If you were to sum up White Denim’s gig at the SWG3 Galvanizers as a Venn diagram, it would probably consist of two giant circles – one labelled “rock”, the other labelled “funk” – and a tiny, little, baby circle labelled “the slow one”, gradually being crushed to a strangled singularity by the weight of its overbearing genre cousins. The four-piece from Austin, Texas swing into the newest venue in Glasgow and, by God, are they in a hurry.
By way of support, they have the boundlessly bonkers BC Camplight who rampages through a typically esoteric set, pulling punters into the deepest recesses of the cavernous venue and finishing with the paranoid electronica of I’m Desperate.
Taking the stage to Hi-NRG techno should’ve given a strong hint as to what White Denim had in store. What we get is a relentlessly rollicking two hours of intricate and endlessly inventive music, managing to segue from huge slabs of 70s psych and cock rock to surf-lapping tropical soul and high speed P-Funk mashups. You try saying that after a few pints.
Let’s first recognise the bleeding obvious – these guys can play. The opening onslaught of Backseat Driver, Moves On and Drug shows you exactly what the band are capable of as they effortlessly negotiate their way through impossible time signatures and furiously technical instrumentals. The songs are smashed together in massive five-song hunks with no pause for breath, never mind applause, as they continue aboard their unstoppable musical juggernaut. It’s almost as if they are trying for a musical re-enactment of the movie Speed – keep it above 140 BPM or the venue blows up. Front man James Petralli, ironically wearing blue denim, is tormenter in chief, unremitting in his drive for his fellow players to maintain the punishing tempo. Even the sight of drummer Greg Clifford’s bloodied hand elicits minimal sympathy as the gargantuan beats of Performance loom over the horizon.
There is tangible relief amongst the audience as the band mark the midway point with the only recognisable break in the entire set. A Place To Start acts as a welcome, soulful buffer between the rock excesses of the first part and the groove laden second.
Rest over, and conscious of an early curfew, they launch into recent single Magazin, with space age Moog noodling by Rick Wakeman lookalike Mike Hunter, and Anvil Everything, which threatens to bamboozle with its schizophrenic rhythm.
What starts out as an exhilarating spectacle ends up stupefying the audience slightly due to its non-stop nature. Covering almost thirty songs in just under two hours is an impressive feat but the complexity of the compositions and the lack of crowd interaction or natural breaks means the mind starts to wander in the second half.
Which begs the question – surely a gig cannot be successful on the proficiency of the performer alone? Without the connection to the crowd, it becomes something to witness, not to be part of. White Denim play like they have a bus to catch but they would do well to make a few pit stops along the way. Otherwise, people might want to jump off early.