White Denim Television

Hammer of the gods ATX crew quaffs an ‘Austin City Limits’ 40

“One of our own,” nodded Terry Lickona Monday night during his introduction to White Denim. “About time they set foot on our stage.” Taping season 40 of Austin City Limits, the local fourpiece actually set eight feet onstage, which then proceeded to tap, tip-toe, and pogo over a 75-minute set. Drummer Josh Block nearly beat a hole in his bass drum.

“Definitely never imagined playing this,” gasped a soaked and by that point disheveled front guitarist James Petralli prior to an ACL Live at the Moody Theater full house rising all three tiers in standing ovation and demanding an encore. He laughed in disbelief to his bandmates.

“They’re gonna play ‘I Start to Run’ on television. I can’t believe it.”

Stand and deliver: (l-r) Austin Jenkins, Steve Terebecki, James Petralli, 8.4.14 (Photo by Scott Newton Courtesy of KLRU-TV)

Lickona, the PBS perennial’s executive producer, rightly boasted the live concert staple showcasing homegrown acts starting with its pilot (Willie Nelson). Anyone with a working knowledge of Austin success stories thus considered it inevitable that the explosive quartet would some day find itself broadcast globally. Last night’s live streaming shouted out White Denim’s fierce UK fanbase for starters.

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy offering to help squeeze Corsicana Lemonade constitutes a coming for any rock group, but Austin glued itself to White Denim beginning at the band’s most intimate gestational gigs. Initially a trio, they locked into a maximum R&B as combustive as the Who. For ACL, their prog-bent clamor hammered no less than Led Zeppelin.

In a smart sports jacket, Petralli, surrounded by a crescent moon of guitar pedals at his feet, warmed up Block, bassist Steve Terebecki, and guitarist Austin Jenkins with the subtle funk and roll of two new Corsicana Lemonade standards, “Pretty Green” and the title track. At the 15-minute mark, as the singer cut loose a serrated solo – tearing – White Denim had dispensed with any warmup. By the cacophonous sturm-und-drang of “Comeback,” Petralli was coatless and untucking his shirt. Soon a stagehand was wiping his brow.

Once the band began revving up “I Start to Run,” a live set piece locals consider a “hit,” their cement-mixer churn erected serious Physical Graffiti. Surely Jimmy Page taming “The Rover” thrashed in there somewhere. A melting crooner no longer a sure thing in White Denim scrums, best ballad “Street Joy” found Petralli gritting out a vocal performance worthy of Stax as he bent the mic stand to his will and the band weighed in with a dense, punishing backend to the song.

From there, it was all over but the crying, White Denim redoing set closer “At Night in Dreams” for the first encore and then demolishing a six-minute jam that concluded with Petralli on his knees yanking the strings off his instrument, Block pounding his kit like Quint trying to get Jaws off him, and Terebecki making stew of the sound system’s low end with mudslide leads.

They’re gonna play White Denim on television – believe it.

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White Denim, James Petralli, Josh Block, Steve Terebecki, Austin Jenkins, Austin City Limits, Terry Lickona, Willie Nelson, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page

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