White Denim at The Sail Inn Last Night

White Denim 
Sail Inn 
Monday, May 23, 2011

In the world of current indie rock, there seem to be two places which produce a fairly high number of quality bands: Canada and Texas -- specifically, Austin, Texas. One band in particular, White Denim, stands out amongst the crowded scene, thanks in part to steady touring and a decent amount of blog buzz.

With White Denim scheduled to release their eclectic new album, D, today (May 24) the band kicked off their latest tour last night at the Sail Inn in Tempe. (Local rockers St. Ranger, who've been generating buzz with their song "Ohnowoe," opened the show.) 

White Denim was pretty much all business last night. They tore through their fast-paced set, and most songs transitioned quickly into the next with the band only stopping for the occasional tuning of their guitars. While the group is pretty well known for shifting genres depending on the song they are playing (everything from garage and psychedelic to dub and punk), many songs from last night eventually broke down into a funky jam session.

A good portion of the set list last night consisted of songs off of D, like the first single, the spacey psych-dance tune "Drug." But the group also managed to include some popular songs from their earlier albums, as well. Songs like "Shake, Shake, Shake," "I Start To Run," and the soulful jam "Don't Look That Way At It" were some of the highlights of the night.

White Denim lead singer and guitarist James Petralli spent most of the night with his vocals being drowned out by the band's music, which is too bad because Petralli has one of the best voices in rock today. Luckily, there were a few slower songs during the set that allowed his voice to be heard a little better by the crowd.

The lack of vocals was something that didn't go unnoticed by Petralli, either. During a brief stop in play, he finally asked the sound guy for more vocals before adding, "I probably should have asked for that forty-five minutes ago."

Perhaps the only thing more entertaining then Petralli's performance last night was the guitar faces he made on stage, often twisting and contorting his face like a young Jim Carrey. At the very least, you could say they were definitely very John Mayer-esque.

The crowd was clearly into the band's performance, bobbing their heads and dancing, but the band abruptly ended their set, and after a minute or two, it was clear there wouldn't be an encore. While it would have been nice to get a few more songs out of White Denim, the performance, albeit brief, was pretty amazing.

Critics Notebook:

Last Night: White Denim and St. Ranger at The Sail Inn

Personal Bias: I've been a big fan of this band for some time now.

The Crowd: Mostly hipsters.

Random Notebook Dump: I know I'm biased here, but I can't believe this band isn't more popular than they are. It was a decent turn out last night, but I'm still surprised more folks didn't show up.

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Mike Escoto