White Denim at East Village Arts Club (21 May ’14)

After the glories of Sound City, it was back to a normal gig – this time White Denim from Austin, Texas at EVAC, which is fast turning into my most regular gig venue (though I much prefer the Kazimier) – in fact my next two gigs are back there again.

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I was in town early enough to check the show times at EVAC before heading to the Dispensary for a couple of swift ones. It made sense to check when the main band were on, as I had no great desire to catch the support act, a heavy Norwegian band called Death Crush – never judge a book by its cover, but the name put me off them before I’d even listened to a few of their songs online, which merely confirmed that a decent pint would be a better use of my time.

I had just started on my second one when who should wander over but my friend Simon, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic big cheese, for whom the Dizzy is a second home. He proceeded to escort me straight over to the bar to introduce me to the Echo’s Peter Guy, whose Get Into This blog and reviews I have often read over the years. We had a good little chat (together with his companion, Mike?), about White Denim, The Fall (who inspired the name of this blog) and Wooden Shjips (due to my t-shirt).

I headed off to EVAC in plenty of time to try and get a drink before the main band came on – however, I had reckoned without the venue’s inability to actually keep beer flowing. There are three bars within the venue itself, and I went to each one in turn in an attempt to get a Guinness. I queued at the first one and got served only to discover that it was off. I spotted the lack of it at the second bar before wasting any more time, and then returned to the first bar I had passed, but it wasn’t on there either! I decided on a Beck’s, but when I eventually got served, that had just been closed off too so a cheeky Stella it was… I might not have bothered normally, but it was pretty warm in there.

Anyway, enough moaning and onto the band. White Denim are an odd-looking bunch. The bassist was positioned at the centre of the stage, despite not being the singer, and he looked strangely like a more diminutive Rose West. The guitarist to the left reminded me slightly of Christian Slater, mainly due to his slick hair. The lead singer was on my side of the stage, and had the air of a clean and healthy Jeff Buckley, with his guitar slung high up, kind of like George Harrison or perhaps Nick Heyward… The drummer was wearing a cap, which is the most interesting thing I can recall about him, probably because I didn’t have a good view of him. Though I can confirm this cap was not merely there to hide baldness.

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White Denim aren’t a band I’m incredibly familiar with – I bought their first album “Workout Holiday” when it came out back in 2008 after hearing some of their songs played by Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music. I’d then entirely lost track of them until deciding to go to this gig, so I made a point of picking up their latest release “Corsicana Lemonade” a few months back. There are actually another four albums in between those two, of varying widespread extents of release, so I was fully expecting to not know a lot of the songs. Both albums I have I like, but they’re the kind of band that I find hard to pick favourites by. However, I’d also heard they were a very good live act, so I was pretty hopeful of a good night.

They kicked off with “At Night In Dreams, the opening track off the new album, which showcased perfectly their unique, highly structured, riffing sound. I’d liken them to Steely Dan with Black Keys-style blues riffs, with a touch of early Steve Miller Band, but better than all that makes them come across like! Fortunately, they kept on the right side of proggy fretwankery for the most part, but I sense that they could be tempted down that dark road in the right circumstances.

Their ninety-minute set was scattered with segues between songs, many of which were given extended workouts. This worked for them, without ever really coming across as self-indulgent. I’m afraid I can’t name many of the other tracks they played, though they certainly gave an airing to the poppier sounds of “Pretty Green”, also from “Corsicana Lemonade”.

I forced my way to the other side of the stage for the encore (only because I needed the loo over there!), which unfortunately meant I was stood behind a man with incredibly bad B.O. So overall I got quite a good view of the audience, and I can confirm a distinct lack of white denim among the punters as well as the band! There were quite a few women down the front, and a noticeable lack of beards in the crowd. Not sure why I noticed that really, but these things sometimes come to you at gigs…

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I really enjoyed the gig, and it left me wanting to hear some of the albums of theirs that I have missed over the years.

Tonight’s t-shirt

I wore my purple Wooden Shjips t-shirt tonight (who I’d seen at the Kazimier back in 2011), which rarely gets an outing but managed to generate some chat with the Echo/Get Into This boys before the gig. As usual here there were very few other band t-shirts among the crowd, but I did spot someone in a New Order one.

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