White Denim Are (Always) on the Verge

September 11th, 2013

White Denim – The Bowery Ballroom – September 10, 2013

White Denim are one of those bands on the verge. Yes, with a new buzzed-about album soon to drop and a growing, increasingly enthusiastic fan base, the Austin, Texas, quartet seem poised to break out in the near future. But, as they raised their ruckus at The Bowery Ballroom last night, they proved yet again that they’re always on the verge: on the verge of melting multiple songs together into 15-minute nonstop collages of whiplash rock and roll; on the verge of alchemizing new genres out of blues, psych, prog and jazz; and always, always on the verge of exploding into an ecstatic cacophony of guitar, drums and bass.

Tuesday’s gig was a free affair put on by StubHub and Rolling Stone, and the crowd was an interesting mix of the how-did-we-get-so-lucky? NYC fan base, their first-timer friends and the merely curious with nothing to lose. White Denim began with the opened-up, happy blues of “Pretty Green,” the new single off the upcoming Coriscana Lemonade. The first half of the set was marked by lots of “this is a new one” from frontman James Petralli as they gave the dancing crowd a preview of the record. The new material was strong and concise, a catalog of genres and influences tied up in a maturing White Denim sound: from two-guitar Allmans crunch on jazzed-out rhythms, to a high-energy, psychedelic instrumental aflame on drum-heavy tinder.

Almost seamlessly, the new material blended into older tunes, the title track segueing into “River to Consider” off 2011’s D, starting a tour de force string of songs and excursions that had those in the crowd gasping for breath when they could get it. All momentum was forward as the second part of the set was an avalanche of music, some songs barely feeling half-finished before the next ones overlapped and overtook them. The band was in four-man fugue state, combining impressive chops with raucous energy the way few others can. The highlights were the tension-release climaxes paced perfectly through the set. These moments felt earned by the musicians and the crowd alike, both quite often on the verge of falling apart, but in the end, always delivering. —A. Stein