White Denim @ Webster Hall

February 28th, 2014

Austin, Texas is a city known for its love of all things music.  It's most famous for the South By Southwest Festival it hosts each spring, but no matter what time of year you visit, live music is everywhere.  I mean, local bands regularly play the airport.  Seriously.  The capital of Texas is filled with a mind bogglingly diverse population of music junkies who are artist friendly, but tough to impress.  White Denim calls the place home and the four piece is earning fans far beyond the Bat City
Formed in 2006, they've pumped out six albums and five EPs.  I got hip to them sometime last spring when I stumbled on 2011's D and it ended up in my heavy rotation.  Their latest LP, Corsicana Lemonade, was released in October of last year and includes a pair of tracks produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy.  It's a solid rock record showcasing their ability to fuse wide ranging influences into something new and tasty.  

These guys pull from all over the map.  Just look at how their described on their Wikipedia page:

"White Denim is a four-piece rock band from Austin, Texas. Their music draws influence from dub, psychedelic rock, blues, punk rock, progressive rock, soul, jazz, experimental rock with home-based recording, jamming approach, intense looping work and unusual song structures."

To my ears they sound like a jam band version of the Black Keys with a love for prog rock and Steely Dan.  I was excited to see how they held up live.  Fittingly, I was joined by my cousin from Austin at the show.  

The crowd at Webster Hall was as heterogeneous as White Denim's set.  It was one of the more interesting crowds I've been a part of.  Whether looking at race, gender, age or fashion sense, no group was in the majority.  It felt a bit like standing in a rock and roll Benetton ad.  My cousin and I were front and center for most of the sold out show and definitely got our money's worth.  From the opening song it was obvious White Denim are a tight unit of seriously talented musicians.  Their songs include frequent changes of timing & tempo that would buck off lesser musicians like an angry longhorn.  Somehow they manage to meld heart and mind by being both technical and accessible.  Joshua Block (drums) and Steven Terebecki (bass) are the perfect anchor for the guitar fireworks of Austin Jenkins and James Petralli.  Jenkins was a revelation at Webster.  With hair like Chris Isaak, a full Wrangler denim outfit, and a gold belt buckle in the shape of a cowboy hat with "Texas" written on it, Mr. Jenkins repeatedly won the affections of the crowd with his licks on lead.  My eyes and ears were focused on him through a big chunk of their performance. 

Many of the songs were extended a bit to allow more time for improvisation, but they never crossed over to the ostentatious.  I'm guessing their prog rock DNA keeps them focused on each song's structure, as opposed to the aimless wandering of typical jam bands.  They'd rather shapeshift than noodle and that's precisely what they did.  Over the course of their set they left few genres untouched and never missed a beat.  I was impressed.  So was my Austinite cousin.  White Denim is a band Texas can be proud to call their own.  Check em out if they ride through your neck of the woods.