White Denim recently played a show at the beautiful Copley Symphony Hall opening for Wilco and showcased their extreme compositional prowess fusing jazz, blues and progressive rock into palatable movements of beauty and sound that truly harnessed the lush acoustics of the symphony hall. Then they played 15 dollar rock and roll show for shit-faced college kids at UCSD’s The Loft, and it was awesome.
This is what makes this newly bolstered four piece so special, they seem to be the best kept secret of rock music. Too technically precise to simply be a punk-rock bar band and too many badass rock riffs to play at all the swanky jazz clubs. White Denim is hard to pigeon-hole and that’s for the best. It’s the sense of not knowing what exact kind of set they are going to pull out of their five studio album catalogue that creates the excitement and build-up that makes their live show so incredibly invigorating. Are they going to go with the more compositionally complex workings of D? Or are they going to kick out the jams from their debut Explosion? Or are they just going to improvise the whole time like a meth infused Phish?
Honestly it makes no difference. Where there is a marked difference in feel between each of their albums, when they play live there are no real transitions separating the tracks, they bleed seamlessly into each other for a frothy mixture of eargasm. With their newly added guitarist Austin Jenkins, the older songs that were written while they were still a three piece are fleshed out and given room to breathe while still retaining that unbridled energy that made their earlier singles so relentlessly pulse pounding. The added guitarist seems to take some of the pressure off of singer and guitarist James Petralli. While he still tackles the rhythmically complex portions there is a sense of ease and tightness when he lets Jenkins take the lead and it was showcased all night by the two guitarists smiling and laughing for the length of the set.
It went a lot like this:
The set itself was crammed with literally anything a fan could want. The raucous “Shake Shake Shake” seemed to be the first thing to loosen the expectedly stiff San Diego crowd up. With bassist Steven Terebecki and Jenkins shouting into the mic as a call and response to Petralli’s already deafening bellows, it got the audiences’ feet moving as if they really had any choice. The set thundered onward through jazz tinged freak-outs and face melting solos only slowing down towards the end with a truly touching ballad of “Street Joy” before the band left the stage for the encore. They then stood awkwardly shoulder to shoulder with the audience screaming for them in the tiny room until they got back on. They managed to push the pace even faster for the encore and a blacked out concertgoer tried for beleaguered yet good natured mosh pit. It was great end to an unbelievably intimate brilliant show from a genuine and incredibly talented rock band.