It was over a year ago. The temperature outside bobbed and dipped around the 0 degree mark, and the southern Saturday night Frozen Fest headliners were less than enthused to be playing in such a cold snap.
Nonetheless, current drummer and former roadie of Ian Bush of Appleton, Wis. said Diarrhea Planet killed it that night in their first Wisconsin show. They weathered the historic wind chill to deliver their brand of powerful rock to the High Noon Saloon.
This Wednesday, Ian “Tuff Gus” Bush and his five band mates will take the High Noon stage again — now in fairer climate — providing a show style Bush could best describe as resembling the energy of Star Wars.
Despite, or perhaps in spite of their name, Diarrhea Planet has earned acclaim from the indiest of critics like Pitchfork Media for having a stellar live show. Their theatrics, punk-esque vibes and unique arrangement of four guitars put them in a very fun live niche.
It’s more than just jumping around, Bush said. It’s spur of the moment camaraderie, not choreographed live mayhem that translates in different ways in each show. Bush recalls a show at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores, Alabama where he was a roadie at the time. Guitarist Evan Bird jumped on his shoulders and he ran him through the crowd. At Governor’s Ball, Bird scaled high rafters and jumped into the crowd.
Bush has a very visual conception of what their live performance feels like. He said all six members of the band culminate in a massively energetic rendering of Star Wars. He specifically referenced lightsaber fights, snowspeeders and the romance between Princess Leah and Han Solo in his comparison with their show.
“You’ve got all these different characters, four guitar players, a bass player and a drummer and trying to convey the high energy of star wars but also the emotional aspect of it as well,” Bush said.
Only live evidence will be able to confirm the emotional intensity that Bush promises, but the band’s production does support his high-energy argument. With four lead guitars, it’s not about keeping a consistent melody, but creating a full sound.
The four characters on guitar each fill their own role, Bush said. Emmett Miller is classically trained and does the melodic playing. Jordan Smith brings the hardcore punk with a ‘80s guitar twist. Brent Toler plays lots of chords and harmonies and Bird is an ACDC-sounding, jack-of-all-trades guitarist who rounds out the rhythm, Bush said.
“Everyone occupies their own sonic space,” Bush said. “Its not just the same chords the whole time and sometimes there is dissonance, but it is purposeful.”
Distinct from punk and shoegaze, Bush still describes this rock as a wall of sound. It’s not My Bloody Valentine level distortion or Bleach-era Nirvana feedback. It’s the type of sound inspired by ‘90s grunge and alternative but brought into the modern era.
“It’s a thick brick wall with turrets at the top and machine guns shooting down,” Bush said.
The band met at Nashville’s Belmont University School of Music. Bush describes the school’s focus as one centered on commercially successful music, i.e. songs that will do well in the Top 40. Smith and original member Evan Donohue wanted to start a band that flew in the face of Belmont’s more tradition practices and genres.
It started as a musical rebuke of the country kids, the pop people and the John Mayer wannabes. They came up with the silly name and unconventional music to put people off, Bush said.
“The idea was to have an abrasive band and name that you were kind of annoyed that a band like this exists at Belmont,” he said.
But when they started writing songs, they got really into it and continued playing and performing under the catchy moniker. The band came to prominence in the Nashville scene just as the city began to evolve into a musical mecca for non-country bands.
Now six-piece Diarrhea Planet plays festivals across the country, staying true to their eccentric Nashville roots. But their Wednesday night show at the High Noon is all about the Sconnie fans.
“This one goes out to my Appleton homies,” Bush said.