The Whisperlights “Surfaces” Release Party-The Duce 06/28/2011

Seriously, 2011 has raised the bar on what CD Release shows in this town are about. The blowouts held by Lisa Savidge, Dry River Yacht Club, Peachcake, What Laura Says and now, this week, The Whisperlights have all reached a new level of just what a CD release show should be about. These are all out events that completely engage the senses, arranged to delight the mind and whether it’s at the Rhythm Room, Yucca Tap Room, The Icehouse or now, The Duce these shows are equally vying for mindblowing events of the year. These evenings are designed as memorable...

Seriously, 2011 has raised the bar on what CD Release shows in this town are about. The blowouts held by Lisa Savidge, Dry River Yacht Club, Peachcake, What Laura Says and now, this week, The Whisperlights have all reached a new level of just what a CD release show should be about. These are all out events that completely engage the senses, arranged to delight the mind and whether it’s at the Rhythm Room, Yucca Tap Room, The Icehouse or now, The Duce these shows are equally vying for mindblowing events of the year. These evenings are designed as memorable times and these extravaganzas will not soon be forgotten–if ever. That being said, The Whisperlights release show for their new album Surfaces was a hot, sweaty, sexy affair and not just because of the ambient temperature–the music that pounded through The Duce for nearly four and half hours straight was amazing. All the bands brought their best with them and it was great to see them supporting each other with such enthusiasm.

First, and let’s get  this out of the way, The Duce was an inspired choice for an event like this–it very nearly rivalled What Laura Says’ release party at the Icehouse. Both of these places are absolutely amazing and somewhat strange venues that bring a unique charm and resonance to the entire thing. The Duce–what can I say, the place is amazing, I had never been there before, but I can guarantee I’ll be back again and again, almost for weirdness’ sake alone. First of all, by day it’s a boxing gym, which in and of itself is pretty cool, but it’s also like a small self-contained mall for hipsters and those, like me, who really dig army surplus regalia, but wait there’s more. The food is absolute top rate (try the Slider Sampler, try everything) and the drinks are out of this world, there are roughly three bars and while the beer choices are steeped in ironic Americana, the cocktails are out of this world–I highly recommend the Tom Collins, which is out of this world, probably the best I’ve ever had and it’s served in a magnificent mason jar with lemon slices, blueberries and a sprig of mint. Nevertheless, you can also get old fashioned sodas, milkshakes and the list goes on what is available at this amazing place–suffice it to say, I’m in love with the place. And also the sound was great and the entire atmosphere gave it a great sense of the carnivalesque. If you’ve never been there, check it out. The Duce was great, but this evening was about the music and there was plenty of it, still it will be hard if not impossible to separate the place from what happened inside, which was completely brilliant.

Photo by IJW Photo

It’s honestly been years since I’ve seen Sweetbleeders live and they opened the show with a tremendous set that pretty much set the tone for the evening. I seemingly love everything Robin Vining is involved with, whether it is Colorstore, Montoya Clan or Sweetbleeders and the latter is no exception. They gave an energetic half hour set that kind of blew my mind. Each band during the evening seemed to harken back to some traditions and in this case it was steeped deeply in Americana, rich rock and pop suggestions of the last thirty years that in my mind, somehow there entire set was summed up in a cover. Their spot on rendition of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down The Line” was absolutely stellar, note for note, impressive beyond compare–it was the sun upon which all the other songs orbited. During the set they invoked Beach Boys-esque harmonies, calliope organ work and a sense of well being in a pop-rock fashion that is rare to find these days, but desperately needed. The set was flawless and I think it raised the bar slightly for everyone else for the rest of the night.

Photo by IJW Photo

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Dry River Yacht Club go on so early, but it didn’t matter because they always bring their “A-Game”, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, DRYC never puts on a bad show–they always play as if their lives depended on it and that is what I admire most about them. I’m also not sure I’ve ever seen them play a shorter set, but in their half hour time slot they compressed as much transcendental magic as they could and succeeded wildly. Placed at the seond stage (a space in front of a large set of bleachers) their sound shook the building as they rollicked through their unique brand of gypsy-fok-indie-rock and rocked everyone’s world. For such a short set, in such a confined area, Dry River really blew the roof off the place and as always everyone found themselves dancing, hypnotized by performances from Garnet, Ryan, Henri, Freddy, Steve, Ben and Jordan. It was almost more of a teaser performance that made me realize, damn it’s been over a month since I’ve seen a full length performance and I need to catch them headlining sometime soon.


Photo by IJW Photo


Underground Cities followed on the main stage (a boxing ring, it turns out) and brought their hypnotic instrumental magic to the fore. There sound was absolutely explosive and I admired the way they kept their audience absolutely glue to their set without a single vocal or lyrical notion–the ultra-kinetic presentation alone kept your eyes dancing across the band. Brent Bachelder, for instance is one of the most energetic bass players I’ve ever witnessed on any stage, wielding that axe like a guitar god. There music was endless, timeless post-rock that sounded like the soundtrack for a movie you only see in your dreams. I’m not normally one for epic instrumental bands, that is until now, Underground Cities can covert you without you even realizing it at the time leaving you standing there with your mind completely blown.

I had never seen St. Ranger until this night at The Duce and I liked what I hear, a lot. They seem to be a very young five piece band that is creating some pretty unusual indie rock sounds drenched in harmonies, asymmetrical guitars, filling the room with a sound that is well on its way to coalescing into something great. They even seem to have a bit of a following as I noticed a few of the younger crowd singing along to the songs. There songs had this interesting knack of seeming as though they were about to fall completely apart, but as soon as you thought this they would pull in the reigns at that moment and it would all come together with Beach Boys-esque harmonies that defied your mind. Pretty amazing, expect great things from these lads.

Photos by IJW Photo

Finally, it was time for the band of the evening and it was decidedly The Whisperlights party. While they were keeping great company this evening,  it may well have had to do with their full seven man lineup being there or their revved up and excited energythat  their set was the absolute pinnacle of this blowout at The Duce, as well it should have been. Opening where the new album Surfaces opens, I have to say “Ditch The Watch” is the perfect set starter–the only song where Dave Gironda get’s to sing lead, it set the pace for the rest of the show, that is to say non stop full tilt rollicking indie rock that made the crowd go absolutely insane. Keep that fire alive the set continued with, what is perhaps my favorite song on the new album “Great Escape”, which, in my opinion is even better, faster, louder and stronger live than it is on record. Next up was “The Cave”, one of Owen Marshall’s songs (whom, by the way, had a lot of fans in the audience that night shouting his name) and it was brilliant live, every minute of it. “Turn It Around” one of Illya Riske’s rockers and another favorite of mine, blew the doors off the place with a sound that seems to storm out of the 1970s and by this point the crowd was packed and dancing wildly completely immersed in the auditory gifts given to them, screaming in appreciation. Marshall’s “Castanets” followed in fine form with  a freak accident that created the perfect moment–if nothing else, this moment proved the proffesionalism and sheer steel The Whisperlights has as a unit. At an almost impossibly perfect moment the power cut, leaveing only Wasef El-Kharouf drumming and Henri Bernard working out percussive arrangements while the crowd clapped along and the rest of the band searched for a solution to the power problem. They never stopped, the flow, the energy kept going and once the power was restored, Marshall simply asked “What the fuck was that?” and moved on to finish the song. They pulled it off, in the midst of what would have been disastrous for most other bands.

Tobie Milford’s “Lucky” was next and his amazing voice blew the collective minds of everyone in the house. The sheer combination of his voice and his violing are enought to change your life, but when backed by six other talented geniuses the effect is damned near daunting. Milford’s voice is otherworldly, no matter what the setting or context, it seems his vocal talent is blessed in a mystical manner that leave everyone in awe. They followed up with the album finale and title track “Surfaces” and it becomes even more epic and fascinating when performed live, watching Riske and Marshall doing the call and response vocals is downright amazing. El-Kharouf’s amazing “Ulna Habenaha” was another brilliant number that live exceeds it’s recorded counterpart, but this may well have to do with the confetti exploding into the air and balloons dropping from the ceiling. I shouldn’t say the songs are better live than on the record, because Surfaces is simply amazing. It’s just different to listen to the songs you’ve memorized on the album enter into three dimensions in front of you while you dance maniacly in triple digit heat in a converted warehouse downtown. The instrumental contribution of “The Storm” I imagined allowed the bad to rest their vocal chords  without losing the crowd in the least bit and it led up to the initial finale of Milford’s brilliant “Death”, which is a song so good he was able to put it on his own album as well as completely a full band version for The Whisperlights first release, the Wake Up Dead EP. It’s one of Milford’s greatest songs and it becomes that much greater when the entire band weaves the entire essence into it. While they said their thank yous and goodbyes, good nights and readied themselves to leave the stage the crowd would have none of it and so an ecnore was demanded. Fittingly, they ended the set with the brilliant non stop rocker, “Until Then” the opener from their EP and a number that always blows minds. They left the stage, smiling, knowing they had achieved greatness as the crowd stood in shocked awe, covered in sweat, smiling knowing they had seen greatness.

After that the two  back to back acts of What Laura Says and Black Carl provided an amazing conduit to move into the later night hours on a continual groove. What Laura Says got to prove their versatility in much the same way DRYC did earlier, playing on the smaller stage and rocking that space out hard. It was one of those unusual “all guitar” sets that is always nice to catch from them, because the sound is hard and heavy and you get a sense of just how blues drenched their sound is becoming. They showcased both new and classic material and they rocked it hard, which is always great to see. The last time I saw this happen was at Long Wong’s, when they went keyboardless and everyone lost their minds. Their set was incredibly short and I’m not used to that, but everyone of the five or six songs they played rolled out them like a locomotive storming off the tracks.

Photo by IJW Photo

Black Carl got to finish off the evening and I have this to say about their performance–absolutely stellar. They capped off the night perfectly, it really couldn’t have ended better–the band was in fine form and the crowd was still pretty thick and we all had the right amount to drink to dig the deep rhythm and blues this band embraces whole heartedly. Watching Black Carl over the past year, it is interesting to see how far they keep coming along, especially with their new songs which simply put are many steps beyond their already brilliant catalog. While “Hussey” and “The Wolf” are still amazing numbers in their own right, the newer songs like “Shine Deep”, “Sillhouette Of Evil,” “Calendar Man,” and “I Am The Apocalypse” seem to be from a whole new otherworldy dimension they are cultivating, rich in the deeper, darker traditions of American music. It was perhaps, the second or third most soul satisfying set of the whole evening and for those who stayed to catch it should consider themselves lucky.

It was an amazing evening where every artist performed beyond compare at a venue that should clearly be utilized more often for shows and all in all, it was an experience that was unique, memorable and even two days later can’t easily be shaken off. Two days later you think of moments in that night and just say to yourself, “I’m just glad I was there.” What could be better? Though if you did miss it, get to the Lost Leaf on July 17th for their tour finale, pick up a copy of the album if you haven’t already memorized it in your soul and let these amazing moments in local music roll.