Dick Diver gig review (The Tote, Melbourne)

Sometimes the best gifts are the unexpected ones.

I’d been wanting to get tickets to Dick Diver pre-Christmas shows at the Tote but they’d sold out within minutes. Resigned to missing out, I still kept my eyes peeled and happened to see a small link in a marketing email saying there was a Monday afternoon show, Christmas Eve. The funny thing was – there was no mention of this gig anywhere. The ticketing site could only be reached via that link and nobody’s social media had any reference to it. I was feeling like I had been scammed, as legit and all as it looked. I ploughed on regardless, full of doubt, dragging some friends along…

So there I was on Christmas Eve late afternoon, in the hot sun waiting outside for my friends to arrive, pleased as punch that it was actually on. A full house, with lots of babies and small children; friends and families of the band no doubt. We had stumbled on an intimate show mainly set up for the Dick Diver circle in Melbourne. No support act, just two full sets of Dick Diver. It was a real gift for the patient.

There was a summer afternoon BBQ feel about this show, with the little ones crawling around between our legs, and a big sit down in front of the stage. Everybody was relaxed and  enjoying the band; in between sets we all decamped to the beer garden and chatted amiably about Christmas Day lunches past and family issues. It really did feel like a homecoming, amongst mates, even if we didn’t all know each other.

Dick Diver are mellow too. I’m sure it’s been said before but they have a similar feel to the Go Betweens, (and when Steph (drums) sings, it’s all Jill Birt, who, sadly, sang very few songs for the Triffids). It’s not just that they sing sweet, awkward pop songs on jangly guitars; it’s the atmosphere so relaxed it’s verging on folksy. They draw you into their world of the ordinary. It’s like they’re just a couple of mates who got up on stage that day, and it could have been anyone else on any other day. 

The show reminded me very clearly of seeing the Go Betweens in 1984 showcasing Before Hollywood; that same relaxed evening, with the audience all happily watching the band, soaking in the music in a rapture as the songs wove their dreamy jangly spell.

There’s a good mix of material too – from the ‘hits’ like Calendar Days and Tear the Posters Down and favourites like New Start Again, to some new songs, which they have just finished recording. What’s better is that they can easily sustain two full sets. There is enough depth and consistency of material there to warrant it, and the day never feels self-indulgent. We all want to keep listening and continuing the vibe.

That doesn’t mean that they are anything short of a killer band. The sound is crystal clear and pitched just right for today – props to the mixer for wrangling the Tote’s occasionally fractious system. It’s just loud enough to pass through you and disable conversation so you can drift into it. The band are tight with the craft that comes from thousands of gigs, joking amongst themselves and deciding what to play on whim. It all adds to the casual joy of this day – it’s what you’d want to have if one of your favourite bands came to your house to play.

Sadly it had to end and we slowly trooped out into the non-air-conditioned world of a Melbourne summer’s afternoon to head to family dinners, drinks and get-togethers, feeling very much like we had already been with our family. I cycled through the inner-north feeling relaxed and at home, taking in familiar Melbourne streetscapes. Truly this had been a Christmas treat.

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