tilted back, mouths wide open, they proceeded to greet their audience in the midst of that proverbial sugar high we — well definitely I — equate to having an increasingly long time ago as a wee little one.

Guitarist Andrew Bailey opted for an ironic …or maybe not… Lil’ Wayne shirt that contrasted his neon yellow instrument, while the drummer paid homage to Mickey Mouse circa Fantasia. Yes, I thought to myself, this is the place. Leave it to the girl journalist in the room, to pick up on every nuanced piece of garb in her surroundings (meep meep).


The shoegazey gang of four slid in easily to their New England surroundings lapping out a heavy dose of both very new and slightly older stuff. It’s hard to deny obvious influences like Nirvana and Beach Fossils given Smith’s eternal reference in naming his band, while also noting his time spent touring with the latter New York group, as well.

But fear not, for there is absolutely nothing contrived or recycled in DIIV’s unique sound and stage presence.



As the group played through their setlist, a sonic contrast bellowed between moments of nostalgic highs and desired melancholic lows. Something in this performance almost explored those strange and confusing, but then exciting and surprising moments that I like to refer too as high school. Haunting bass lines played out and into my darker moments of humiliation and rejection. While quirky, pop-like guitar riffs effected slightly better times: running along the beach, smoking weed in old receipts (or rather trying to) underneath the stairs down to the water, and trying to find the stars behind Southern California’s notoriously smoggy skies at night. Feeling, in the words of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, infinite.

Projections of city streets and Nirvana records backed the band as the music riveted the crowd. My head bobbed and bowed to the rhythms, like that of a puppet, being plucked and pulled by invisible strings. My eyes rolled up with my head, catching the audience in a similar stream of mindless, euphoric groove. An image of a girl blowing a bubble-gum bubble washed over the back drop, and I laughed a little. The iconography entertained the uncorrupted harmonics, and again brought me back…

…It reminded me of driving with my mom, right when I was finally old enough to ride in the front seat. We’d always be listening to music, and we’d always be trying to out bubble one another — always a little bit more satisfied, not in the size of what we produced; but, the sound of the pop, and the sheer surface area of a bubble once blown covering over our nose and face.

Then it dawned on me. I was here, and so were, as I imagine, the methodical and calm in-nature crowd to share in something that felt very nearly sentimental. DIIV orchestrated an evening of oxymoronic crude beauty that effectuate the bittersweet moments of our youth. The instrumentation and vocals come together like a diamond; all dark and rough, only to eventually shine through, flawlessly. The group’s music achieves a kind of controlled chaos, we all search to perfect, however ironic or unnatural it sounds, in our own lives.


And that, always, is human.

Follow Madi Silvers on Twitter @MadiSilvers.