It’s often said that everyone who was at The Sex Pistols’ 1976 Manchester Free Trade Hall gig subsequently formed a band; in Bangkok, it seems, the same can be said of Mogwai’s 2011 gig at the city’s Moonstar Studio. These days the Thai capital is bursting at the seams with young, noisy post-rock/shoegaze acts, the best of whom have been assembled tonight to turn Californian dreampoppers’ DIIV’s debut Bangkok show into a mini-festival, complete with insanely hot weather (35C outside the venue, even hotter inside), food trucks and almost criminally cheap beer (£1.50 a pop – read it & weep UK gig-goers!)
I arrive in time to miss the first two bands, wolf down a fairly mediocre ‘gourmet’ burger, establish that I am comfortably the oldest person in the place (though thankfully half an hour later someone a full decade older than me shows up and I almost want to shake his hand and buy him a pint), and catch Cloud Behind. Their name may sound like a fart euphemism but they’re more than just hot air, seamlessly switching from Mogwai-inspired post-rock to pounding krautrock and winning over the audience with their nerdy charm, particularly when the lead singer tells us he’s not feeling very well. Awww.
With their punishing volume, howling feedback and peak MBV (ie Isn’t Anything)/Psychocandy obsession, local heroes Hariguem Zaboy are Bangok’s own A Place to Bury Strangers and they are fucking brilliant. Every song seems to be an attempt to see how much damage they can do to their own instruments and the audience’s hearing, and two songs in my wife (who, after all, lives with me and is thus no stranger to noise, or indeed to other unpleasantries which we need not dwell on here) is complaining that her ears hurt. In my book this is a good thing, as is the band’s knack for coaxing catchy tunes out of the maelstrom for a few seconds before smothering them with more noise. It all ends with the drummer – Animal from the Muppets’ Thai cousin – battering the shit out of his cymbal with the singer’s guitar, and with me becoming Hariguem’s oldest fan. A great band who deserve to be known beyond Bangkok’s indie scene.
DIIV singer Zachary Cole Smith begins their gig by pointing at one of the massive, jet engine-sized fans next to the stage and saying “We’d like to say hello to our biggest fan” which, as a fellow punster, gets me on his side immediately. Given the band’s troubled history you’d be forgiven for expecting a shitshow tonight but in fact it’s anything but – they’re as tight as the proverbial gnat’s chuff, despite the fact that their new temporary drummer is playing with them for the first time.
DIIV are a band who, for the most part, do one thing – setting down a throbbing krautrock rhythm section and then firing off various early 90s references (shoegaze, John Squire, Nirvana) to consistently beguiling effect. And with Smith now clean and drug-free they’re on sparkling form tonight, bouncing around the stage and clearly loving every minute of it. An early double-whammy of ‘How Long Have You Known?’ and ‘Dopamine’ gets the crowd onside too and from then on DIIV can do no wrong.
They have the aesthetic rigour and musicianship of a metal band (a compliment), with Smith & Andrew Bailey instinctively and telepathically weaving intricate, gorgeous guitar lines in & out of each other and bassist Devin Perez (who indeed looks like a refugee from a 1990s LA hair metal band) laying down throbbing, gut shaking basslines; and watching them you see a band now pushing at the constraints of their back catalogue and clearly planning greater things – tonight’s version of ‘Doused’, with new drummer Tommy adding saxophone squawks, suggests that they might go anywhere from here. Bangkok goes mad for them, and well it might.