The first time you hear White Denim’s “I Start to Run,” it sounds so great you can’t believe it. There’s powerful drumming, a driving bass line, cool stabs of guitar playing, and full-bodied shouting. In the torrent of words spilling forth, all that really stands out is the repeated line “I start to run!” And, just when you have White Denim pegged as a heavy garage-rock trio, odd little bits crop up at the edges: a slow, tinkling electric piano part; some cheesy ’80s drums; some wah-wah and dub-reggae–style echo on the guitar; some backing vocals cooing “ooohhh” and “aaaahhh.” By the end of the track, the garage-rock song has melted away, and you are left with a cheap drum machine and an amorphous psychedelic haze. By this time, you may have gone from thinking, This is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard! to What the hell am I listening to?
But even that oddball ending can’t prepare you for the weirdness of the rest of the Austin band’s work. On last year’s album, Fits, the trio goes from “I Start to Run” to a sort of dub instrumental into a Zeppelinesque psychedelic hard-rock number into several songs resembling a ’70s singer-songwriter record played at the wrong speed at the bottom of a concrete stairwell. The band’s concerts are apparently even more disorienting, with Josh Block’s drum kit set up center-front while he leads guitarist-singer James Petralli and bassist Steve Terebecki through breakneck time-signature changes and extended improvisations. There are even reports of fans documenting every show the way people used to do for the Grateful Dead and Phish.
- Sunday, January 17, 2010, 8:30 p.m.
- Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
/ $10 - $12