review by Kyle Martin
photos by Bridget McQuillan
A change of concert venue can influence
everything: the music, the atmosphere,
the overall experience. Just ask Wild
Nothing, DIIV, Betsy Wells and
Friday's show scheduled for The
Sandbox moved to Sokol
Underground on short notice,
and as a result, I missed Sun
Settings. Walking into Sokol,
you'll see it offers no frills.
It’s grungy, dark, and the ceiling
feels very close. There are
inopportune columns in certain
places, but DIIV belonged on that
stage. Aesthetically speaking, Sokol
was merely a continuation of a
statement that the band was
DIIV's collective closet seemed to be the least conventional of the three. Bringing to mind a grunge look with baggy, linen clothing, the lead singer and guitarist, Cole Smith is a slight man. Standing no more than 5-foot-6, his clothing made his diminutive stature more pronounced. This sharply contrasted with the lower than expected tone of his voice and the ghostly character of the vocal filter.
The somewhat distracting presentation of DIIV forced me out of my expectations and challenged me to like them. It taunted me to challenge my preconceptions and isolate what I didn’t like about the band. I moved through the crowd to hear what the venue had to offer in the way of acoustics and enjoyed Colby Hewitt on the drums. Looking past Devin Perez’s Slash imitation get-up, he was providing some intricate bass work.
Wild Nothing is a self-aware band that embraces the aesthetic of their dream-pop/1980s revival lightness while supporting it with expert instrumentality. The beginning of their set demanded that the audience appreciate the pink fog that engulfed the band as it contrasted with the blue hue that each member was cast in. The colors synthesized with the music itself.
The lighting and effects were so comprehensive that the band had a good control of the experience, and the expertly performed music was augmented by the purposeful atmospheric show. This band would have done as well on a stage like the one at The Bourbon Theatre, but in those close quarters, they truly shone through their own fog.
Which brings me to Betsy Wells. Betsy Wells put on a great, albeit short set. Sporting the band’s trademark plastic horse, Jordan Smith played guitar with his mouth on the microphone, beside the drum he uses to accompany the effortless drumming of Collin Murray. Bill Sharp played the bass and mirrored the crowd’s joy at the clear vocals, driving beats and expert guitar that Matt Regner added as he fiddled like an audiophile with his pedal board and amp.
Betsy Wells has a significantly different sound than the other two bands. Much more versatile and accessible, they have songs that shift the focus from the dual drumming to the vocals, and walk the audience through mellow bass riffs to end in frenetic fuzz walls.
The contrast that they offered wasn’t stark, but it certainly lent the following performances by DIIV and Wild Nothing perspective. They have the diversity of tone, which sets them apart from louder bands, as with Snake Island! at Duffy’s Tavern two weeks prior. Their versatility lends them to almost any venue and complements most other bands.
For Betsy Wells, the Sokol was just another place that offered them a chance to showcase their abilities to rock under the benevolence of Sharp’s ubiquitous grin. Smile on, Sharp.
Kyle Martin is a Hear Nebraska contributor. He does not mess around. Reach him at email@example.com.