ACL ‘08 Performance Review: White Denim
As I was trying my best to enjoy the Raconteurs on the big AMD stage Sunday afternoon, a distracting noise kept blowing in from somewhere else in Zilker Park. It strangely resembled the sound of real rock and roll. Spontaneous, combustible, electric.
I abandoned the Raconteurs to seek out the source of this other racket and in the process found my new favorite Austin band…maybe my new favorite band, period.
White Denim is a power trio that has been described as everything from ‘noise-rock’ to a bluesy psychedelic-rock band. Descriptions such as those simply don’t do them justice. White Denim exploits jazz, punk, funk, metal and even folk music to craft jagged little masterpieces that grab your ear and won’t let go. Guitarist/lead vocalist James Petralli has a truly great set of pipes, and he doesn’t waste them on trivialities. Instead, he uses his voice like a fourth instrument, sampling familiar-sounding pop progressions that soften the overall assault. When I encountered them mid-set on the Austin ventures stage Sunday afternoon, people strolling past were literally stopping dead in their tracks or turning on their heels to listen. Old and young alike. Many pulled out schedules to search out the name of this anomaly: a band having tremendous fun playing smart, thoughtfully syncopated, explosive, and utterly contemporary rock with a level of musicianship that few mainstream rockers could match. All three members of White Denim, including Steve Terebecki on bass and Josh Block on drums, dispense with the rock and roll histrionics– smiling throughout the tightly wound din, clearly enjoying what they’re doing. And they are doing something very special.
Music festivals can be utterly predictable experiences these days, but Austin City Limits holds itself out as unique: a festival where the accent isn’t on ‘big names’ as much as ‘musical discovery’. For me—and perhaps for many others, too– White Denim redeemed that promise. Hallelujah.