Entering Camden’s prestigious Roundhouse – a stage on which the likes of Britney Spears had paraded around, just several nights before, for the 10th annual iTunes festival; we were met with newly streamlined Austin outfit, White Denim. However, the only true parading around to be done here was by your humble writers…
On entry, we were handed 3D goggles – the red & blue Tron-style cheapo ones that supposedly give you an off-naff look into the astral realm. The bemusement of the audience was clear to see, as they put on and took off their specs checking whether the 3D had started working yet, only for Petrelli to admit that “To be completely honest…. We have to admit; the show isn’t 3D. We just thought it’d look cool – if you feel cool wearing them, leave them on.”
Lead single Ha Ha Yeah off 2016’s Stiff made for a welcome live jaunt at the quartet’s biggest UK show to date. A quick nod to the sedated crowd – “Thanks for coming, man this is awesome” proclaimed longtime frontman James Patralli before nestling into Take It Easy (Ever After Lasting Love).
The backdrop of the night’s main event comprised of a draped grey sheet with alluring visualiser graphic projections, that would keep any old narcotic fiend aroused hours.
Amid the pixelated portraits – good old-fashioned game-show-esque gunging, finely-aged Kung Fu snippets and Clockwork Orange inspired gang imagery; the graphics would occasionally tease a peak at the retro gaming of yesteryear. The projections plastered GameBoy, Sega and Atari imagery amongst the continued barrage of kaleidoscopic thought.
“Do you at least all have them in your pockets (3D specs), well good cos the 3D portion of the show is about to begin now” ….. into new single Had To Know (Personal), the track being driven by a throng of guitar effects and newbie drummer Jeffery Olsen’s cowbells – unmistakably out in force.
A nice exclusive live outing from 2nd album Fits’ Sex Prayer provided an intricate assembly of a wall of jazz-fueled sound, gradually reaching it’s pinnacle and penetrating our eardrums like a welcomed bout of tinnitus.
On Holda You (I’m Psycho) – the occasional glance and grin was traded between Patrelli & Terebecki. They’re psychedelic improv routes were fully brandished out, through slick plunges into reverbing guitar lines and condensed bass tones.
White Denim have had a bit of an ‘ol’ switch-a-roo’ since their early gems Workout Holiday, D and Corsicanna Lemonade. In 2015, longtime collaborator, percussive maverick and co-founder Joshua Block left the group, along with second guitarist Austin Jenkins, leaving Petralli and Terebecki to enlist the help of Jonathan Horne and Jeffrey Olson.
It certainly hasn’t made the distinguishable White Denim sound anymore diluted per-say. Instead, it has forced a band fresh from evolution to hone their sound to more boundless feats.
On the song Back At the Farm – they showed immense musical fluidity and chemistry as both string and rhythm section weaved and interlocked, really allowing the newly rendered foursome’s tightness to shine through.
Patrelli’s voice is authorative, raspy, occasionally screech-y, but it still maintains that soothing buttery texture – that could strike a chord with even the most aloof of onlookers.
The 2016 live version of Workout Holiday classic Let’s Talk About It comes as both surprise and pleasant affair, as live, it sounds down-tuned and warped meticulously into a sonic sculpture, matching the distortedly-driven Limited By Stature – another live gem from the back catalogue.
Perhaps the reason all the songs had a nice ring to them was because they were all performed through a quadrophonic sound-system. Essentially a PA system with four channels, it’s speakers are positioned at the four corners of the listening space, reproducing signals that are independent of one another. It generates an exclusive quadrophonic sweet-note to the extensive garage-blues riffs and gusty rhythm indulgences.
As far as tightness and musicianship goes, White Denim are up there with the likes of fellow contemporaries Kevin Parker, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Battles et al.
The only downside of the evening was not being able to clearly make out Bassist & co-founder Steve Terebecki’s face – as it was shrouded from view underneath an off white/red trucker cap.
The band reemerged to a rapturous applause, beginning their encore with 2013 EP release Pretty Green, a bodacious return after the short interval, Petrelli’s agonised voiced carried on Terebecki’s marching basslines.
Afterwards, band introduction & final thank you before Bess St., a melodic analogue jam that manages to emulates all the loveable aspects of the pre-Stiff era White Denim – with a newly found robust vigor.
All in all, it was a night of extended jam-infused outros, vintage gaming imagery and the occasional bugle outburst. What more do you actually need?
We certainly didn’t need anything, apart from a cheap packet o’ crisps and some curious off-license bevvy’s for the long train ride home…If you didn’t leave the Roundhouse feeling jubilant about the night’s proceedings, then – in true outdated GP diagnosis – you must be ‘daft as a brush’.
Words: a BVC collaboration from Tommy Kendall and Gino Franks.