Diamond Rings performs at Parkdale Library as part of Toronto Library’s Make Some Noise series. MusicVice contributors Natascha Malta and Renee Saviour attended to provide the lowdown with words and pictures, respectively.
Gig/Concert: Diamond Rings
Venue: Parkdale Library, Toronto, ON, Canada
Date: 8 October 2010
In one word: Candlelit
There were still people using the Parkdale branch of the public library when I arrived for the first of 4 shows that Toronto Public Library is hosting in their Make Some Noise music series this season. It was just after 8, and the library was buzzing with the activity of families using computers and picking out books for a little weekend reading. Meanwhile, in a darkened corner, representing the other half of the Parkdale population – one hundred indie kids and a few industry types were sitting cross-legged and patiently waiting.
The library wasn’t hosting hipster story time (although the library will be hosting a workshop featuring This Book Is Broken author Stuart Berman later in the series). Just in time to celebrate the October 26th release of his first solo LP Special Affections under the alias Diamond Rings, John O’Regan was playing a special unplugged set for library concert series. It’s not the direction he usually takes for his solo work – which usually involves body glitter and drum machines – but he thought the mood of an unplugged show would be better suited for the library.
The performance space was lit with just a handful of a tealights, adding to intimacy of the evening. O’Regan’s only other companions on stage were an acoustic guitar, and a keyboard (which he used only to synthesize the sound of a piano). As the frontman of The D’Urbervilles, usually O’Regan has a band to back him up, and he admits that he was a little nervous to be performing by himself – playing his own instruments when usually he rhymes and dances.
Another confession from O’Regan. He spent the past week watching Nirvana’s iconic unplugged performance instead of practicing. The influence of Kurt Cobain is definitely a big part of the night’s performance. O’Regan’s outfitted his guitar with a humbugger pick-up to capture the sound of Kurt’s guitar on that MTV performance, and like Cobain’s Meatpuppet covers, O’Regan has a few tributes of his own including PS I Love You’s grungy “Actually (I’m A Monster Now)” and an untitled song by a friend Emma.
Rather than leaving him naked, the 11 song stripped down performance just proves that Diamond Rings is no one trick pony hiding behind his synthesizers. He can really sing, and he has a great sense of when to fill the room with sound, and when to turn the volume down. He played all of the songs posted on his MySpace including his three singles “Show Me Your Stuff”, “Wait And See”, and my favourite “All Yr Songs”. Some of the library patrons were drawn in by his performance and sat to watch the show with their kids. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but those who stayed demanded an encore.
O’Regan began his last song by saying one more time just how pleased he was to be playing at the library to his neighbours. (He’s a Parkdale citizen himself). Then he sang a song about an experience anyone who’s ever lived on Queen Street can relate to – waiting for the streetcar in the middle of a winter night.
Those who didn’t come missed a great acoustic performance. But wipe your tears emo kids. The library is giving us 3 more performances over the next 2 months- including shows by Buck 65 at the Bloor/Gladstone branch next Friday at 8 PM, Jully Black at the York Woods Library Theatre Saturday, October 23rd at 8PM, and The Magic and Maylee Todd are going to be at the North York Central Library on Saturday, November 20th at 8 PM. Always free, open to all-ages, and the most fun you’ll have in a library.
© Natascha Malta, Music Vice
Pictures of Diamond Rings at Parkdale Library: