Diarrhea Planet | Photo by John Vettese
I have seen the face of rock and roll and, yes, it’s called Diarrhea Planet
No, I get it, I totally get it. I used to think the same thing. “Diarrhea Planet? That’s a stupid band name. Why would I listen to them?” Really, I was once like you. But then I heard them. And then I saw them live. And wow.
It came up last fall, having a “What are you listening to these days?” conversation with my friend Mark. When he named the Nashville guitar-rock six-piece – which had a particularly buzzing 2014, thanks to the momentum behind their 2013 LP I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams – I recoiled a bit, and he was like “Well, have you ever listened? Dude. Get over the name, give them a chance.” Trusting his opinion, I tried them out on Spotify. This led to a marathon discography listening sesh, absorbing their raw, high-energy, head-banging 70s guitar-rock-and-freakin’-roll. Which led to more or less instant conversion.
Certainly, I’m not the first person to struggle with DP’s band name, and certainly I’m not the first music writer to dedicate any number of words over struggling with their band name. It’s a factor for sure, but when you see them perform – aside from the teeming room of riled up dudes and ladies chanting “DIARRHEA! DIARRHEA!” at the top of their lungs at the encore break (an amazing and surreal experience in itself) – their handle doesn’t come into play. Which brings us to Tuesday night’s show at Underground Arts.
Philly dudes Left & Right opened the show to a warm reception, mixing in a heavy amount of new songs with cuts from their 2014 Infinity Cat release Five Year Plan. They’re in the midst of a U.S. tour with their labelmates DP, and singer-guitarist Daniel Merchant tells me that once they’re home and have a few weeks off, they’re heading right back out with them again for some west coast dates. Clearly they don’t tire easily of DP, and you could spot most members of the band in the crowd watching their headlining set; bassist Andrew Abbott got onstage at one point to fervently scream along.
The best way to describe Diarrhea Planet’s entrance is a wall of sound: riffs on riffs, licks on licks, hair on hair. It was a frenzy. The best way to describe the crowd’s response to DP’s entrance: pure devotion, pure elation. The fans pushed to the front, packed it in and notched the temperature up about 15 degrees. The headbanging commenced immediately, and the mild breeze created by all the flinging hair brought the temperature down about 10 degrees. The best way to describe the overall vibe: Beavis and Butthead.
But wait, let’s not be dismissive. Their name may be ridiculous and they may have opened with a song called “Ghost With a Boner,” but don’t think for a second that these dudes are not serious musicians. They’re tight and tremendously talented players; Ian Bush is a colossus of a drummer, dueling frontmen / guitar leads Jordan Smith and Emmett Miller are ridiculously adept at shredding, the acrobatic bendy solos and tap-tap-tap trilling triplets. Smith in particular loves to work the crowd, jumping out overtop the front of the riser and leaning into the sea of outstretched arms reaching out for him as he plays, at one point locking into a prolonged head-to-head embrace with one hyperfan in the front row while still solo-ing away.
The band does the tongue-sticky-outy thing, and the silly rockstar posturing: doing splits, pointing to the back of the room, cupping their ears in an “I can’t hear you” pose, flexing their arms with macho bravado. It’s done for the most part in jest (I think), making fun of rock and roll tropes, but it achieves the same effect among the devotees as it would were they, say, Iron Maiden playing a stadium in 1984.
After Diarrhea Planet band ripped across its hour long set and returned for an encore, Smith announced that, since it had been a while since they’d played Philly, they were going to cover “the best fucking rock song of all time,” diving into the zaniest and most explosive take on The Who’s “Baba O’Reily” I’ve heard. There’s a 50 second video clip of it below; it only gives you a fraction of the idea of the energy in the room, and it doesn’t include Smith’s epic stage dive at the end. Stupid name? Okay, fine, I hear ya. But see this band live anyway.
Ghost With A Boner
Field of Dreams
Hammer of the Gods
Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)