Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Live Review: White Denim (GetIntoThis)

White Denim
East Village Arts Club
Liverpool, 21st May 2014

EVOL and Harvest Sun, the city’s two main promoters, seem to be involved in a frantic game of one-upmanship at the moment, with each enjoying a golden streak that has seen, or will see, the likes of Parquet Courts, Future Islands, Action Bronson, St Vincent, The War On Drugs all compete for show of the year. The real winners of course are us, the audiences, as Liverpool’s reputation as UK tour’s most high profile and frequent omission looks to be dwindling.
White Denim are a good band, the type whose mention prompts unanimous nods of approval. Even if you might have only heard Pretty Green on BBC 6 Music a last year and couldn’t name another song, you still know, for some reason lurking in the back of your mind, that White Denim are a good band. And after six albums in almost as many years, they can safely call themselves mainstays of American guitar music. White Denim’s remarkable consistency, with their inability to sit still, means that despite only being around since 2007, there is a sense of longevity surrounding them, almost as if they are veterans and tonight’s show at the East Village Arts club is some sort of victory lap.There is an astonishing level of composure about the Texan four-piece this evening. Nodding and grooving almost politely, with each riff barely oozing from Petralli’s fingertips and each melody floating wistfully from his mouth. It’s that sort of thing that makes White Denim, and this kind of bluesy, garage band rock and roll in general so enduringly popular, when it feels like you are peering your head round the door as they jam in their living room. Those piercing lead guitars on At Night In Dreams interlock perfectly, whilst those stabbed, syncopated chords that anchor their most immediate track Pretty Green, are so perfectly timed and executed that its almost as if each member has had these tunes programmed into them. There are no stompers here, no sweeping crescendos or widescreen choruses; just a technically brilliant band, playing technically brilliant songs, very, very well. Ability itself, to the right kind of fan, is often showmanship enough. Sure, there is a fine line between being calm and being well, disinterested, and White Denim certainly tread it thinly tonight, but you get the feeling that if they were all thrashing about on stage, or if they were telling mischievous anecdotes throughout, it wouldn’t sit right with these songs that don’t need to force themselves on anyone. With each tunes just knocked up casually for anyone to grab when they want, instead of charging at the audience head first, we are able to cherish the details and textures that had us spinning their records on repeat in the first place. Each guitar lick, each drum fill, each harmony, all stimulate thrilling sense of recognition and familiarity, almost like when you’re watching your favorite movie for the second time. Don’t be fooled though, this is complex, intricate stuff, and underneath these seemingly straightforward songs there are elements of jazz, funk, blues and rock and roll – all blended flawlessly into this cool and poised package on stage in front of us. The biggest compliment you can give White Denim tonight, and on record, is that despite the wide and often conventional set of influences, you could still never mistake them for anyone else. For a Southern States American rock and roll band, this is quite an achievement, and one that means they are able to release a new album almost every year whilst remaining in a slow, steady, yet enthralling state of transition.

Mike Townsend


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Guest Editorial: Liverpool Sound City Daily (BidoLito!)

I love Liverpool Sound City, but like almost every gig I’ve been to in the last five years, it is a sobering reminder that the rock star dream might be dead. As one of the four hundred ‘self-taught’ guitarists in my sixth form, I assumed that the only thing between me and the moment I returned to my school grounds in the middle of the afternoon, leather jacket over my shoulder, signing autographs for the younger kids and sharing congratulatory hugs with my old classmates and teachers - was time. By some cruel, sadistic twist of fate though, it turned out that I was about as useful writing a song as I was sailing to the moon.

Studying for a degree in Popular Music (I know) here in Liverpool lead to a position at Ditto Music, an independent digital music distributor based in the Baltic Triangle. I mean I don’t sign any autographs, but I can at least pretend to idiots in Heebies that I’m a talent scout for a record label or something. I actually asked my bosses why they chose to set up their head office, for what is very much a global company with locations in Nashville and Melbourne, here in Liverpool as opposed to say London or Manchester. Their response was something I recognised almost instantly, having wrestled with the same sort of decision as an eighteen-year-old music fan looking at prospective universities. They suggested, with absolute assurance, that as a music company, this was the place they needed to be. This was the place where they could establish an identity for themselves, where they could thrive off the enormous pool of local artists and local enterprises, whilst retaining that sense of individuality and personal pride that Liverpool’s arts and business culture so often celebrates. And one look around today is all the vindication they’ll need.

More than this though, and what makes Liverpool an almost unrivaled city for fan and curator alike, is a striking notion of collaboration and fellowship that underpins operations. Of course Liverpool has always been renowned for a fierce sense of community. But the way Sound City brings in bookers and promoters from all corners of the industry, the ridiculous range of venues that gleefully play host for the weekend, as well as the huge range of local business (like ourselves at Ditto) who are invited to contribute to the conference, is indicative of a scene functioning not in competition, but in unison, all working towards the idea that this is our city and this is our scene, the success of which, whatever the source, is ours to share. I’ve always regarded this festival - with every photographer, every booker, every journalist, every sound tech, and every other volunteer - as a fantastic, and deserved celebration of this.

Mike Townsend