“Two players. Two sides. One is light; one is dark.”
It’s a mysterious phrase uttered by John Locke on Lost as he describes the game of backgammon. But it could also pertain to Divine Fits, a meeting of the minds between Britt Daniel of Spoon and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs.
Continuing a calculated takeover of Los Angeles that brought them to numerous local venues within the past month, the indie gods stood in contrast beside each other on the Echo stage. Boeckner was clad in all black, from his shaggy hair to combative boots. Daniel was a vision in white, looking more like a painter arriving to transform a house, rather than to put on a rock show.
Betraying clichés of darkness and light, Boeckner seemed the more animated, happy character, thrusting his guitar side to side and smiling through songs about fizzled relationships. Daniel did grin, but it was a devilish smirk that morphed into a grimace when the stage lighting dissatisfied him. He nudged a floor lamp out of the way so the shadows would creep over him. He took solace in snuggling up to his bass amp and keeping a low profile in the swirling fog effects.
The rainbow-prism lights really illuminated the centrifugal force of Divine Fits. Surely, Spoon and Wolf Parade have muscle and bite in their own respects, but the melding of the front men’s talents is unstoppable. Accompanied by drummer Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks, Boeckner and Daniel are musketeers of the music world: All for one, and one for all. The broken-heart warriors even shared a home for a while as Boeckner transitioned into a lone wolf (pardon the pun) after his split from wife and former Furs band mate Alexei Perry.
It was from this tumult that Divine Fits was born. The fellows had been acquainted since 2009 through various gigs, and their common admiration for beat-driven rock led to the creation of this walloping supergroup. The debut record, A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge), is a rubbery, woozy mash-up of Daniel’s pulsing snippiness and Boeckner’s reverb-drenched longing. That undeniable cool just oozes onstage. (It looked as though synth guardian Alex Fischel did enough sweating for the three other guys combined.) The men traded instruments effortlessly and tag-teamed one another on vocals.
Not so streamlined was the opening act, a boorish Elvis/Nick Cave amalgam named Daughn Gibson. His songs were spooky, Southern gothic things about white vans and praying in hospitals. Unsettling samples of proselytizing grannies screened over his guttural croon, as a quiet Mary Lattimore sat at her keys, plunking out pre-recorded guitars over ghostly pianos.
When the audience failed to warm to his banter about “Unsolved Mysteries”, “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Cops”, he accused the lot of being flaccid.
“This next track is about making love – which is apparently something none of you like to do,” he said with a Presley snarl. What love had to do with Gibson’s morbid set isn’t clear. What was clear was that the crowd wasn’t buying whatever moonshine he was selling.
The fans were drunk on Divine Fits’ energy, though. One tall, vociferous gent near the front taunted the other concertgoers when they weren’t dancing enough. Another faction of people let their Cyber-shots and iPhones record the whole shebang as they stood hypnotized by their heroes. The band’s fervor was highest during a transcendent cover of Rowland Howard’s “Shivers”. What had generally been a poppy affair soon changed into an epic maelstrom too big for the miniscule Echo.
Daniel apologized for the somewhat brief performance, but it was a more-than-ample gift to the early adapters of his new group. It was a contained, brilliant explosion detonated by two of the most visionary scientists of the indie persuasion.