Every once in a while, a band leaves you wondering a couple days after seeing them if your hearing might be permanantly damaged. Such has been the case in the days following Divine Fits’ sold-out show at the Bootleg Bar in Los Angeles. Perhaps I shouldn’t have stood right in front of the guitar amp. Perhaps I should have worn my earplugs. Either way, Divine Fits L.A. debut made impression beyond hearing damage, with the lingering effects serving as a reminder that the band members are looking to emerge from the shadows of their other projects and deliver something that stands on its own.
After a typically fun set from Abe Vigoda, one couldn’t help but notice that the band, which is comprised of Britt Daniel (Spoon), Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handome Furs), and Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks), didn’t set up their own equipment. Sure, it’s not that surprising that guys of this status would have guitar techs and such, but I just can’t remember being in a venue like the the Bootleg Bar and seeing the band not set up for themselves. But, regardless of the luxuries that being a successful musician provides, Divine Fits are starting off humbly enough. Their first shows took place at small venues in each member’s home town. Now, the band is setting up shop in L.A. for four shows at four of L.A.’s smallest (and funnest) venues. And, lining up the Bootleg for the first was perfect, especially considering that they opted to set up in the much smaller bar portion of the building (with a capacity of less than 200), rather than the larger theater room, which the band could have easily filled.
As for the performance, there was nothing not to like. The crowd, most vocally Britt fans, ate up every sincere smile that the band gave to them, and hung on every sound that came from the stage. The band, visibly having a blast, seemed to be pushing themselves to improve upon their previous performances, even noting after a blistering conclusion to “The Salton Sea” that it was the best version of the song that the band had performed yet. I’m not quite sure yet where critics will fall on the Divine Fits album, but as a live act, the songs work completely. Both Daniel and Boeckner have a natural ability at finding hooks that strike the listener as both familiar and fresh.
Boeckner was particularly engaged on this evening, performing “My Love Is Real” without an instrument, ending up laying down on the stage as fans reached out their arms. Plus, Boeckner gets to sing some of the band’s strongest songs, “Baby Get Worse” and “Civillian Stripes.” Daniel was slightly more reserved, but not disengaged, more like he was focusing on the details that only he would notice. And, when the two vocalists worked together, the partnership made perfect sense. With dual vocalists as distinct as these two, they come together in a pretty great harmony when the songs call for it, and they even change instruments throughout the set, giving each the opportunity to show off their guitar skills.
For the conclusion of the set, Boeckner took lead for a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky,” a song that is suddenly popular with The Gaslight Anthem releasing a version of the same song a couple months back. Closer, “Shivers” was perfectly chosen, as it is possibly the band’s most emotional and unexpected song. There was no encore as the band had played their entire album, and at this type of venue, there was no need for one. A very small crowd was introduced to a new band that is about as talented as they come, and whose potential is really up to the principals. While Britt Daniel still has Spoon, amongst other projects, Boeckner’s bands are either possibly broken up (Wolf Parade) or definitely broken up (Handsome Furs). Regardless of how far they intend to take Divine Fits, for at least the next few months, audiences will be in for a treat.
Flaggin a Ride
Baby Get Worse
What Gets You Alone
Would That Not Be Nice
My Love Is Real
The Salton Sea
Doom Town (Wipers cover)
Like Ice Cream
For Your Heart
You Got Lucky (Tom Petty cover)