Concert Review

Divine Fits @ Beerland, Austin 8/1/12

Of the Austin club Beerland’s many redeeming features, the restroom decor stands supreme. Instead of the usual wallpaper of stickers for never-were bands, hundreds of tags and scrawls (“proof of no god: shit and teeth”) surround vintage liquor ads.

Divine Fits, of course, have a leg up on the sticker set. They’ve got an album in the can and one 7″ in the marketplace, but the pedigree (New Bomb Turks, Papa, Spoon, Handsome Furs, Wolf Parade) would ensure a packed house anywhere, let alone in Britt Daniel’s hometown. The quartet assembled in Beerland last night for an intimate second show — their first without subterfuge — and their heritage served them well: The packed club got 12 tight rock ‘n’ roll tunes, knocked out without fuss.

Before all that was a set from The Young, a hometown act whose Matador platter Dub Egg saw release two months ago. Singer/lead guitarist Hans Zimmerman’s raspy tenor seemed pitched further down in the live setting, but the quartet’s gilded punk-psych compositions (complete with pick slides!) found a receptive audience.

“We’re still pretty happy that we can play these songs,” joked Fits singer/guitarist Dan Boeckner midway through his band’s set, but the truncated running time was the only indicator of a studio-rehearsed band finding a live footing. Swapping four- and six-strings with pros’ precision, Boeckner and Daniel got equal cracks at the setlist. The sound owed much to Spoon’s constricted rock classicism, with Alex Fischel’s keys (Creedence-swampy on opener “Flaggin’ A Ride,” staccato elsewhere) zigging where Boeckner’s synthwork in Handsome Furs might’ve zagged.

As the last 40 years or so ought to have taught us, the supergroup is usually a misnomer: Instead of acting as a force multiplier, the aggregation of boldface names tends to create a safe space for everyone involved. Belying the epileptic origin of their name, Divine Fits hew to the controlled movement. Only the quease-making bass line of “My Love Is Real” threatened any kind of sensory overload; the rest of the set nodded toward the seasoned confidence of other outfits. “Baby Get Worse” opened with a bass-and-drum Velvets-style groove, and until Boeckner’s guitar line asserted itself, “Neopolitans” sounded like an homage to early Radiohead. As sung by Daniel, a late-set cover of the Wipers’ “Doom Town” made the astoundingly easy conversion from self-flagellation to something approximating pride.

The aforementioned “My Love Is Real” has already received the single treatment, surely to make the impact of “Would That Not Be Nice” (Beach Boys-tweaking title and all) that much more seismic. “Would That Not” was the highlight here: The high-mixed maraca gave the song a definite Van Halen vibe. Rock radio will find it; if not, we’re in real trouble.

Just like the previous night’s secret show at the Continental Club, the band closed with Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.” Daniel’s studded bass line found its match in Boeckner’s full-bodied riff digging; with the set complete, Boeckner headed out front for a smoke, and the rest of the Fits gathered at the end of the bar. The point was made: Divine Fits is the sum of its estimable parts.

[Photos by Linda Flores]

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