Do you ever wonder what it was like to be at the Cavern Club in Hamburg when the Beatles first played? Do you think anybody there knew just how special those performances were? Did they know that they were seeing a band in its infancy that would become arguably the greatest of all time? What about early Zeppelin shows? Or the Yardbirds? The Who? There are rock shows for folks who when a band becomes the biggest on the planet but what about those people who are at shows simply because they love music? These are people who just genuinely love live music even if the band they're seeing hasn't existed long enough to have the years and years that are needed to form the most meaningful emotional connections in music. But ask anybody like that and they can all tell you about the shows they went to where a band they saw with no expectations blew them away. You aren't saying that this band is going to go on to be the next Beatles or the Clash, but they created an evening so singular in your memories of great music that any future success is irrelevant. They delivered one of those defining musical nights in your life. Diane Coffee gave me that night at Baby's All Right here in Brooklyn.
Let's circle back for a moment. I'm riding the G train from Park Slope to Williamsburg. Or is Baby's All Right not in Williamsburg? Is it more Greenpoint? I don't know my f***ing New York neighborhoods to save my life. But I'm riding the G train and mildly...inebriated, and I'm listening to Everybody's A Good Dog
. I'd heard a couple tracks from the record before. We'd done a Q&A with Shaun Fleming
, Diane Coffee's frontman as well as Foxygen's drummer, and we'd ran a story about the music video for the infectiously fun "Mayflower." But that was the extent of my knowledge about Diane Coffee before that train ride. And over the course of an hour between the ride and some walking, Everybody's A Good Dog
had already become a clear contender for my favorite rock album of the year -- and in the weeks since the show (yeah...this post is going up a little late), it's solidified itself as my choice for the best rock album of 2015. Diane Coffee is peak Rod Stewart filtered through the most adventurous Rolling Stones albums with just a hint of the Zombies. And Everybody's a Good Dog
is a monolith of why we relate to classic rock so much even today: inventive melodies, more hooks than the prop closet of I Know What You Did Last Summer
, and that impossible combination of being larger than yourself while not being afraid to let your emotional guard down and share genuine, sincere emotions with your audience.
By the time I made it to Baby's All Right, the record was drawing to a close and I almost wanted to skip the openers so I could listen to the record again. It was that galvanizing. It was a muggy night in Brooklyn, and I just wanted to wander around a neighborhood whose name I didn't even know just so I could hear "Govt" and "Everyday" again and again and again. I'm glad I didn't cause I ran into Shaun in the lobby of Baby's and told him how much I liked the record. I'm press and I feel weird doing that, but f*** it, Shaun made a great album, and I just wanted to make sure he knew it. And I saw the openers: The Lemontwigs and Whitewash. I'd write more about them but this piece is delayed enough. But, yo, bookers in Brooklyn. If you're looking for a fun psychedelic jam band to get your shows going, book the Lemontwigs. Their acid-tinged grooves are the perfect way to get a crowd's energy up and the noise-y, harder rock of Whitewash will get the job done as well.
But we're here to talk about Diane Coffee, and, y'all...if Shaun and his crew aren't headlining shows at Madison Square Garden in the next five years, we as a city aren't deserving of his talents. Shaun came out in a mauve onesie and owned that stage like he was Aladdin Sane
-era David Bowie. I think David Bowie is secretly the greatest performer of the 70s, and so when I say that I couldn't keep The Thin White Duke/Ziggy Stardust/Mr. Berlin trilogy himself out of my head during that whole set, it means that Shaun is a star on stage of the highest order.
Diane Coffee's live show has it all. It has songs that everyone in the audience sings along to (despite the fact that the record had only been out for a couple weeks when the show had taken place). It has epic jams where Shaun and his band show off their absurd instrumental chops. Shaun has presence and magnetism to spare. A lot of folks are going to fixate on his intentional androgyny -- which he goes out of his way to cultivate -- but I'm worried that Shaun is going to be labeled as a "camp"-y performer when he sings with the unguarded emotional vulnerability of Janis Joplin. He can switch on a dime between a wounded howl and a gorgeous croon. He's the total package.
So, Shaun, sorry that this post was a little delayed. I was honestly a little intimidated about how to go about writing this piece. I do this for a living. I go to 2-4 concerts a week. And I get to see a lot of great concerts. But it's rare for me to leave a venue and just fill so...alive. To have music and a performance instill me with the very essence of joie de vivre
and the passion that reminds me how lucky I am that I get to do this for work. And this happened for a show that I attended by myself -- which usually sends my social anxiety into a tail spin -- and for an artist whose music I only truly acquainted myself with on the train ride to the show. The fact that I've been spinning Everybody's A Good Dog
and nothing else non-stop in the weeks since should be proof enough that Diane Coffee is going to be rock's next big thing.