Shaun Fleming has been subject to a variety of comparisons throughout his career as Diane Coffee, from Bowie to Jagger to Meatloaf, but I don’t think any of them quite fit. Fleming is a talented stylistic chameleon, and the sound of Diane Coffee has shifted with each album. Lo-fi debut My Friend Fish took cues from garage rock and psychedelia and led to Everybody’s A Good Dog which fuses funk, soul, and glam rock into a boisterous and theatrical masterpiece. Brand new LP Internet Arms flaunts heavy electronic influences and has made it clear that defining Diane Coffee by a particular genre is a futile task. However, no matter which era you look to, you’re certain to find a unique blend of charisma, camp, and emotional sincerity that only Fleming can deliver.
Just as Diane Coffee transforms with each recording, every tour sees the band assuming new and elaborate personas. Their show last week turned the Teragram Ballroom into the dystopian simulation described on Internet Arms. Clad in a lime green bodysuit and iridescent accessories, Fleming opened the set with the album’s title track. It’s a groovy synth-pop number with a funky bassline, and for this performance, two guitar solos that boasted all the melodrama and bright tonality of classic hair metal. My favorite song taken from Internet Arms was “Stuck In Your Saturday Night”, the love child of eighties Americana, electro-pop, and a touch of surf rock.
Fleming is an unbelievably dynamic performer. With an extensive theater background, it’s no surprise that he takes physical command of the stage with ease, never seeming to run out of energy. He dripped charm while strutting along the stage’s edge during “Mayflower” to serenade the front row with sales pitches and borrow one crowd member’s phone for a quick onstage selfie. Physical dynamism aside, Fleming’s voice is a powerful tool for conveying complex emotions. He flaunted the upper end of his extensive range on “Not Ready To Go,” which featured the vocal cracks and airy falsetto of someone close to tears. Throwback tunes “I Dig You” and “New Years” invoked the powerhouse screams and growls of punk rock.
I’ve been having a fantastic time at Diane Coffee shows for years now, and against all odds, they get exponentially better every time. Plenty of artists have staying power, but very few have the ability to so masterfully execute all the sonic and performative evolutions that Fleming has. I have no idea what the Diane Coffee experience will look, sound, or feel like when it next comes to Los Angeles, but I’m very excited to find out.
— Anna Podowski, Staff