Photos: Joy Asico (http://www.asicophoto.com/)
Everyone tosses around “killing it” these days. This band was killing it at the arena, that kid killed it on his psych exam, your roast beef sandwich killed it at the potluck -- overuse of the phrase has become, well, epic. That said, White Denim and Hundred Visions freaking KILLED IT at the Rock & Roll Hotel, in an Austin, Texas, double-bill that once again proved the ChunkyGlasses rule of Never Miss the Opening Band...Ever.
Sometimes what this town needs is an honest-to-G*d rock show, like head in the speakers, earnest, feeling it kick-ass rock and roll. Hundred Visions, on tour to support their EP Last Cab from Tunis, galloped on stage and dove head-first into a 45-minute set that never came up for air. Sprinkling a layer of funk over a solid stream of old-Replacements-style rock, lead singer Ben Maddox personified every reason why you should and should not fall in love with a musician - he had an instantaneous connection with every member of the mostly packed house, and he didn’t invite so much as demand that everyone “move forward and get sweaty.” Done and done, sir. Although the band has formally released only one 3-song EP, I’m confident they left D.C. with a horde of new fans, and hopefully when they swing back our way it will be as a headliner with more material in step with their killing-it EP.
White Denim’s lead singer came out looking more like an NPR correspondent than the front man for a band that’s opening for Wilco, but ten minutes into an orchestrated melange of guitar noise, James Petralli’s glasses came off and he morphed into 150% rock star. WD’s addition of Austin Jenkins on rhythm guitar ensures that Petralli can range around on his own guitar tracks, and despite the general noise of the live show there’s a fluidity and musicality that brings it all together. On their albums, especially last year’s D, the band covers a variety of genres in a lush, proggy testament to over-sampling and vocal distortions, but the live version of the band drops a lot of the extraneous bullshit and just gets all rocky up in here. The live version of “I’d Have It Just the Way We Were,” from Fits, came out as a highly-electrified 1950’s soulful groove, and in general the band delivered a killing-it assortment of rhythms in what could otherwise have been an overwhelming vat of pure, unadulterated bedlam.
White Denim - also captured smack dab in the middle of KILLING IT
Sliding effortlessly between rifts and key changes, and the first 20 minutes of White Denim’s set was a non-stop onslaught, with lots of jamming mixed in with tighter track samples. The band finally slowed up with a somewhat dreamy rendition of “River to Consider,” and then took a short break to say hello and to thank the opening band. They followed with an excellent version of “Drug,” which is not surprisingly a trippy, infective song that crawls into your brain and won’t get out; they chose not to turn that one into a jam, for which my eardrums were grateful. Later, the languid first section of “Street Joy” made it easier to absorb the rest of the evening’s buzzing, sweltering vortex of sound, and I’m guessing the band must have designed the sets to give your ears a chance to catch their breath every now and then.
Throughout the night there were as many Bell’s Two-Hearted Ales waving in the air as PBR tall boys, which if you want to get all metaphory is like both bands’ studio material compared to the live versions - the live versions aren’t re-mixes so much as de-mixes. No synthesizers or electronic distortion, but plenty of COWBELL. Did I say cowbell? You bet your ass they all had a cowbell. And if you weren’t shaking your ass within the first four seconds of any song in either band’s performance, you should immediately get yourself to Sibley for an EKG, because for all the talk of killing it you may have lost your pulse.