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White Denim

by Josh Potter on June 29, 2011

Iron Horse, June 23
I need to make a confession: I don’t love rock & roll. Unconditionally, that is. It’s ironic, you might be thinking, to make such as statement in advance of reviewing a rock concert, but bear with me. Rock is (was) a reactionary art form meant to articulate and liberate an inner longing in its listeners and scare the established order with its voodoo. In a perfect society, there’d be no rock & roll. Sixty years deep, rock is central to the establishment, harmlessly recalling youthful vigor in order to energize business as usual.

For this reason, it would be easy to dismiss White Denim on principle. Countless other garage bands have plugged in their amps, learned the pentatonic scale and started chunking out blues-based riffs. Somehow, though, White Denim make their fondness for the Band of Gypsys and early Led Zeppelin sound vital, without stripping it too far back like the White Stripes or overblowing the whole thing like, well, everyone else.

The band opened their set with a riff rock opus that contained passages in 11/8 time but never veered into terrain you might call prog rock. Bassist Steve Terebecki and drummer Joshua Block never aimed to discombobulate, instead remaining supportive to guitarists James Petralli and Austin Jenkins, who themselves withheld from soloing in order push things along in synchronized riffery. Despite (or, in fact, cause for) the amount of blog hype the quartet have been receiving, there’s no posture or pretense about their execution. The musicianship is apparent from the outset, but it’s all in service to that raw thrust that made kids shake in 1968—and, weirdly, still does.

A nearly continuous set of music followed, making the junction between songs appear as mere section breaks in one long jam. Along the way, they touched on “Street Joy,” a ballad from their new record D that features Petralli’s warbley croon, “Don’t Look That Way at It,” with a penchant for the Dirty Projectors, their new single “Drug” and “Anvil Everything,” quite possibly the finest rock song written in recent memory.

It was during the maniac sprint of “I Start to Run,” though, that something really started to happen. The demons of a lifetime spent listening to stale, pandering bands were exorcised and I felt myself actually loving rock & roll. How’s that for upsetting the establishment?