The Whigs underwhelmed at the Larimer Lounge on Thursday. Photo from My Old Kenutcky Blog.
Sometimes I feel bad for bands, because there are so many factors at a live show that can ruin it for a reviewer. It’s just not fair.
Like, let’s say you’re me and you’re up front taking notes on your bf’s blackberry device and your friend Jim turns to you and says, “This is too frat-boy for me. I’m going to the bar.” And in his wake you sense the rumblings of something: First, slashes of blond hair cloud your periphery. Spiked pointy elbows seem to be clawing up from the earth itself, as a locomotive is moving up next to you.
She is 5’2”, all limbs, and has the energy to power a small nuclear plant. She is soooo stoked to see this band. Her Chad boyfriend, with his backwards hat, stands behind her protectively as she loses herself, singing along to every word and jabbing you with her tiny windmilling fists in the kidneys, ears, throat and groin. Then if that weren’t enough, Chad yells in your ear: “Can’t you just move?!”
Well excuse me for standing here in the Larimer Lounge, working, and having the audacity to let my face get in the way of your girlfriend’s kung fu dance moves. I don’t go to Old Navy and judo-chop your girlfriend in the vagina while she’s trying to fold two-for-one tube tops, and THEN ask her to move.
At this point in the Thursday night scenario, Father Guido returned with two PBRs and stood behind me, like men do at these shows. And he was much taller, much handsomer, and much more evolutionarily advanced than Chad. I proceeded to yell in Father Guido’s ear about what the mean man said to me.
Now let’s stop here and analyze our feelings. We can’t blame a band for its fans. But we can note that certain combinations of sound have a power that slices through the brains of men and women alike, and forces even the superior specimens of our species to become slaves to testosterone. Like Rage Against the Machine, for example, a show in which Father Guido turned to me with wide, dead eyes and literally said something like: “I must go now,” after which he climbed atop a one-story speaker with dozens of storming, fist-pumping directionless soldiers. And for what?
The Whigs are a three-piece garage band with influences (the Replacements and Pixies) that are not so comparable to Rage. But like Rage, they play in incredibly tight, bold, simple lines, and the result is scarily powerful explosive rock. The drummer, Julian Dorio, is a phenomenal, grungy caterwauling demon (who PS, looks like a more serious, “possibly more evil” Seth Green as pointed out by my friend Jim). Lead vocalist Parker Gispert is blessed with a voice commanding enough, round enough, smooth enough, raspy enough, to announce the apocalypse on the world’s speakers. He sings, you shut up.
Their sound, compact and clean, diffuses in the air into spiky cells of reverberation that burrow into your brain. Ninety percent of the sound you’re hearing is shattering/slicing after-noise: the clashing of drum and guitar, the sounds of their creations attacking each other in this gigantic space. It’s loud. I should have known when someone from their opening act Spinto Band was wearing gigantic protective headphones. And in this environment, both Father Guido and I wanted to clock Chad and Chadette.
I had much difficulty stereotyping the Whigs. Were they indie? Fratty? They combined hipster haircuts with meathead energy and added a Mick Jagger swagger. It turns out they used to open for Franz Ferdinand back in the day, and even arbiter of cool Pitchfork has given their album, “Mission Control,” an excellent rating. Yet they recorded their first album, “Give ‘Em All a Big Fat Lip,” in an empty frat house. Gispert chatted eagerly with the crowd about sports in between songs.
Maybe that’s where I drew the line. The sports talk. I was kind of over this night. First there were the expectations I had built for the Whigs simply due to their more creative openers, first seeing Widowers (see them, see them!), then Spinto Band (tweaky, spazz-tastic dork rock, not unlike the stylings of Mason Proper). And while the Whigs are good, they’re certainly not unique. Even the Pitchfork review praising them begins with this phrase: “Originality is overrated.”
Perhaps Chad sensed our irritation, because he offered his pound-it-out-bro fist to Father Guido, asking, “How you doin’ tonight bro?” Father Guido did not take his hand, but we took this as a peace offering. In these environments, all negotiations and bartering are done by the men, on behalf of the women. So Father Guido gave him a benevolent nod, and we walked out during their encore — a Rolling Stones cover.
Erin Barnes edits the Donnybrook Writing Academy.