with Danger Ron & the Spins and Gabe Douglas
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Guitarists tend to be pretty a pretty solitary species, by nature. In their native habitats, these creatures prefer to be the only one of their kind in the pack, but often find themselves forming partnerships to increase their chances of survival. These moments of cooperation are hard-won, and fierce competition for resources often means that the stronger animal will pull rank as the alpha or "lead" guitarist, seizing the best material and leaving little more than scraps for the betas.
Nature is full of wonders, however. The rich ecosystem of Nashville has produced an anomaly: four guitarists sharing the spotlight equally. They defy all previous theories of rock 'n' roll anthropology, but that's why science rules. So does Diarrhea Planet.
It's difficult not to be skeptical that such partnership would work. After all, most groups featuring more than two guitarists tend to be overblown, sonically murky, or needlessly overstaffed. But something about the anthemic, wall-of-sound pop-punk made by Diarrhea Planet completely justifies its unique lineup. In a small room like the Entry, the sheer force of air being pushed by all those amps hits you like a runaway eighteen-wheeler. Each of the instruments somehow manages to sound distinct despite being sandwiched together, and the players themselves have a canny mastery of their roles in the group and how they fit together.
Evan Bird and Emmet Miller are the group's nominal leads, handling a slim majority of the band's endless well of melodic guitar lines, with Miller's shimmery finger-picking embellishing Bird's shreddy virtuosity. Brent Toler tends to favor low-end, riffy stuff and trades vocal and rhythm duties with frontman Jared Smith. What looks like a gimmick on paper is made abundantly necessary in the live setting, allowing Diarrhea Planet to achieve a level of sonic density that other groups might have to cheat with effects to achieve.
The real secret to the six-piece band's overwhelming cult success, frankly, is that these songs would work just fine in a standard rock group setup. Most are sub-two-minute explosions of personality, with winning sing-along hooks about universal topics like shitty jobs and cheap beer. You can scream along without knowing a single lyric and feel just as involved as a the sweaty diehards in the front row. Hitting their stride around song three or so with the perplexingly awesome "Enter the Great Gate Babyhead," DP milked their fan base by mugging hard through the song's massive outro, using all four voices to elicit the same response front the crowd.
Diarrhea Planet courts their cult status with a knowing wink, calling out superfans in the crowd to thank them for their support without ever seeming self-important. Before "Separation," Smith dedicated the song to a fan wearing the group's infamous "Diarrhea is the New Fuck" T-shirt, which could only be won as a reward for crowd-surfing during one of DP's SXSW shows. That dude, of course, was lifted almost immediately to the ceiling during the propulsive track off of Planet's 2013 album I'm Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, and he looked beyond stoked to be there. From there on out, kids were popping up often enough to merit a bouncer moving into position to help avoid crushing in the room's narrow confines.
Smith is a charming frontman that knows his group's strengths well. He declines the flashier vocals he's probably more than capable of, and bellows out simple but thoroughly inclusive chants. When he does to get a chance to shine on songs like relatively mellow, mid tempo "Kids," Smith's declamatory delivery is almost like a slacker Springsteen. He's also got moves to spare, as do all of the groups members. No guitar-hero cliche is too corny for these guys to bust out, and thank god for that. Smith and Toler can do the back-to-back hair metal pose with style, pretty much every member did the "my-guitar-is-a-machine-gun" move at one point, and Miller and Bird get a bonus for trying some show-band horn section steps. A personal favorite of these was Smith's Townshend-aping windmill followed by a Kiss-esque "I'm watching you" finger-point.
If this sounds ridiculous, don't worry, it most certainly is, but that's the whole point. Diarrhea Planet is an unapologetic celebration of the spectacle of rock 'n' roll. Their live show is so unironically epic that it borders on outright camp at points. Any group that can write a song called "Ghost with a Boner" and then transform it into their most enduring hit deserves a round of applause. The kids went so crazy for that one that the band had to repeatedly deflect screamed requests for it during the set, so by the time the anticipation for it was released, crazy stuff like two crowd-surfers colliding in mid-air happened.
The DP faithful in the crowd were such a strong force that the band didn't even bother to leave the stage for its encore -- instead tearing right into one final number that saw Miller catapult backward into the arms of his fans on the left side of the stage. As the song tumbled into a cacophonous, crash-out finish, all four guitarists joined together to create a hornet's nest of fuzz while drummer Casey Weissbuch thundered through his toms, making for a gloriously epic finish. Such is the pleasure of seeing Diarrhea Planet in their natural habitat.
The Opener: Local opener Danger Ron & the Spins have great hair, which can do a lot for you in situations like this one. Playing a surfy take on '90s slacker-rock with a few progressive elements thrown in, the band managed to be a solid warmup for DP's full-on guitar onslaught. Emmet Miller even complimented them during the headliner's set, describing Danger Ron accurately as "a band that sounds simultaneously like the feeling before and after you sneeze."
Critic's Bias: It was my first time seeing the group live, although I've enjoyed their recordings. The group really makes the most sense in person.
Random Notebook Dump: Apparently they've only been here during the wintertime previously. "It's about 80 degrees warmer than the last time we were here, last time I spit outside and it froze before it hit the ground."
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