Toronto’s Diamond Rings threw himself a triumphant little CD release party at the Garrison on Tuesday night.
What started as a seeming alter-ego side project to his frontman duties with his once–main squeeze, the (long overdue for a second album) post-punk quartet D’Urbervilles, has transformed into a full-fledged force, and it’s been nothing short of fascinating to observe the changes along the way.
It seemed that once Pitchfork took notice of his first single “All Yr Songs” last September (though, really, it was all probably because of Torontoist’s feature the month before), there was no stopping him; each video got bigger, and his persona grew with it. On Tuesday, the glammed-up, baby-faced John O’Regan stood in front of a sold-out room as thankful and sincere as could be, playing songs from his just-released, long-awaited debut Special Affections. Sometimes on guitar, sometimes on keys, always with a beat, he delivered a set that was as euphoric as the eager crowd wanted it to be. Girls and boys danced and sang with the abandon normally reserved for a bedroom mirror reflection—and that’s sort of exactly the magic of Diamond Rings.
At once uncomfortably personal and an elaborate fantasy masquerade, the shift O’Regan has undergone is undeniably authentic. Whether his pure-pop Garage Band confessionals are your thing or not, there’s something electric about this burgeoning person inside that big personality, and we’re going to keep watching.
10:45 PM: Second band PS I Love You takes the stage, opening with the title track from their recent, excellent album Meet Me at the Muster Station. They are loud.
10:50 PM: It didn’t take them long to launch into the standout from the album, the searing “2012.” Singer Paul Saulnier is working that bass pedal, riffing hard on his guitar, and giving his best Frank Black yelp, and it’s such a great moment. Thankful for earplugs.
11:02 PM: The crowd is still dancing pretty enthusiastically for a noisy guitar band, though the overly inebriated fan at the front has now stopped, and is draping herself over and banging on the monitor. Get into it!
11:05 PM: I thought maybe Grace Jones had bleached her hair, but no! It’s Diamond Rings himself joining his good friends on stage for a song.
11:10 PM: Really Drunk Fan gets handed another drink, she gets stoked, someone yells “You’re drunk!” Real talk, guys.
11:35 PM: In line for the bathroom, it’s hard not to join in on the anticipatory conversations with all the boys and gals clutching their Diamond Rings merch. “It’s going to be so fun. I can’t wait to dance,” spits one young lad, so gleeful.
11:40 PM: Diamond Rings takes the stage, starts on the keys. The place is packed and the dancing commences immediately.
11:45 PM: Overheard, some guy yells to PS I Love You Singer Paul Saulnier, who is standing nearby, “Hey Paul! Where’d you find this guy!” To which he laughs and replies “I didn’t. He found me.” The same guy then says to the girl in front of him, “You’re having an orgasm.” She thanks him for noticing.
11:46 PM: Overheard: “Oh, it’s Blur.” Nice try, but that’s not a burn at all, audience member!
11:50 PM: The single “Wait and See” is introduced, which sends the room into an eruption, and O’Regan is audibly giddy at the reaction. Awwww.
11:58 PM: DANCE SOLO. This song is called “You Oughta Know,” though very sadly, it is not a cover.
12:10 AM: Rings grabs his guitar for new single “Something Else,” which sounds fantastic and stands out, as most of the guitar-based stuff does. He acknowledges that he “can tell this crowd really loves the guitar.” Fact. The room proceeds to prove that love by full-out thrash-dancing, hard. To themselves. Afterward, he steps back to his keyboard and eats a cupcake that he thanks his mom for making for him. Can’t speak for the whole room, but it is rude to not make enough cupcakes for everyone. Just saying.
12:20 AM: His rainbow face paint, which he thanks Lisa Howard for beautifully applying, is just now starting to run as the room temperature skyrockets. Sort of resembles the end of a raging Halloween night. Or just another day for Diamond Rings.
12:20 AM: End of the set. Some people were having the best night of their lives?
12:24 AM: Encore! First song is one by PS I Love You, from their first EP. The guitar cuts out a couple of times, which he explains was because his feet are too big for the pedals. He makes up for the up and down momentum in that one by ending with a little slice of perfect bedroom pop, the one that started it all, “All Yr Songs.” A show worth checking out again.
Photos by David Topping/Torontoist