December 8, 2010

North of Northwest Show Review: Diamond Rings at Vera

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Diamond Rings ::: photo by Brittney Bush Bollay

Holding a dance-off in Seattle seems akin to holding a bikini contest in Saudi Arabia. Famously too cool for our own good, we stand cross-armed and stationary through the most kinetic of shows, stubbornly refusing to reflect performers’ energy back at them. Toronto musician John O’Regan, however, who performs under the name Diamond Rings, might just have found our secret weakness. During his recent performance at the Vera Project, he announced that Portland had produced some of the best booty-shaking he’d seen all tour, and challenged the audience to best them. Seattle, it turns out, will do anything to prove we’re better than Portland – or at least to hold them to a tie.

If we were going to cut loose to any musician, Diamond Rings should be the one. His lo-fi dance pop is infectious, and his dance moves, which are cool primarily because they’re so un-self-conscious, could serve as both inspiration and moral lesson to us all. During the course of his far-too-short set, O’Regan fist-pumped, headbanged, and high-kicked, all the while holding down duties on guitar, vocal, and keys. His moves aren’t loaded with rock-and-roll swagger, however; his demeanor and his sweetly delighted smile made it clear that O’Regan enjoyed and was grateful for every moment on stage.

For an encore, O’Regan played a stripped-down version of album track “Give It Up,” the simplicity of the instrumentation lending emphasis to the lyrics, and O’Regan’s baritone adding extra chill to an already haunting song: “Wrap your breath round my own neck / be the hangman in my moon.”

Opening acts Quixote Radio and Slashed Tires tried gamely to engage a small, mostly adult crowd, to mixed success. Radio, a last-second replacement for the original opener, showed real presence in a challenging situation, and gave one hundred percent to his performance even in the face of a stubbornly indifferent audience. Second act Slashed Tires offered an awkward mix of performance and performance art, delivering wildly meandering dialogue between songs of layered noise and guitar noodling. In his best moments he drew upon classic surf and soul moods; in these moments, he found some heart and offered the audience a connection point.

 

Diamond Rings ::: photo by Brittney Bush Bollay

 

Quixote Radio ::: photo by Brittney Bush Bollay

 

Slashed Tires ::: photo by Brittney Bush Bollay

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