The Whigs, Buxton Fitzgerald's June 12, 2014
It's not every day that you get a pure rock and roll show. It seems as if bands are doing everything but rocking out to their full potential, but the Whigs do not fit in that category.
Thursday night at Fitz, the Athens three-piece took a page out of Nigel Tufnel's Spinal Tap book and turned the volume up as loud as can be before ripping through an hour and a half of straightforward garage rock.
But then the Whigs have always found love in Houston whenever they make it here. Since 2008, they've been playing a show in town nearly every year in support of the regular onslaught of studio efforts they've afforded us in their now-lengthy career.
They know what they're doing onstage, and enjoy every last minute of it. Front man Parker Gispert is one of the nicest dudes when you get the chance to spark up a conversation with him, but onstage it seems like he lets out any and all frustrations he might have in life through his guitar. And he couldn't do any of it without the help of Timothy Deaux's crystalline bass play and the handiwork of sticksman Julian Doro lending a never-breaking backbone to the set.
These three guys, without wavering, have been putting out solid records for the better part of a decade. After their original bassist left to join MGMT and later Kuroma, Deaux joined the band to tour their second album (and my personal favorite), Mission Control. Ever since his arrival, though, the Whigs have delivered both impressive studio material and an enduring, consistent live show.
And last night was no different, only louder. The trio's last performance at Fitzgerald's, which was on the same downstairs stage, was not nearly as ear-piercing as this one. And their loudness initially attracted me to the band, so for it not to be there was a bit of a disappointment. Back in 2008, when they played the small room at Warehouse Live, they used every inch of the venue and filled it with their guided racket. Last time, however, was missing that noisy kick they've become known for. Gispert questioned during our brief chat at the end of the evening, "What's a rock show that's not loud?" I agree, Parker. Wholeheartedly.
Their latest record, Modern Creation (New West), has already drawn some rave reviews, and the Whigs brought a handful of the new songs Thursday, but peppered in quite a few others from their entire discography. The highlight of the night came during their bigger-than-life tune "Staying Alive," which is altogether a different song than the Bee Gee's disco hit of the same name. They broke this song down into an intricate guitar-and-bass duel between Gispert and Deaux which eventually built to such a climax that it exploded everyone's eardrums in the dark, dank and sweaty room. It also made a grip of new fans out of those unfamiliar with the band before the show.
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And the reason many were unfamiliar with the Whigs were that they were there to be entertained by openers and labelmates Buxton, a band you've probably heard of once or twice if you reside in the H. Bringing a whole new catalog of songs to a Houston stage, some for the very first time, Buxton used this lower-key (for them) performance slot to showcase what they've been working on ever so diligently for the past few months.
Featuring seven new songs set to be featured on their forthcoming followup to 2012's Nothing Here Seems Strange, Buxton proved how much they've grown over the years. The new songs sounded beefier and much more full of life than past material. The jangly "Icebreaker" will be a hit, as well as the set-closer "Miss Catalina," which was much more brooding than any other Buxton song has been.
The La Porte transplants, who at this point are now just Houstonians, seemed to have a bit more pep in their step during this show in comparison to recent performances. They all seem to have a reinvigorated and excited approach to the new songs, which for any budding band is the key. Hopefully the new album drops sooner than later and gives them that jumpstart they've needed for the past year or two.
Like I've said since the first time catching Buxton back in 2007, big things are afoot for them in the near future. With this new batch of songs, it seems like the perfect time to step into the national spotlight.
Personal Bias: I've seen The Whigs pretty much any time they've come near Houston, Austin, New Orleans or wherever else close enough to warrant a trip to see them. They've come a long way, but have never let go of their old selves.
Buxton, well, they're all just a bunch of hacks.
The Crowd: Some Whigs and Buxton megafans. Also, this one presumably drunk dude in the middle of the crowd who kept running into everyone during the Whigs. No one could be mad at the guy because he was enjoying the show more than anyone.
Overheard In the Crowd The sound of my ears popping and hissing anytime I tried to get close to the stage (and the speakers) to take photos.
Random Notebook Dump Earlier in the day, The Whigs entertained a cool 40-some fans at Cactus Music, adding to their string of incredible in-store performances here. This one featured about eight acoustic takes on both new and old material, including a bluesy "Rock and Roll Forever" which was a treat. Packed with more dry humor from the trio than Cactus could handle, as well as free St. Arnold's flowing, it was a solid way to spend an afternoon.
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