By Max Miller – Staff Writer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Their name may be absurd, but Nashville rock band Diarrhea Planet’s music — urgent and often searing — reflects the affliction.
Armed with four guitarists, each aiming to outdo one another with a healthy dose of Van Halen-esque shredding, the band played a birthday show for Terrence Richard and Philip Wheeler of Junior Astronomers at the Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte last Friday.
Diarrhea Planet has been riding the wave of attention following the Aug. 20 release of their sophomore full-length I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams on JEFF the Brotherhood’s Infinity Cat Recordings label. The album finds the group expanding their usual slap-dash songcraft to include more room for harmonized guitar licks, gang shouts and lyrics focusing on heartbreak, youthful ennui and the 1981 cult classic film Heavy Metal.
The free show also featured performances from Junior Astronomers themselves as well as Old Soles and Little Bull Lee, all Charlotte acts.
Old Soles were the first band to kick out the jams. Perhaps it was their earnestness or perhaps it was their beards, but when they cut loose with multiple-guitar instrumental freak-outs, they verged on Built To Spill territory. But as the group’s jam band inclinations took hold throughout the set, things began smelling a little more Phish-y. Some members wore polo shirts, and one even donned a frat tee, which, combined with the exuberant young audience who acted clearly excited to see the band, implied they might be a local favorite around UNC Charlotte.
Little Bull Lee followed with a drawn-out set that sent most of the crowd running for the bar to lap up the last of the free pumpkin beer provided for the festivities. The dedicated few who remained were treated to the group’s befuddling sound, which they characterize on their Bandcamp site as “rock alternative folk grunge indie.” If that mish-mash of genres sounds non-specific and even unpalatable, it’s because it was. Their bassist was dressed as a banana and their vocalist/keyboardist occasionally recalled LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy at his most anthemic, but otherwise their performance wound up unmemorable and overly-long.
Fortunately, Diarrhea Planet was next on the bill.
Tremont Music Hall has a decent-sized stage, but with the aforementioned four guitarists — Jordan Smith, Brent Toler, Evan Bird and Emmett Miller — sharing that space with bassist Mike Boyle and drummer Casey Weissbuch, the band looked a little cramped. But what might be a setback for some only led to the members interacting with one another more as they posed and flung guitars around with aplomb in an eternal struggle to see who could best emulate the most arrogant of ‘80s glam rockers.
Possibly due to the length of Little Bull Lee’s set, the boys seemed to cut things a bit short to allow plenty of time for Junior Astronomers — after all, it was their birthday bash. As such, the band tore through some of their more concise numbers like “Separations,” “Ice Age” and “Raft Nasty” with tempos pushed to the breaking point. The rushed feel pumped energy into the audience, who shouted along with the oft-indecipherable lyrics and even incited a short-lived mosh pit.
Close to the set’s end, the band performed “Ghost With a Boner,” a fan-favorite track from their Aloha EP. Diarrhea Planet lore holds that the band often jams this song out into a neverending cascade of guitar solos and good vibes, but such an extension did not appear that night. But the goofy song, replete with lyrics like “drinking my beer/drinking my beer and getting drunk” repeated ad nauseum, appealed to the audience’s baser brew-swilling instincts all the same.
Apart from the abridged setlist, the only other lackluster aspect of the group’s performance was their rhythm section. Boyle and Weissbuch, though both entirely apt, were entirely overshadowed by the powerhouse riffage of the four guitarists. The band’s stadium-anthems-via-basements aesthetic would be better realized if these two could break free and assert their roles more strongly. Diarrhea Planet could use their own John Entwistle and Keith Moon, their own John Paul Jones and John Bonham to blow minds from all angles. Or maybe the stage was merely too small for them to enter the fray.
The bottom line remains that Diarrhea Planet must consistently fire on all cylinders to remain relevant as a rock band in today’s musical climes. They may be the most fun band anyone could hope to see live at the moment, but their brainless party jams might falter with time, especially when bands like Arcade Fire and Sigur Rós continue to push the envelope to remain in the limelight, and newer, more straightforward rockers like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees diversify their approaches to capture listeners’ attention.
And yet, when Diarrhea Planet live for the moment, that moment feels great — and loud. There need to be more moments like that. Sometimes, the world needs a bad case of Diarrhea Planet.