If Dick Diver playing in Melbourne on election eve wasn’t on purpose, it was at least a pretty fitting coincidence. A warm Melbourne evening saw the HiFi slowly fill to capacity as punters rippled in to see the band’s last show of the year – who, in similar fashion to each other, were a largely denim-jacketed, band-shirted, and seemingly at-ease bunch of folk.
With the exception of the hammond-mangling garage quartet Hierophants, none of the support acts quite fitted the ilk of the headliners. By this, I mean that between the first and last acts there was not a single guitar to be seen. Tasmanian duo Native Cats nonetheless managed to impress, albeit strangely, in their simple get-up of a sampler, a bass, and a frontman in a floral dress – producing every dauntingly avid beat in tight formation. One would have been forgiven for confusing the frontman’s sampler, on which he fiddled for a good portion of their set, with a Nintendo DS. He played quizzically with the foreign device as the basslines chugged along; a backbone for the melange of industrial sounds coming from the man in a dress holding a Nintendo.
Native Cats’ successors shared some similar ground. Again, the setup was minimal. Flanked by a synth player on either side, Holy Balm’s curly haired frontwoman bounced around the stage with mic in hand like the previous front person, this time manipulating a somewhat more normal looking sampler from time to time. The sparsely decorated trio (black and white seemed their clothing choice on the night) churned out electronic pop songs which exuded Prince-like mantras about fashion, money, and whatever else could be linked to the cosmopolitan 80s. The front woman was charismatic, the beats were tight, and whilst perhaps not outstanding, Holy Balm provided an innocent and enjoyable warm up to the band about to play.
Nobody seemed to mind the rash transition from 80s-inspired synth pop to Dick Diver’s acoustic rendition of the warmly lazy pop song ‘Lime Green Shirt’, which they opened with as drummer Steph Hughes stood alone at the mic. The four-piece began their set with fan favourites; playing tracks from their 2013 album Calendar Days in sweet succession. The crowd were gifted with airtight versions of ‘Alice’, ‘Calendar Days’ and ‘Water Damage’, whose renditions rung extremely true to their form on tape, but then, this is how the twangy, dazy, and Triffids-esque songs were always meant to be played on stage.
After the first song, Hughes returned to her spot behind the drum kit. Bassist Al Montford stood at the center-front of the stage, with his The Clean tour t-shirt surprising basically nobody in attendance (note: he has a local personality cult). Rupert Edwards was to the left, and Al McKay to the right. They both yielded guitars which had the effect of welding seamlessly with the rhythm section – a testament to the band’s consistency, longevity, and thus, undying popularity in their home city.
Edwards apologized, obviously needlessly, as they played a selection of songs from their forthcoming album. Along with the already-released ‘New Name Blues’, the new tracks seemed similar to those previous, but with a greater sense of weight and sparsity. That is to say that the guitar strums came less frequently and yet the songs sounded more full. Still, the tracks retained the band’s usual lazed sensibilities and nonchalant lyricism; with references to everyday happenings, Australian commercial TV and little political swipes running rife throughout – interrupted only by Montfort yelling something about the ABC and Lateline (whatever it was, we all agreed).
The band expanded for the last few songs, adding a two-man synth section and a horn section of similar constituent. Also indicative of a fuller sound on their new album, the obviously-well-rehearsed formation delivered an adjusted version of Dick Diver – a version that while just a little bit silly, put a bit more punch into an already airtight set.
The new songs were as well received as the old, and the performance had gone outstandingly. But then, just when ‘even better’ seemed pretty far-off, Hughes emerged from behind the drums to grab her mint-green guitar, indicating to fans that the last song would be a peak of the set. If Dick Diver were going to have one ‘quintessential’ song, it would be the spirited last track from their first album – a track underlined by a consistent and simple rock’n’roll bass riff with spoken lyrics that basically detail going to something similar to the March in March. That song was ‘Head Back’. Montford shon on vocals, the audience yelled along to the chorus’ consumptive chant, and a warm applause ensued. Having seen Dick Diver on numerous occasions throughout 2014, I can assure you that they ended the year with a show that was well and truly a bang.