2/25/14 – The Sinclair

I discovered White Denim a few years ago in a Spotify playlist of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy’s favorite songs. Given my undying dedication to Tweedy, I took this playlist as the word of God, and after thoroughly enjoying the featured White Denim track “Drug,” I downloaded the five studio albums they’d released since their formation in 2006 and have been a fan ever since. Their fifth release, Corsicana Lemonade (2013), has received overwhelmingly positive reviews and put them on the map in a new and exciting way. This recent boost in popularity can be exemplified by their two-night residency at The Sinclair last month, a big step for the band who had recently been unable to fill venues in cities they’d played multiple times.

Corsicana Lemonade was the first White Denim release to be produced by Jeff Tweedy, and at White Denim’s WERS live session in February, lead vocalist James Petralli remarked that working with Tweedy bolstered their confidence as a band. I had also read that one of the goals with the album was to create a recorded sound that the listener could easily imagine live. Given this intent, I was excited and curious to see them live at the first of their two Sinclair shows.

Something must be said about the opening act, Lancaster County Pennsylvania’s The Districts. The fact that they were unknown to most of the audience, myself included, in no way hindered their performance. The crowd was hooked within seconds by the jolting force with which the band jumped into the first track of their set; Rob Grote’s impassioned, emotive vocals and the band’s ensuing wall of sound came as a pleasant shock. Seeing The Districts felt like being let in on a secret, something relatively unknown that is bound to get more attention. As a band that just graduated from high school last year, their sound and lyrical content convey emotions beyond their years. Their young faces matched their amateurish yet impressive stage presence. With Grote’s guitar strap duct-taped to his guitar, a gaping hole in the bass drum, and seemingly unintentional paint splattered on their amp, The Districts were both adorable and admirable.

I was surprised to see a band of White Denim’s caliber setting up their own equipment, but it did not diminish their mystique. The men of White Denim are professionals, which was demonstrated by their almost two-hour set, including a very hefty encore. The songs flowed into one another, with few breaks in between, making the show to feel like one wildly long and mind-blowing track. The band would play for 20 or more minutes at a time, leaving little room for talk.

White Denim’s sound is hard to pinpoint— particularly on their pre-Corsicana Lemonade albums, where every song sounds completely different. Their fusion of rock-related genres ranges from blues, to jazz, to southern, to folk, to unclassifiable psychedelia, and can be only described as dazzling. Given this jittery amalgamation of sounds coming from their six studio albums, no White Denim show can ever be predictable. Yet, the concert was held together by satisfying, immediately recognizable riffs that never failed to break through the clutter.

The crowd remained engaged through the long and heavily instrumental set, with one man yelling, “I want to party with you!” during one of the rare breaks, to which Petralli humbly replied, “We’ve never gotten that before. I want to party with you too.” At another point, amid many fast-paced and hard-rocking songs, someone requested, “Play something pretty,” to which the band considerately obliged. Tracks off of the latest release, such as the single “Pretty Green” and title track “Corsicana Lemonade,” were immediate crowd pleasers, but older songs like “Street Joy” and a grooved out version of “Regina Holding Hands” left the audience in awe.

This, and I assume every other, White Denim show could be discussed endlessly because of the completely diverse sounds that somehow blend together seamlessly. White Denim’s recorded music may be fantastic, but their live show is mesmerizing. Bassist Steven Terebecki, guitarist Austin Jenkins, and drummer Joshua Block’s musicianship, constant professionalism, and startling ingenuity combine with Petralli’s flawless vocals to create a musical experience that defines the word transcendent.

Transcending Genres: White Denim
  • Long and generous set
  • Mature and enthralled crowd
  • Perfect performances from both acts
9.4Overall Score

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