my latest obsession, live viewing: White Denim

White Denim is a band from Austin, TX. With three previous records from the three previous years, their latest is D – out now on Downtown Records. Four men have never created such volume before me. They are a chilling powerhouse of brains and mastery only get better from here.

Joshua Block is a true rock and roll drummer. A punk’s right hand man while the other belongs to Buddy Rich. Thin because his job demands so, Block barely had two feet on the ground. His leather boots moving on the high hat pedal like a tap dancer. Keeping the rhythm section close together, Steve Terebecki played his fingers like a pianist all across the bass fretboard. (The other great ranking live show I’ve seen this year, Yuck, kept the drums and bass close together, also in the middle of the stage. It shows us a band aware of the basics.) Terebecki never lost his pace even when the lights blinked off, when all we saw was the fuzz of his hair and his gleaming oversized square glasses. Austin Jenkins played his guitar fluidly, smiling at the crowd between closed eyes and the electricity he was sending the crowd. The two guitars and bass played in synch regularly throughout the set. The three of them wore their instruments up high to keep a close eye on themselves.

White Denim communicates seamlessly, as if it was a rehearsal with no one watching. Lead guitarist and songwriter, James Petralli conducted song by song while never losing his footing. His band mates watched, rarely losing his eyes, looking to where he stood behind the microphone. Which was set up at the far end of the stage, almost to show us that vocals can be treated as an afterthought – post instrumentation, orchestration, composition.

Opening with a fifteen minute trip jam, they stayed true to conventional song lengths only twice. Their new single, Street Joy, and later on with Keys  – the closing track of D. The set was a thrill dosed in Texas rockabilly. Movements in their songs were dedicated to long changes, where the original riff only occasionally came up for air.

With his back mostly to the audience, Pertralli worked the amplifiers to guide the feedback into quick drones. Sweat flew from him as he screamed and led you into a tender trap. Only to lure you awake with his smooth croons and moans.

This band is everything. Jazz psychedelia meets punk wails and devoted, out-of-this-world musicianship. I thought I heard the Grateful Dead at first listen of a few online tracks. Now I hear a band that is completely their own. White Denim can fit along side the sounds of peers My Morning Jacket, only they’re soaked in psychedlia. Their record D is a tight jam with loose funk and twang. Instrumentals and singable hits, the too short ten track album has endings that bleed into beginnings, with songs that stand on their own in between. Seeing them live is just more proof that this band really has what it takes. Referring you directly to them is the best way to show, not tell.

White Denim’s tour ends the first days of July, next week. So catch them when, and where you can. Head over to their website for tour dates, videos and to buy their new, smashing record D.

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