Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Concert Review: White Denim at Bottletree in Birmingham, Alabama

Editor's Note:
With this review, extrawack! welcomes Birmingham, AL scenester and new contributor Joel Gamble:

Photo courtesy of hstoutzenberger

There are few joys for a music fan that can compare with discovering a new band in a live setting. It's one thing to peruse mp3 blogs until the sun comes up, but it's quite another to have an unknown entity unleash some fine on-stage rocking into your unsuspecting ears. It's a such a rare opportunity because not many people go see a band having no idea what to expect. That's just what I did though for White Denim's performance at Bottletree in Birmingham, Alabama on April 30th. Perhaps it's an unorthodox approach, but I sometimes like going into a show as a tabula rasa with no expectations and no preconceived notions, especially after a band starts picking up a lot of buzz like they did after SXSW.

The opening chords of the instrumental "Migration Wind" perked my ears up immediately and I knew I was in for a night of music well beyond the typical ho-hum "next big thing" that always seems to be on tour. One thing that struck me immediately was that the band really seemed to be enjoying playing live music. They were occasionally smiling on stage and noticeably devoid of irony. Isn't that some sort of indie rock sin?

White Denim sounds immediately familiar, but not derivative or forced. It sounds as if these guys grew up on equal parts blues, rock and punk. After a driving, energetic and sweat-soaked set that I can't tell you much more about because I didn't know any song titles (and had to ask what the first song was called) I managed to pull guitarist and singer James Petralli aside for a brief chat.

Asked about their approach to music making, Petralli said, "There is an exuberance in what we do. We leave room in the songs for improvisation and input from everyone." He went on to mention that this was their first major tour and though they were playing to bigger crowds opening for Tapes n' Tapes than they would on their own and that crowds had been receptive so far. I certainly felt like I could sense the tide turn in the room when the majority of folks shifted immediately from indifference to nodding along to drummer Josh Block's infectious beats.

The interview nature of our conversation quickly fell away though (I'm such a bad blogger at times) and it wound up being two guys discussing various experiences touring (I used to road manage a band) and talking about everyone from Austin bands like Explosions in the Sky and Stars of the Lid to others like Deerhunter and The Dirty Projectors. We eventually realized we'd been outside talking during the majority of Tapes n Tapes' set and went our separate ways to go watch them. I left with that satisfied feeling of discovering a new band in concert, but quite upset with myself that I didn't bring any cash to buy their records....

Grab White Denim's "Goldie Locks" and a couple other tracks for free at RCRDLBL.

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