Long live rock, I need it every night

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let's Talk About It: White Denim

In a little over two years Rock Club has seen roughly 300 bands (no, My Morning Jacket is not one of them). Some good, some bad, a lot in between. I always wondered if I'd head out one night and be completely blown away by a band. You think it'll happen but it doesn't. Maybe I've become cynical. The more likely answer is that while yes, there are a lot of good bands out there, you rarely see a band that unexpectedly melts your face. We've seen some amazing shows. Sleater-Kinney, LCD Soundsystem, and The Dismemberment Plan reunions shows come to mind. But I expected as much going into those shows. The only band that truly caught me off guard was The Gossip. Well, on Thursday night in Austin I saw a band that even topped The Gossip. That band is White Denim.

I hadn't planned on going out until we received an email suggesting I go see Peel at Mohawk. I'm always up for seeing Peel. I love those guys (and girl). Peel, Zookeeper, and White Denim were all opening for Brazos.

Peel was up first and were great. I never get tired of their first album and the songs off their new EP, August Exhaust Pipes (go download it for free!), are just as good, if not better. The set was much better than when I saw them open for Oxford Collapse and Frightened Rabbit. After they finished I debated whether to call it night. I decided to stick around since the place was packed and hopping. The crowd seemed anxious for the next band to begin so I settled in on the railing overlooking what I thought was Zookeeper.

The first thing that came into my mind when they launched into their set: MC5. They had a bristling energy from the get go. I was dumbfounded. I turned to the girl next to me, Olivia, and asked if she had seen Zookeeper before. She replied, "That's not Zookeeper, that's White Denim!". Over the next few songs Olivia brought me up to speed on the history of the band, including their devasting performances at this year's SXSW which landed them on the cover of the Arts Section of The New York Times.

The band is an explosive mix of punk and blues rock. That mix of punk, blues and soul is tough to pull off but when you do, it's a something to behold (think early White Stripes). It makes for great rock and roll, the kind I've been dying to hear since the onslaught of beardy bands started a little over a year ago.

Josh Block on drums sets the tone for the band. He beats the drums like they sassed his momma. James Petralli on guitar and lead vocals has quite a few tricks up his sleeve. He produces a myriad of sounds from the guitar, from funky riffs to sonic distortion. When singing he utilizes two microphones. The extra one distorts the vocals with a sampler (as best as I could tell). Also, while onstage he has the perfect rock persona, which doesn't hurt.

The real star though is the bassist, Steve Terebeki. He lays down the sweet beats. His fast, funky riffs and amazing skills aren't what you'd expect from a tiny man who has the boyish looks of a 7th grader. Seeing him jam away and clearly love every moment only got the crowd more into the show. You can't help but like these guys.

The set seemed short and before I knew it they thanked the packed crowd and started packing up their gear. In my mind I was thinking, "What? That's it?! NOOOO! KEEP PLAYING!!!" But it wasn't to be. There was no encore. I'm forced to wait until their set at ACL. You can be sure I'll be up close for that.

After the show I was speechless. I had never been so blown away by a band. I wasn't prepared for it at all. Inside Mohawk I ran into my friend Callie (a.k.a. Show Lush). She's seen White Denim a few times and said my reaction was fairly typical. The band simply crushes.

I feel like this is my Jon Landau moment. In 1974, the influential music critic went to see a 25-year-old singer-songwriter. Amazed by what he heard, Landau wrote the famous line, "I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock and roll's future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Now, I'm not saying that White Denim is the next Bruce Springsteen (who is?) but I know one thing for sure. They're one band I'll be following for years to come (or as long as they're together) and I'll go see them live every chance I get.

"Let's Talk About It" by White Denim


Jimbromski said...

I would have ended that video thusly: guy gets the hearse cleaned, picks up the dude in overalls. They drive back to the place on the road where the video began, and run over that little kid that wrote "WASH ME" on the back window of the hearse. Then the driver and Overalls get out and load the kid into the back of the now-clean hearse.

Good song.

Our original intent in starting this enterprise was to maybe someday happen onto some local band and have a Beatles/Cavern Club moment. We would then hitch our wagon to these would-be stars and maybe find some way to exploit them and make money off of them. We've seen some good local bands but nothing awesome yet but we'll keep looking.

Also, I would like to point out that I have started to come around to My Morning Jacket since they're last album, they're not so hippie anymore and it seems like they're expanding and changing their sound. I said this before but I'll repeat it, "Evil Urges" is prob the stereotypical album that aggravates longtime fans since it appeals to casual listeners like me.

Not having seen MMJ live should not disqualify one from having a music blog, though.

Jumbo Slice said...

Your ending to the video is much better. It would've brought the whole story full circle.

BTW, the car wash in the video is the same one I go to. They have the old school coin car washes here. I can vacuum and wash my piece of shit car for $3.75 in quarters. For some reason I couldn't find those type of places around DC.

We'll eventually go see MMJ and I'm sure they'll be good. As good as they're superfans make them out to be? Probably not but maybe I'm wrong. I'm listening to "Evil Urges" right now and I too like it better than their earlier stuff.

Jimbromski said...

there's an episode of King of the Hill where Khan buys a coin-operated car wash and somehow Hank ends up having to work at the carwash for Khan, because Hank Strickland tells him to.

Jimbromski said...

sorry, meant "Buck" Strickland

Anonymous said...

you guys ARE missing out by not seeing MMJ! i think they're coming to DAR soon, but that would be a lame venue to see them at, so don't. i saw them at 9:30 at some point, and it was fantastic.

i love them. why do you think i threw that question in the interview? :)

(though i didn't know you'd get lambasted because of it!)

Jumbo Slice said...

Emily -

In your opinion, how does the new album rank in comparison to the earlier releases?

I feel like we missed the window on seeing MMJ. Now they're playing big venues like DAR. Seeing them at 9:30 would've been much better.

Potsy said...

"He beats the drums like they sassed his momma." Nice. Gas was $2.35 when they shot this vid.

Anonymous said...

yup, jumbo, you might have missed the boat on seeing mmj live. the first time i saw them was at the TLA in philly, this teeny little venue where i stood in the front with lots of breathing room —which was kind of nice. when jim james leaned out over the audience, his long, ratty hair literally landed in my hand. i'm not kidding. it was gross, but also kind of exciting.

i also saw them once or twice at 9:30, the most recent time for their album Z. for their opener, they had this huge white sheet that went from the ceiling to the stage. during the verses the room was pitch black and when they played the chorus they flashed a strobe light against the sheet and it looked AMAZING.

the one thing that i always notice about mmj is that their live shows are extra loud. like, in this is spinal tap, when he says that his amp goes to 11—i think MMJ's go to like 15. my ears ring for days.

but DAR would be a sucky place to see them, so don't. i loved them at the smaller venues, but i think i might hate them if i saw them somewhere huge. a friend of mine saw them at madison square garden, i think, and i was like, eh. i mean, i held jim james' hair once—there's no going back from that.

their new album is also eh. but then, i didn't love Z at first, either, and it grew on me. it still moves and at dawn are amazing, but mostly because when i listen them, i think about seeing the band live and it pumps me up for life. overall, i think mmj is better live than on their records.

anyway, that's my two cents :)