Shoegaze is enjoying a renaissance of late for both the original bands from the 1990s and those that they have inspired to follow. Two of the latter, Brooklyn’s DIIV and Hull’s BDRMM offered a mouth-watering line up in Manchester and Geoff Shaw was there for Resound Online.

Visits by DIIV (pronounced Dive) from across the pond are always more than welcome and this whistle-stop nine-date visit to Europe with UK shows in London and Manchester are no exception. Formed back in 2011 initially as a solo project for Zachary Cole Smith, the band has evolved over the course of three albums—with a fourth Frog in Boiling Water coming in May—into a formidable prospect both in studio and live, earning respect and kudos from critics and fans alike.

It’s from the ranks for fans that support act BDRMM (pronounced Bedroom) have undoubtedly stepped. Their first album, 2020’s Bedroom (also started as a solo project for Ryan Smith just in case another parallel was needed) showed more than a nod to their American counterparts whilst putting their own unique perspective into the mix. A move to Mogwai’s Rock Action Records for last year’s second album “I Don’t Know” demonstrated a much wider palette of sounds and influences being explored. But whilst the first two tracks of the set are taken from this second album, the core of the set is taken from the debut with “Is That What You Wanted To Hear?” and “Push/Pull”, particular stand outs gaining an intensity in the live forum. By the time the sonic thunderbastard that is ”Port” closes their set, it’s safe to say a sold out New Century is warmed up. 

Taking to the stage after a projected spoken word introduction concluding that the evening would “change our lives”, DIIV are from the off not here to mess about. Practically hidden amidst low lit swathes of red lighting and bursts of dry ice, opener “Like Before You Were Born” from 2019 third album Deceiver soars and crashes before the seeming lightness and entwined chimed guitars of Smith and co-guitarist Andrew Bailey on “Under The Sun” pick up the mantle – deceptive for a song written by Smith amidst an addiction battle that nearly consumed him and in turn the band back in 2016. Thankfully, he beat his demons and DIIV in 2024 are clearly in a better and healthier place and with a new album on the way, “Brown Paper Bag” is the first of five songs from it given an airing. It could be argued that having a third of the set filled with new material is foolhardy, but DIIV have always operated on their own terms in pushing the envelope. Each of the released albums has explored new territory whilst remaining distinctly DIIV and the shoegaze tag is a loose one with elements of post-rock and grunge seeping in to wrap around the often hushed vocals of Smith. With such a rich back catalogue, it’s arguably a shame that “Air Conditioning”, with its lopping bass line of Colin Caulfield to the fore in its beauty, is the only cut from debut “Oshin” to make the main set. The size of venue offered by New Century is a fine choice, large enough for the grandeur and widescreen sonics of the set to be appreciated along with the accompanying projections, but still intimate enough to pick up on how carefully crafted each song is. There is no waste in a DIIV song, with each part from Smith, Bailey, Caulfield and drummer Ben Newman serving the greater whole. And if it doesn’t do that, it won’t be there to be found. By the time the one-two closers of “Blankenship” and “Acheron” are concluded to a now fluidly moving moshpit, it’s clear that this is a band at the peak of their powers.

There is of course an encore, the audience being teased by projection that they had taken the journey – one last chance to change their lives. A three song mix of the recent (“Horsehead”), very new (“Raining on Your Pillow”) and old (“Doused” from “Oshin”) more than deliver and it’s a rewarded (and life changed) crowd that disperse into the Manchester rain. Lets hope DIIV are back here again soon – you’d be a fool to miss them.

Words and pictures: Geoff Shaw
X: @gshawisme
IG: @gsmusicphotos