Prior to the concert, my familiarity with the Austin, TX quartet consisted of a few songs played for a preview of the show which, while very impressive, do not match the musical intensity of their live set as very few bands ever do. Live, the band is as loose as they are tight. Each number was filled with layers of instrumental grooves that all seemed as separate as they were harmonious. Bassist Steve Terebecki and drummer Joshua Block provided a beat and anchor to the band that most bands would kill to have with Terebecki keeping a steady rhythm over Block's varied drum styling incorporating elements of rock, Latin, jazz and funk. Meanwhile, guitarist Austin Jenkins and vocalist/guitarist frontman James Petralli added guitar work free of flash and showed off their technical prowess through skilled solos and performances.
Musically, the band shifted from funk inspired jams to impressive rock numbers flawlessly. "Street Joy" slowed things down a bit after opening with two explosive numbers. The beauty and charm of the number lies within its simplicity in contrast to the more complex numbers. This was one of two times the band provided a breather between the heavier numbers other than tempo shifts and breakdowns within the various songs. "I Start to Run" offered one of the funkiest selections of the night with the band really getting into their performance and extending it past the studio version's running time. As stated earlier, each instrument acted as much individually as they did as a unit. The same premise was true about The Who but that band never shifted between genres and performed as funky, loose or tight as White Denim.
Mazes and The Static Jacks opened the show with 30 minute sets apiece. New Jersey's The Static Jacks performed a set of melodic punk inspired tunes with decent hooks and strong cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" which they dedicated to recently departed E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons. One highlight to their set was "My Parents Lied" with its jagged guitar and dance beat. Their set was a nice boost of energy to open the show.
British quartet Mazes followed soon after with a sound rooted in American indie rock of the 90's but with a British slant to it, especially vocally. The songs ranged from faster garage type songs to slower, mid-tempo numbers with none of them breaking past the three minute mark. Although they were nice melodically, their faster songs had a small similarity to each other and, in one song, the guitar solo was lost in the mix. A little banter would have broken up the set a bit in addition to the slower numbers.
On record, White Denim is a very impressive band juggling many different textures to their sound. In concert, they are a college level course on musicianship, timing and a solid example on how to use your album as a template for the set while re-writing it at the same time. It is honestly refreshing to see a band not content with just getting by but, instead, challenging themselves and their audience.
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