Tag Archives: James Petralli
White Denim – The Bowery Ballroom – April 26, 2016
You know what they say, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” That old adage was proved true last night at The Bowery Ballroom. It was certainly true for Sam Cohen, who opened the show fronting a new self-titled band and yet still continuing his asymptotic approach to psych-pop perfection. With a thick slab of dreamy synth and McCartney bass added to his own spiral-sliced guitar, Cohen raved up songs from last year’s Cool It release. As the crowd continued to fill the room, the band filled it with a new, mutated version of Cohen’s characteristic reverberating sound on songs like “The Garden” and “Unconditional Love.” The set ended with a long, chaotic version of “Let the Mountain Come to You,” synth and guitar providing a proper headspace for the headliners.
Change is definitely nothing new for White Denim, who returned to New York City for two sold-out Bowery shows with a new lineup and a new album. And while, yes, the band has sacrificed a little finesse for a lot of muscle, the feeling in the room was that, as far as their live set is concerned, this was the same old White Denim. New material from the recently released Stiff album meshed quite literally with the old, James Petralli, Steve Terebecki and crew stitching together several songs at a time, giving the audience little chance to catch their breath, in classic White Denim fashion. The opening stretch bounced between blues strut, Beatles swirl, breakneck prog and Rhodes-disco soul with a balance of gale-force rock and roll and laid-back aw-shucks ease. Two-guitar instrumental passages glued together Petralli’s Southern-soul singing, satisfying all the left-brain/right-brain tendencies of the boogie-down crowd. Midway through, Cohen returned to the stage for “Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah),” off Stiff, the presence of his third guitar like that of a pistol in the first act, eventually going off in a great back and forth with Petralli. “At Night in Dreams,” off 2013’s Corsicana Lemonade, was representative of the evolved White Denim sound: jazz groove exploding into monster rock and roll in Banner-to-Hulk fashion, quite literally leaving shredded denim in their wake. As has been the case for nearly all of their NYC appearances going back to their trio days, the set was filled with long stretches of dizzying which-song-goes-where? segues and jams to the packed crowd’s delight. And if at some points—like midway through “I Start to Run,” off 2009’s Fits—it felt like things were just short of an out-of-control stampede, all the better.
After 80 minutes of this, the set finally capped off with a concise, rocked-out “Shake Shake Shake,” from their debut album, but the show was far from over. Returning to the stage with Sam Cohen (not just the guy, but the whole band), the now nine-strong ensemble treated the crowd to a perfectly arranged Prince tribute medley. Starting with “Let’s Go Crazy!” (complete with spoken intro from Cohen), they worked through portions of “Delirious” and “Controversy” with superfun WD-style segues and Petralli doing an admirable job on the vocals. Somehow the sound remained groovy, not too top heavy with all the doubled-up musicians onstage and a little jam opened up before they expertly brought it back for the closing riff of “Let’s Go Crazy,” which definitely wasn’t the same old, same old for White Denim. —A. Stein | @Neddyo
Tags: Aaron Stein, Beatles, Bowery Ballroom, Cool It, Corsicana Lemonade, Exposion, Fits, James Petralli, Jeff Olson, Jeremy Ross, Jonathan Horne, Live Music, Lower East Side, Mike St. Clair, Music, New York City, Paul McCartney, Photos, Prince, Review, Sam Cohen, Steve Terebecki, Stiff, White Denim
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Supporting their seventh studio album, Stiff, White Denim’s tour brings them to New York City next week to play two shows at The Bowery Ballroom, on Monday and on Tuesday. And while they each sold out in advance, The House List is giving away two tickets to Monday’s show. Don’t have any of your own but still want to go? Try to Grow a Pair. Just fill out the form below, making sure to include your full name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (White Denim, 4/25) and a brief message explaining why Mondays are your favorite night to go out. Eddie Bruiser, who would happily see the Austin, Texas, four-piece any day of the week, will notify the winner by Friday. Good luck.
Tags: Bowery Ballroom, Contest, Eddie Bruiser, Free Tickets, Grow a Pair, James Petralli, Jeff Olson, Jonathan Horne, Live Music, Lower East Side, Music, New York City, Steve Terebecki, Stiff, White Denim
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White Denim – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 11, 2014
The headlines kind of write themselves: White Denim burn down Music Hall of Williamsburg or White Denim play blazing show in Brooklyn. Thankfully, despite an unplanned fire drill midway through their set, there was no literal fire in Williamsburg last night. Metaphorically, however, the headlines stand up pretty well. Playing the middle show of a three-night run at Music Hall, White Denim were hotter than hell, setting the room on fire, downright blazing and any other cliché you can think of. They began the set with a smoldering, soulful “A Place to Start,” the last track off their most recent LP, Corsicana Lemonade, and then hopped into that album’s opener, “At Night in Dreams,” a heavy-duty dose of concentrated Allmans, with James Petralli and Austin Jenkins giving a preview of what would be a night full of two-guitar prowess. “At Night” kicked off a multisong medley, the first of many such signature excursions: two or three songs with instrumental interludes, quick-stop segues and check-your-baggage jam-outs. This first one ended with a stretched-out version of “Drug,” off their 2011 breakthrough album, D.
With White Denim, each show feels like the best they’ve ever played, and the best they’ve ever played and Thursday felt no different, although years of touring in their now-steady quartet form seems to have elevated and matured their jazz-metered, free-form Southern-rock sound. Select tunes were slowed or mellowed a bit, providing room for more interesting dynamics. “River to Consider” was a good example, as its normal breakneck pace was given a more deliberate rendering that allowed for a tremendous slow-build jam. Shortly thereafter, as the band tried a similar trick with “Anvil Everything,” the fire alarm sounded and the room was cleared (I must say in a very orderly fashion). Following a 20 minute smoke-’em-if-you’ve-got-’em intermission on the sidewalk of N. 6th St., NYC’s Bravest gave the all clear and the crowd returned with a little fresh-air buzz.
The break seemed to have a filter effect on the audience, those who were there to drink and be social went off to a bar somewhere, and the remaining crowd was smaller, but a bit rowdier with room to boogie and throw fists in the air. White Denim gave plenty of reason to do both, launching a few more highlight-reel sections starting with another medley that began with a restarted “Anvil Everything” and ending with a stretched-out, swallow-everything version of “I Start to Run.” Things turned looser as the show came to its furious conclusion, large swaths of the band’s last few albums coming together in exciting combinations. The pairing of the acrobatic instrumental “At the Farm” and a beautiful, stripped-bare “Keys” was an inspired moment among many. When everyone filed out the front doors for the second time, giddy, glazed looks in their eyes, there was no doubt that White Denim had, indeed, set the building on fire. —A. Stein
House List favorites White Denim (above, performing “Pretty Green” on Late Show with David Letterman) are back in town this week for three shows at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Friday’s is already sold out, but tickets still remain to see the engaging Austin, Texas, four-piece tonight and tomorrow. And last week frontman James Petralli checked in from the road to answer Five Questions.
You guys have played New York City for several years now. Are there certain places you like to revisit when you return? And do you ever feel like you could live here?
There are so many great places in NYC, and we are always so busy when we come to work that I generally hit new places every time I visit. One place I always find myself, though, is La Esquina—great food there. I’ve never done any of the popular tourist destinations or visited any of the multitudes of museums and galleries either. It is kind of a shame really. I need a few days off there someday. I could live in NYC, but I couldn’t see myself settling there. I need to have fast access to the countryside. (Preferably the Texas countryside.)
And do you notice your music being received differently in New York City?
There are so many things to do in the city each night that we feel honored to have developed a loyal audience there. People are pretty similar everywhere you go, in a good way. Except for Lufkin, Texas—terrible, villainous folks in Lufkin. Kidding.
Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
I am not always great at writing bridges or getting past a first chorus. I always have to force myself to write a third part and sometimes it takes long enough to lose interest in the tune entirely. I have hard drives full of single verses and choruses. I’m also probably either too oblique or too bang on in my lyrical approach. Still looking for balance there.
Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
No, but I do believe it helps. I think that actual experience can really help a performer connect with the material and thereby have a more significant impact on an audience. As far as writing goes, though, I think it behooves one to be as imaginative as possible. I’m told research and observation can be nearly as effective as actual experience.
It’s 4 a.m. and last call has come and gone. What’s your next move?
Bust out the flask and keep my eyes out for a cool place to barf. —R. Zizmor
Aquarium Drunkard Showcase – Mercury Lounge – October 16, 2013
While every night on the NYC live-music scene is a potential party, a night during CMJ takes it to the next level, like an over-the-top wedding reception celebrating the marriage between the music and the fans. Like every good wedding, it’s tradition to have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. And last night’s Aquarium Drunkard showcase at Mercury Lounge had a healthy dose of each, running the gamut from vintage sounds, new directions and, yes, plenty of blues. It’s good to get to these shows early because you never know what gems you might find. After a tussle with traffic, I made it in time for the last few songs of Jacco Gardner’s set. Hailing from the Netherlands, he is riding the acclaim of his excellent Cabinet of Curiosities album. Gardner finished his set with “Chameleon,” proving to be a one-man wormhole (with backing band), reaching back to another time with gorgeous, lush melodies and a delicious psych folk.
Cotton Jones, from Maryland, came to New York City as a two-piece, frontman Michael Nau playing several solo songs and a few in duet with Whitney McGraw. This was a simple bluesy indie rock sweetened by Nau’s salted-caramel voice, which found perfect confluence with his lyrics, a highlight being “Blood Red Sentimental Blues.” This was easy-chair music: You felt like you could listen to these two sing forever, plus some A+ whistling. But the name of the game was quick turnaround—both the bands and the crowd seemed to swap out every 30 to 40 minutes, no time to get stale. The Zig Zags, blasting a go-fetch-some-earplugs, visceral punk metal at full volume, flipped the room 180 degrees from Cotton Jones. Playing their first NYC gig, the L.A. power trio made their presence felt with kicking music and dry wit: “This song is called ‘Magic.’ It’s about magic.” Riffs beget riffs beget not-bleeping-around riffs, at one point borrowing snippets of the Doors’ “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” to good effect.
Jonathan Rado’s band began their set in fun mode, seeming like the music and the crowd were just side effects of hanging out onstage. But after a couple of songs, the Foxygen frontman’s set got rolling, the music tightening up impressively. The highlight was “Oh, Suzanna!” which was decorated with excellent bass playing and a nice long, stretched-out, free-form bridge that found Rado on both guitar and keys.
White Denim, from Austin, Texas, headlined the showcase. And despite it being their third local show in fewer than four months, the set was from-the-garden fresh and new. Opening with “Pretty Green” off their imminent new album, Corsicana Lemonade, the music felt like it could explode at any moment, bubbling with fizzy energy. And it didn’t take long, the first few tunes like an avalanche sucking up more songs and parts of others until the now-packed venue faced an unstoppable force. Perhaps it was the midnight hour, but more than ever, the band seemed willing to open up things, with the spaces between sung verses a varying parameter with solos, long jams and full-on instrumentals filling the set—each musician pushing the envelope on songs like “Anvil Everything.” It was fitting that this dizzying evening of music from all over the rock and roll map came to a head with White Denim in monster rock-out mode on “I Start to Run” before making a smooth transition into the jungle groove of “River to Consider” and then into the blazing sing-along of “Drug,” bass, guitars and drums overlapping in triumphant glory. With their seamless segues and deft skill, Denim mocked the tight schedule of the early evening, making their 75-minute performance feel almost infinite, as a high-energy “Shake Shake Shake” and the brain-batter instrumental “At the Farm” highlighted the end of the superlative show, capping off a huge evening of music … or just another night of CMJ. —A. Stein
Tags: Aquarium Drunkard, Austin Jenkins, Cabinet of Curiosities, Corsicana Lemonade, Cotton Jones, Foxygen, Jacco Gardner, James Petralli, Jeff Tweedy, Jonathan Rado, Joshua Block, Mercury Lounge, Michael Nau, Review, Steve Terebecki, the Doors, the Zig Zags, White Denim, Whitney McGraw
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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
White Denim – Brooklyn Bowl – August 14, 2012
One day last winter I discovered White Denim’s Last Day of Summer. I took to it immediately. It compelled me toward multiple replays and consumed my ears’ desires. But I felt a strange sense of guilt about only listening to this one band and a single album
for three straight months. What is it that made Last Day of Summer so appealing? Last night, at the second night of White Denim’s back-to-back stint at Brooklyn Bowl, I found myself revisiting this question, but on a broader scale: What is it that makes White Denim, live, so immensely enjoyable?
The facts of the band seem rather unremarkable: four guys from Austin, Texas, whose Wikipedia page reads like a grocery list of genres (dub, progressive rock, jazz). But, just as regional affiliation doesn’t explain much anymore (really, most bands are from the Internet), neither does genre name-checking. So I’ll spare you the use of cognitive shortcuts in the form of one-word musical-style descriptions. Instead, I’ll say that listening to White Denim live, I got the feeling they could do just about anything they want to musically. Not by means of programmed electronic wizardry or weird synthesizers, but by technical instrumentation and cunning. They could burst into an extended jam, as they did on “Drug,” or play close to the studio version, like their rendition of “Tony Fatti.”
Clear proof of their invincibility, for me, came late into the show, during a moment when lead singer and guitarist James Petralli came halfway across the stage to briefly confer with lead guitarist Austin Jenkins. Bassist Steve Terebecki and drummer Joshua Block kept plugging away, staying locked into a groove, punctuated by round bass notes. But at the end of the guitarists’ exchange, after whatever needed to be said was said, they parted and, looking over in separate directions, jumped right back into the rhythm, seamlessly. It was the kind of high-wire act where the audience is rapt by the danger while the performers calmly dazzle with their abilities—a tense moment that makes White Denim not your average jam band or any other kind. They are breathtakingly skilled, melodically sweet and deft to the point of fault. They are indescribably good and you’re lucky to have another chance to see them. —Jared Levy