Saturday, March 12, 2011

Diamond Rings, PS I Love You and Noddy at the Vera Project

I ended up taking over steering at the Diamond Rings show at the Vera Project for Sam, who had originally signed up for it. I was at the Vera for a meeting anyway, so once the meeting wound down I was able to take over and "steer" the kids and see an interesting show. One of the great things about being open to volunteering at the Vera when they need a hand is that I get to see all kinds of bands that I wouldn't normally have gone to see. That's not always a great blessing, but it has certainly broadened my horizons.

Diamond Rings was described as a "glam rock/pop" act when I read about it, and the video I checked out had the singer and 4 other kids wandering around the streets (somewhere in Ontario, I suspect) dancing to the music while the singer lip synched. The singer had a kind of rainbow eye makeup thing going on and a dyed blond mohawkish sort of haircut.

When I was a kid back in the 70s and 80s glam rock was a pretty huge influence; even fairly loud guitar oriented bands like Rat, Poison, Def Leopard, and Bon Jovi all spent a fair amount of time on their makeup, hair and appearance. While I enjoyed some of the songs, I was drifting towards a slightly more hardcore sound and I tended to sneer a little about the bands that spent so much time on their image. I preferred the energy and raw power of a good punk show, or the heavy metal sounds of less "glam" bands like Black Sabath and Led Zeppelin. When I look back now the distinction seems pretty silly, since the heavy metal bands put time and efrfort into their clothes and hair too, they just consciously went for a less pretty look, and the punk bands for all of their "non-conformist" claims mostly went for a small set of similar looks: military surplus, ripped jeans with safety pins and so on. It was an anti-uniform uniform, but it was still a uniform.

Since then I've gotten over the fixation on looks and I now spend more time listening to the music and the lyrics, that's what speaks to me (if anything does). Being a typical male I'm still a sucker for attractive women, some things never change, but the makeup and clothes don't figure as prominently to me.

Listening to the one song by Diamond Rings that I checked out on YouTube I was struck by the vocals: the singer had a low voice and an interesting approach, and the music was bouncy and fun too.

So here I was checking out the show. The attendance was fairly light, with a small crowd for the first band, Noddy. When I went into the show room, the 20 or so people who were watching and listening were mostly sitting down in the chairs at the outer edge of the venue, which is odd and mostly negative - the band gets zero energy from the crowd when that happens. It did let me get right up close to take pictures, though.
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Noddy was interesting, if a bit tech heavy for my tastes. Two of the three members were playing synthesizers and triggering sequencers and drum machines, so they tended to be rooted to their equipment and either almost hiding behind it or facing sudeways; both of which tend to create an emotional distance which makes the performance a little less urgent and engaging. The music sounded pretty good, though.

The lead vocalist was more energetic, and one of the keyboard players at least was moving around and putting on a bit of a show. I missed having a live drummer, the lack of a real performer tends to limit the options for dynamic interplay between the performers and freeze the beats to a metronomic exact timing - not always a bad thing, but it does limit artistic options to some degree.

Mildly lousy camera work, par for the course from me. I'm kind of amused by my criticism of their artistic efforts, when mine as demonstrated in the video suck much worse. They moved enough and put out enough energy to get the audience to stand up and move closer, so the performance was successful on most levels. Not bad for an opening act.

Next up was PS I Love You, kind of the anti-glam rock approach.
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The quitarist had long hair that at first fell down and almost merged with his reddish beard, giving his face a kind of wall of hair appearance which was amusing. He also could really kick out some interesting riffs, and I enjoyed the live drummer.

In the video above you can see him using his right leg on some equipment, on looking closer I realized he was using bass pedals - not quite sure what the correct term for that is, but it allowed him to get a more full sound by including a bass line underneath the music which I think was a smart artistic choice. Two piece bands often end up with a kind of top heavy sound, and the bass pedal avoided that.

PS I Love You brought Diamond Rings up for the last song or two of their set, including one song that they said they wrote together, so it's apparent these guys know each other (I believe they're both from Ontario, Canada). The visual contrast was somewhat interesting, the big hairy dude shredding on the guitar and the lean blond madeup dude singing along - nice final bit and a good choice to end the set.

It also set us up well for the transition to Diamond Rings.
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In this photo her's playing guitar, but he spent more time playing synthesizer. I just like the visual of the guitar better.

He used a drum machine and sequencers, playing keys or guitar some while he sang, sometimes just singing along to the sequenced tunes from his laptop. Once again not my favorite approach, I like the dynamics of a group, the interplay of the drums and bass in real time and so on, but he won me and the crowd over with his dancing and performance. He has aenough charisma to pull it off and keep us interested.

The way he opened up the show, facing away from us while the sequenced music played, pumping his fist to the beat and so on worked quite well.

When I was younger I would not have appreciated this much, but that says more about me and my biases than it does about Diamond Rings. In an interesting way it somehow closed the distance between us and him. It was like we were all listening to the same music, and he was grooving and moving to the beat - we wished we were that interesting to watch, and that confident. Facing away from us he ended up facing in the same direction we were facing, at least at first. Effortlessly throwing in one hand keyboard riffs, singing in that low voice, the engaging motions, he was definitely putting on quite a show.

He also played the guitar for a bit:

Working the hair, busting the moves, singing the songs he'd written, playing multiple instruments - the guy's got talent, and he had the audience getting into it too. He definitely won me over and I enjoyed the show. An excellent way to spend a rainy and windy Thursday night, and I'm glad I got a bit out of my comfort zone to check it out.

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