Recap: White Denim’s Free At Noon performance at World Cafe Live
White Denim is decisively indecisive. The Austin-based band has tried out every sound, it seems—jazz, samba, psychedelic rock, freak folk, classic rock, and punk. That is the band’s appeal: There’s something for everyone, especially since the core of their sound is closer to contemporary rockers such as Les Savy Fav and The Sound Out Louds. Often, they flip between starkly contrasting styles not only within an album, but within a single song. Today at World Café, White Denim took it a step further and played medleys of their already highly ambiguous tracks—and the crowd loved it.
White Denim focused mostly on material from their newest album, D. This is their fifth full-length album and, despite fans’ sustained ability to connect with their music, no one seems able to predict what James Petralli, Joshua Block, Steven Terebecki, and their newest member, Austin Jenkins, will produce next. This album is packed with moments—moments of huge, jarring, intense sound such as “Burnished” and “It’s Him,” and softer lulls like “Street Joy.” Had White Denim simply played a few tracks from this zigzagging album, the show would be been erratic.
Instead, they wove together two different medleys of three tracks each. The medleys played out like jam sessions, and “Phish” was murmured among crowd-goers approvingly. After a powerful combination of “It’s Him,” “Burnished,” and “At the Farm,” the men of White Denim slowed it down on “Street Joy,” a ballad with a waltz-y, nostalgic feel. This gave lead vocalist James Petralli an opportunity to show off his vocal range. He can bellow and belt, but “Street Joy” gave him a chance to croon, and later, he seemed to simultaneously hum and sing the lyrics of “River to Consider” during a “Bess St.,” “Shake Shake Shake,” and “River to Consider” medley. Even his vocal performance was eclectic.
The show ended with “No Real Reason,” a lullaby from their new EP “Takes Place In Your Work Space.” At that point, the recording session for NPR technically ended, but White Denim requested to play an encore for the crowd at World Café. They closed off with “I Start To Run,” the punk rock anthem from their critically acclaimed 2009 album Fits. This was clearly a wonderful surprise to the audience, who let loose bobbing and dancing as though they’d been secretly waiting for the first notes of that angst-y riff since noon. When the song ended, Helen Leicht came on and teased, “Who plays music like that?” White Denim does—and they seem to be a little bit of everyone.
White Denim performs with Manchester Orchestra and The Dear Hunter at 8 p.m. at Electric Factory; tickets to the show are $27. —Naomi Shavin
For more photos by Eric Ashleigh, visit lefte.co.