In many ways, Diarrhea Planet are an exercise in contradictions – a flawless combination of elements that, by all accounts, should not successfully coexist. Their eardrum-busting performance on April 3 at Boston’s Great Scott was no exception.
Start, for example, with attempt to place them in a genre. They’re a five-guitar attack, a solid wall of sound, nuts-and-bolts rock and roll at its finest; they deal in the singalong choruses that can, and do, compel the most earnest of lyric-yelling from the back of a sold-out room. But that’s not to disregard the heavy metal through-line, the razor-sharp precision of guitar solos and underlying melodies that carry some of their best songs. And somehow, at the same time, they have a punk rock sensibility, fast and loud and sincere; the drove of fist-pumping, mosh pit-starting, crowd-surfing fans could easily attest to that.
But beyond all of that, and maybe most important, is their sense of humor. Band name aside – as intentionally difficult as it is to ignore – they are perhaps the only band around whose members could get away with stepping away from the microphone during a bandmate’s solo to do the Macarena, or jump up onto a lighting rig to do a pull-up, or inexplicably quote Superbad to one another to fill the (brief) silence while tuning. Even during the final pre-set sound check, they were goofing off. Playing off one another, they volleyed snippets of rock clichés, stadium groaners – a riff, a bass lick – and laughed it off, each musical punch line.
They’re serious musicians who patently refuse to take themselves too seriously, and, somehow, it works. Incredibly well, in fact.
There was the upbeat, chant-ready “Babyhead” seamlessly into “Field of Dreams,” which could goad even the most complacent of rock-show bros into fervently clapping his hands overhead, waiting for the big chorus. There was the lightning strike of “Ice Age,” a somehow intricate track that’s over before the circle pit that it demands could even think to start.
Diarrhea Planet is music for jumping, for stomping, for spilling your beer. It’s for rushing to the front of the stage, but making sure that the people next to you are okay in the crush. Somehow it’s the distilled version of rock’s hardest edges, but without the corresponding aggression; it’s just fun.
And yet the stand-out moment of the night was unquestionably “Kids,” which somehow brought tangible gravity to a crowd that, seconds before, was good-naturedly shoving the hell out of each other. The slowest song of the night with its intro and sparse breakdown, it demanded rapt attention. The audience hung on every word, and somehow went even crazier as it crescendoed to its simple, anthemic close: “We’re just kids!”
By the time they transitioned into “Baba O’Reilly” – yes, they did – there was broken glass on the edge of the stage, as well as several audience members either sitting or standing on it, scrambling to get back in the crowd. At least one band member had crowd surfed, multiple times. And now they would cover what they declared the best rock song ever written, because why not? Might as well burn it all down.
The encore of frantic fan favorite “Ghost With a Boner” seemed like a breathless indulgence, a formality – or maybe it was exactly what should be expected. They had done what they came to do and left rock and roll wreckage in their wake, and this one was just for fun