Diemonds @ Toothy Moose
By: Alison Lang
Posted: November 6, 2009 – Halifax, Canada
We ducked out for cigarettes halfway through Carpenter's set of energetic "farm core" (which as I understand it simply means "sounding like pretty much every other post-hardcore band" with a healthy dose of Mellencamp love and lyrics that champion the plight of independent farmers). This was a mistake, as the bouncer was making two separate lines: one for people who had not yet paid cover at the bar, and a line for those who had already been stamped and had merely stepped outside for a moment. I decided to be a douchebag and pull the "I have a media pass" card only to be told the venue was at capacity. (It was not.) We waited and waited. As the minutes stretched to 15 and then 20, people started pushing up and begging their cause. The bouncer began yelling. People around me began swearing. It was unpleasant. At about this time, a rumor began floating around that the bar was forcing the night's headliner, Diemonds, to go on a half hour early so the bar could begin playing dance, country and other atrocities for the weekend regulars by 2am. Aghast, I shoved my way to the front and managed to get in just as the band launched into their first song.
Diemonds crawled out of the depths of Toronto's sleaze rock scene to join us on this rainy evening, and I liked them. I think if you don't like Diemonds, you probably hate fun. Yes, purists, they are not making earth-shatteringly new music—they dutifully nod to RATT, Motley Crue, Sabbath, Aerosmith etc. in both sound and attire—but that's why it's great. Half their set was covers, and no one was complaining—it's pretty hard to be cynical when you're headbanging in front of a beautiful woman jumping up and down in high heels and two-tone tights screaming the chorus to "Lick it Up".
Although I thought vocalist Priya Panda could be digging deeper for her inner Wendy O. Williams and let it rip a bit harder, she's undeniably stunning and has the sex appeal, confidence and presence of a much more seasoned performer. Also, the woman was wearing the most killer stiletto leather boots I'd ever seen. Fuck the sexy band; give me those shoes. But the rest of Diemonds are as solid a rock band as they come. As the matchstick-thin, mulleted, mustachio'ed CeCe Diemond tore his way through his eight billionth guitar solo, riffing casually at the front of the stage, I saw a cluster of women staring up at him with glimmering eyes. He's pure sex—and this comes from a woman who fucking hates mullets, ironic or otherwise. The following night, the band played another pay-what-you-can gig at the Seahorse to raise money for a broken-down tour van, and the band sans Priya launched into the BEST cover of the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer". We left both nights convinced the boys could do basically anything. Oh Diemonds, I wish I lived in Toronto so I could see you on the regular.
And thus ends another year's Pop Explosion. This will be my last time covering this fine event. I am old and tired and this is a game for a younger, more eager beaver. On a more serious note, I wanted to thank the organizers and performers at the festival who conducted themselves professionally and graciously, proving you can have fun and pull something off efficiently all at once. To rude, power-wielding bouncers and lousy venues: congrats. I hope you got your rocks off and made some money. I think you're gross.
A friend who plays guitar in an out-of-town band that was playing the festival was staying at my house during the festival. After Diemonds, we sat in my kitchen and talked about the pitfalls, from his touring perspective and from mine as a common music hack. We agreed the festival had changed considerably since our first experiences—there's more corporate sponsors now. There's more officiousness. There's less spontaneity (although this year's amazing after-parties at the Rock Garden and the Seahorse benefit for Diemonds shows that organizers still know how to put a few things on at a moment's notice.) There were more "magazine bands," as my friend would say. The two biggest shows were DJs. My friend said overall, the Pop Explosion was starting to remind him of the notoriously schmoozy, head-achy scene of Canadian Music Week and NXNE in Toronto. Maybe it just means we're getting old and cantankerous, and the climate of music is changing. I did wonder, though: what does the festival do for musicians, really? What does it give back? Is it all worth the headaches, bad bouncer vibes and swaths of scenesters looking to show their faces and ignore the music? I don't know. I'm just trying to remember the good stuff: Pack A.D. laughing and telling inside jokes, Priya pouring Jager into the mouths of audience members from a cowbell, sold-out crowds for local bands Dog Day and The Got to Get Got, the bruises on my friend's legs from Japanther, Martin Cesar's yellow shirt and Cadence Weapon's fierce poetry. I don't know what these things mean individually, but the sum of their parts makes this past week worth it—somehow.
Video: "Highway" by Diemonds