“Who the fuck plays the recorder?” The question belongs to Islands’ front-man Nick Diamonds, and as it goes out to the crowd in UBC’s SUB ballroom, a wicked grin crosses his face. The answer, of course, is his band, and Diamonds is right smitten about it. Cutting across the ghost-white stage makeup, his ruby-red lips curl up at both ends. The lights draw out the lines in his face, and while he looks fresh out of a Batman comic, this Joker is well-intentioned. His eyes flash a youthful enthusiasm; he’s genuinely enamoured with ‘the music’.
This kind of joyous energy permeates the entire show. Earlier, opener Giovanni “Subtitle” Marks—aptly named, if only for the speed at which he flows—accompanied himself on the iPod, skipping through sections of songs he thought too boring, and pausing to play a few Sonic Youth interludes during which he simply struck a pose. Was it a lack of professionalism? In some ways, yes, but there was a personal honesty to it that redeemed the experience.
Marks stumbled awkwardly through audience interaction, but it came off fresh. “I hope I leave the stage having taught you something,” he said, “but I’m not sure what.” (Primarily: Cigarettes are bad, and so is jail-time.) When he returns to the stage during Islands’ set, to join them on the psychedelic “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Whalebone”, he and Diamonds laughingly snap shots of each other on digital cameras. It’s the kind of keen, childish joie de vivre echoed in Islands tunes like “Jogging Gorgeous Summer” and “Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby.” And it works, to a point, but it’s hard not to eventually get the impression that Diamonds has had a bit too much of his own Kool-Aid.
“This song is called Bucky Little Wing,” he says, and the crowd cheers wildly. He laughs. “You have no idea what that [title] means. It’s okay, I get it. You cheer ‘cause it’s a good song. I could fart and wonderful music would come out.” And it gets worse. Halfway through “Rough Gem”, the last song before they make their first of two exits, the keyboard cuts out. Diamonds begins pounding the keys furiously, but his effort is in vain. Seething with rage, it looks as if his eyes are tearing up. He quickly turns his back on the audience. The song ends without so much as a “thank you” or “good night”. He leaves the stage in a huff, kicking over his guitar stand on the way out, and the band follows him off awkwardly. Half the crowd seems too love-drunk on the tropical Islands Kool-Aid to even notice the tantrum.
And so, youthful charms aside, it would seem Nick Diamonds has some serious growing up to do. Lucky for him—with an all-ages crowd in which the high school emo kids nearly outnumbered the UBsCenesters—so does his audience.