In his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus wrote that “All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant’s revolving door.” Fifteen years later Richard Wayne Penniman wrote “Wop bop a loo bop a wop bam boom,” an undeniably powerful vocalization that on any given Wednesday in any given situation, civilized or otherwise, is still fully capable of setting somebody’s stuff aflame.
Over 10 years and seven long-players into their career, White Denim are still in the relentless pursuit of a thread – in other words, a wick. The Austin, Texas band have carefully and continuously studied the greatest records ever made, but they write songs just dumb enough to drink, dance, and fight too.
Theirs is a music that aims for the whole body, while equally satisfying the mind. While it has morphed, expanded, and even burst apart, White Denim’s sincere and human drive and ability to spark true rock & roll exhilaration have been unerring constants of the band’s 10-year existence, and is something that was on full display Thursday night when their tour stopped in St. Paul, Minnesota for a performance at the Turf Club.
Taking the stage around 9:00 PM, the four-piece psych-garage jam band said few words to the crowd, and instead let their music do the talking. Out on tour supporting their latest album, Performance, the band has spent the last few years really emphasizing their live shows, and this latest album and the subsequent tour has been their opportunity to showcase their abilities as one of the tightest and most enjoyable bands to see perform live in the world.
The performance, which lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and a half, featured a setlist of songs from their entire twelve-year career fit together expertly, flowing from song to song and album to album almost effortlessly. When performing with the same guys for over a decade, it can be hard to maintain the illusion of just jamming together, but to White Denim it’s not an illusion at all, it’s something much more real.
Despite some brief technical issues with some frontman James Petralli’s equipment, the show went on without a hitch, and the Turf Club provided the perfect setting for the performance. The hopes for White Denim to take off and grow to bigger venues such as First Avenue’s Mainroom are alluring, but there’s something about the intimacy of a jam band in a small setting that provides something truly special and memorable.
Regardless of the setting for their next performance in the Twin Cities, this is a band you need to put on your concert calendar.