ACL Review: White Reaper
Clash meets Go-Go’s meets Pixies meets Thin Lizzy
By Raoul Hernandez,
11:47AM, Mon. Oct. 16, 2017
Terrible name, great band. So’s Cage the Elephant, fellow Kentucky burners. Last year, the latter riot act torched an ACL Fest main stage like no less than the Clash. Sunday, again in Zilker Park, White Reaper tore through an hour on the BMI stage as relentlessly as Green Day.
Power-pop more than punk, the Bowling Green/Austin fivepiece – guitarist Hunter Thompson is an ATX native and still resides here – the group stormed South by Southwest in March with an incendiary showcase at Barracuda. On the final day of ACL Fest 2017, the weekend-two-only rockers took the stage looking like the road crew and began at crescendo. A mosh pit opened immediately.
Frontman Tony Esposito, in faded jeans, matching jean jacket, and white T-shirt, hit the power chord down-stroke button on his Les Paul, and off to the races sprinted everyone involved. He sings like, say, Jon Cryer as Duckie in John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink. You know, the quick, super sensitive kid from your high school whose voice rises as he talks faster and faster.
Meanwhile, his six-string harmonies with Thompson, sometimes doubling up the electro-filigree figures conjured by high-jumping cheerleader/key leader Ryan Hater, rang positively Thin Lizzy. Rhythm sibs Nick and Sam Wilkerson, looking like they belonged in Blur, kept the RPMs at maximum overdrive.
On “Sheila,” a break in the uptempo resulted in a Pixies lope. One prom rock number ghosted a whiff of Britain’s 2 Tone Records. Another song kicked off as if the Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” and the Clash’s “Clampdown” were the same song, Sam Wilkerson striking a perfectly Paul Simonon pose at the lip of the stage. White Reaper sounds like 1,000 alterna-trios from the late-Nineties, with a sprinkle of Eighties keys, and yet like no one else at this year’s ACL Fest.
They may have rocked harder than both weekends combined.
The fivepiece earned every mosher, too, the crowd bouncing off one another in glee rather than testosterone. If only the band had followed through on Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good,” which they began in uncanny approximation. A closing cover would’ve tied it all together, because White Reaper is the sum of 30 years of power-pop, rock, and punk’s best parts.