Among the 2,200 international bands playing this year’s South by South West, it was a band from the festival’s Austin base that emerged as one of the biggest successes. The New York Times and NME were just two taste-makers championing White Denim, and at the first night of a string of UK dates we have the chance to see what the fuss is about.
It’s not just bearded guitarist and singer James Petralli shouting out song names to his band mates that show they are making up their exuberant set as it unfurls – their tracks sprawl out into psychedelic experimentations as if by instinct. They play so energetically that by the second song, Petralli has broken a guitar string and Josh Block has snapped a drum stick, but he’s prepared for this sort of thing – there’s a heap of spare sticks at his feet. In the face of such adversities they keep playing; it even adds to their already raw and visceral set and punk rock attitude. Like Foals and Battles they create intricate staccato guitar melodies interwoven with unpredictable beats, but minus the technical math-rock description – they match for talent and technique, but they surpass in their unleashed liberating spirit.
Amid the cacophony it’s hard to believe there are just three musicians. They retain immaculate rhythm, with expressive faces to rival gurning competitors. In “All You Really Have to Do”, Petralli belts out almost screaming soulful vocals over Hendrix-esque wah wah guitar. Elsewhere, in “Don’t Look That Way” and “Migration Wind” he interweaves jerky guitar with a looped catchy guitar riff punctuated by funky bass hooks from Steve Terebecki. Block consistently cracks unpredictable and syncopated beats, even when standing up at the end of their awe-inspiring set. Their garage rock style debut single “Let’s Talk About It” is an effervescent hint at a brilliant album to come in June.