TEXT/PHOTOS BY JENNIFER KELLY
Guitar bands may be dead, but no one bothered to tell Diarrhea Planet, the Nashville pop-garage-metal sextet that brings a front line of four of them to Northampton’s Iron Horse venue, plus a rack of pedal boards. Why on earth would you need four guitars? Well, one of them is yellow with a sunburst mandala painted onto it and filtered through a fuzz pedal for a spirally 1960s sound; that’s Emmett Miller’s ax. Set aside one for finger-tapping, all hands on the neck solos that Evan Bird favors; he sounds like Eddie Van Halen in his prime. Save another for sidewinding licks and massive metal riffs; that’s Brent Toler’s guitar. And then, clearly, you need to have an orange sparkly one for front man Jordan Smith. And hell, why not put them all together, preferably in drop-D tuning, for an all-out wall of guitar sound that is a little goofball, without being the slightest bit ironic.
Diarrhea Planet opened with “Lite Dream,” which like all their songs is an oddly tuneful mash-up of hardcore and hair metal, but unlike some of the others, contains a sparkly, guitar-shreddy coda that sounds a lot like “Baba O’Reilly.” The show is totally kinetic, with all four guitarists lunging in and out, striking rock star poses, turning instruments upright for finger-blurring solos. It would be easier to identify songs if the vocals were turned higher (or if I’d prepped better), but there’s anyway something exhilarating about the sheer bludgeoning rush of sound, the toe-bouncing animation, the high slap-back altered harmonies that Smith and Emmett Miller sing into the same mic. The mix of metal and punk shifts from song to song. “Separation” is all big riffs and bluster. A newer song about crowd-surfing (the crowd, unfortunately, a bit sparse for this tonight) is Ramones-ish, a candy melody on speed, the band hopping up and down until the floor shakes.
This is a guy’s band, and the biggest fans upfront are big beefy guys with violent, head thrashing dance moves. One has brought a pineapple to the show, not sure why, but it sits on a stack of amps. Another two, together at the very edge of the stage, ask for “Skeleton Head” at pretty much every break. At first Smith says, “No, that’s a winter song,” but by set’s end, that’s what they play, as thick and dirge-ish and Sabbath-y as anything all night.
I should mention one other thing. When I get to the venue, there’s no guest list, and I talk my way in with an email from the publicist. That happens a lot. But what has never, ever happened before, is that Smith stops the set mid-way through, and says that he is sincerely sorry to have forgotten to deliver the guest list, he was calling his dad and forgot, and if there was a young lady in the audience who had gotten stopped at the door, he hoped it wasn’t too traumatic. (Um yeah, he called me a “young lady,” bonus points.)
My takeaway is that this is an ass-kicking band that gives everything it has every night on the road — and that they are also extremely nice guys. So if you get a chance, support this. Forget the silly name (which was, hard to admit now, the main reason I decided to go), and see Diarrhea Planet. You’ll be glad you did.
By the way, there were two other bands on the bill, both local, and both pretty good. Party Wolf (above) resurrected every classic rock guitar band of my misspent youth at one point or another, but the main reference points seemed to be Sabbath and AC/DC. The focal point for this band is its massively talented drummer and guitar playing singer – who often turns to face the kit and egg his bandmate on to ever more frenetic fills and bashes. The second was Walking Ghost (below), led by a spectral young man with blond hair over his eyes, and backed by an all-woman band; their sound was phosphorescent rockabilly and early rock, with a pretty strong whiff of the Cramps and Kid Congo.