(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Concert review - Dualistics, Brazos, White Denim

27 January 2010 (Larimer Lounge, Denver CO)
The lighting wasn't so great for photos, but it was a full night of music that was well worth the drive home in the snow. White Denim was the headliner, with fellow Austin band Brazos, and local openers, Dualistics.

Dualistics describe themselves as progressive pop, which is as good a name for it as anything. Their sound ranged from the progressive drive of Trail of Dead to the vintage alt rock sneer of the Replacements, with an oil slick of Wilco flashing through at times.

Guitar player Tyler Despres hunched over during the more tortured bits of thrash, but always rose back to the mike. He and fellow guitarist Charley Hine played some cool paired guitar parts that blended a jangly discordance of sound. Their stage energy is intense and they put on a fun show. The rhythm section was tight, as the band flowed through their set.

The band has a great sense of dynamics, with low bits jumping into loud, grungy guitar riffs. Nowhere was this clearer than the high point of the show: the U2 influenced Pure Sorcery, with little sampled bits of guitar (hardly enough to be full looping). Following this with the more thoughtful Taking the Time accomplished the same dynamic shift at a set level. This was also a strong song, with some beautiful cymbal work supporting layers of guitar fragments.

Dualistics were a great opener for White Denim, but nine songs or so wasn't nearly enough. I'll need to catch them again when they're headlining their own show. In the meantime, I'm listening to their eponymous six song EP.

Like their friends White Denim, Brazos comes out of Austin. Sonically, they're worlds apart. Guitarist and frontman Martin Crane has a muted, mid-rangey guitar tone. His vocals are often dreamy or diffident. The show started with a solo guitar playing a simple chord, shifting a couple of notes. Crane's voice, a blend of Kurt Cobain singing with a sort of Rickie Lee Jones distance, riffed through the lyrics. The room was receptive to the shift in energy, but it was jarring.

Crane's new indie folk sound is backed by an incredibly tight rhythm section. When they joined in to finish the first song, everyone woke up. These guys provide a syncopated structure to support the looser guitar and vocals. Like Dualistics, they have a good sense of dynamics. Drummer Andy Beaudoin has some wonderful phrasing, often using a maraca in his right hand rather than a drumstick. Bass player Paul Price throbs a steady drive of bottom end.

The music didn't click for me in this context, though the energy on the last couple of songs were much better.

White Denim
The bar drops across your lap and, with a sudden turn, you see the drop ahead of you...much like a ride on a roller coaster from some warped nearby dimension, we were committed. Turn after turn, climbs and falls. White Denim kicked off their set with a subtle looped guitar that built an intricate layering that was subsumed in a moment by the band rocking out as one. This turned into some 40 odd minutes song after song strung together in one ass-kicking loop-the-loop ride through their acid and soul drenched world.

When a break in the music finally came, the audience needed it as much as the band. There was no time to savor it, though, as they started playing again immediately. The songs flowed together, with the band playing like a flock of birds: shifting tempo and style while staying in formation. Most of these changes have to be worked out in advance, as they would veer off together on a dime, but it all felt perfectly natural. This flow gave the set a bit of jam band feel, but the music was firmly hard rock/psychedelia. Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith riffs rubbed elbows with Steppenwolf drive and Hendrix wail.

White Denim ran through many of the songs from their latest album, Fits, including the trippy All Consolation and their single, I Start to Run. The live versions were looser, but much faster and louder. One surprise was that Synchn, a decent song on the album became a masterpiece of moody pain.

The balance between these three players was exquisite. James Petralli built tight layers of looped guitar and then shredded over them with gleeful abandon. Steve Terebecki was incredible as he managed to channel John Paul Jones crossed with John Entwistle. Josh Block covered the basic beat necessities, but he filled out the spaces with tasteful, decorative touches. There was always a lot going on, but the three managed to showcase everyone's talents.

At the end of the night, we walked out: tired, drained, exhilarated. If only there had been a good coffee stout on tap, that would have been perfect. Catch White Denim on their next pass through your town.

More photos at my Flickr.

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