PHOTOS AND REVIEW BY LAURA FERREIRO
WHO: White Denim
WHERE: The Echo
In a world where it's becoming increasingly common for performers employ gimmicks to grab people's attention (think Lady Gaga's raw meat costume or The White Stripes' “Are we brother and sister or husband and wife?” routine), it's refreshing to see a band without pretense or shtick, whose only agenda is to play the hell out of their instruments and bring the audience along for the ride. This band is White Denim, four unassuming guys from Austin, Texas, dressed modestly in jeans, T-shirts and button-downs, who have been doing their thing for six years without much fanfare, quietly honing their skills.
Truth be told, White Denim was a three-piece until guitarist Austin Jenkins joined the band a few months ago, but it seems as though they've been jamming together for years. And jam is what they did at The Echo last night. Starting with a 10-plus minute version of “It's Him!” – the opening track from their new album D, which came out earlier this week – they segued into a series of tunes from D, probably their best album yet. D showcases a more polished sound than their previous efforts, and features some serious melodies amidst the noodlings. The quartet's live show is a different animal though, bringing out their raw, primal side and featuring extended, improvised jams that highlight their surgical precision as a tight unit.
The band members didn't seem to mind that one uninhibited fan threw himself onto the stage at the beginning of the show and laid there for half an hour. They adeptly worked their way around him, so engrossed in their music that they seemed oblivious to their surroundings and the big lump lying in front of them. Sometimes this can be a bad thing if the audience feels the band isn't connecting with them, but this wasn't the case at The Echo. Although they kept the on-stage banter to a minimum, White Denim connected with the crowd through their music, man, delivering their unique brand of southern-tinged Americana prog rock so vigorously and earnestly that the crowd couldn't help but get swept up in it, shouting, “Austin, baby!” and “You guys rule!”
Before the show, singer/guitarist James Petralli said that the band was excited to be out on the road after being in the studio for so long, and that they're becoming increasingly comfortable improvising as a band. “As a group we're getting better at feeling one another,” he said, adding, “This is where the tour gets fun for us, playing in cities like L.A., San Francisco and Portland.”
In addition to performing nearly every song from the new album, they threw in some older tunes for good measure, including “Shake Shake Shake” and “All Consolation.” It should be noted that they didn't have pre-meditated set list–they just winged it as they went along. The band ended their 75-minute set at the stroke of midnight with “No Real Reason” before coming back for an encore of “Mess Your Hair Up” and returning to sign posters and albums for enthusiastic fans into the wee hours.