White Denim Crescent Ballroom 2/10/14
You could say that White Denim has had a great week. They performed on Conan last Thursday, and then they played two sold-out shows at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. And then they hit Phoenix on a Monday night for a packed concert at Crescent Ballroom.
After an invigorating, organ-tastic set by Nashville's Clear Plastic Masks, White Denim sounded sterile to start. James Petralli, prone to pulling the mic away from his mouth when he sings, came off timid during the first two songs ("Pretty Green" and "Corsicana Lemonade," both from the band's latest release, Corsicana Lemonade), but his verbosity progressed with the night and he was practically eating the mic during belts in "Cheer Up/Blues Ending" -- also from the aforementioned album.
The Austin four-piece has the unique quality of being a genre funhouse, which makes for a spectacular live show. White Denim's songs absorbed a gamut of whimsy samba jams all the way to heavy psychedelic guitar solos and experimental instrumentals that expanded and collapsed in that cosmic jam-band way. It was a real treat.
Guitarist Austin Jenkins pulled a few boop-de-boop riffs from his Steve Miller quiver more often than not, but, man, it's just so much fun to watch him and bassist Steven Terebecki noodle and slide all over the songs to care.
Despite a setlist sourced heavily from new material, the biggest crowd pleasers were songs like "I Start to Run" and "Syncn" off 2009's Fits. "Shake Shake Shake" on 2008's Workout Holiday EP was another pit-boiler, with a psychedelic jam that was nearly jeopardized by the stage lighting because Petralli, semi-jokingly, said he couldn't see his fingers playing.
You watch White Denim, and they're just different. There's something visceral like a club band in them as well as a put-together and arena-ready presence. And to think, it was only three years ago they kicked off their D tour at the Sail Inn.
Anyway, the band played for just about two hours and delivered an enthusiastic encore ("Radio Milk How Can You Stand It") basically carried on the vocal chords of three guys in the crowd who really, really wanted more. You can thank them in the comments section below.
Last night: White Denim at Crescent Ballroom
The Crowd: Crescentfolk in flannel and maybe six or seven gray-hairs who saw White Denim open for Wilco at Gammage.
Overheard: A middle-aged couple decoding a "that's what she said" joke between James Petralli and an audience member
Personal Bias: In 2011, I listened to "Street Joy" at least one time more than you -- all of you.
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Random notebook dump (a.k.a. an open letter to openers Clear Plastic Masks):
Dear Clear Plastic Masks,
As a self-appointed spokeswoman of the Phoenix crowd at Crescent Ballroom last night, I apologize for the belated applause, locked kneecaps and stiff necks during the first half of your set. You did a great job. Really, you did. Your energy was all over the place, and it was swell. So swell. It was just a Monday, you know? Not all of us can be awesome vagabond musicians coming off a weekend of sold-out shows. It takes a few songs to scrub the 5 o'clock shadow off our work boots. Know what I mean?
You have to admit we especially perked up for your last song. You got to us! Plus, you got some genuine reactions to "So Real." Remember that? Please. Please, come back to Phoenix one day. Our future selves will thank you.