White Denim & Amber States, The Wheelbarrow, 17 May 2011

At 11.30am The Wheelbarrow made an announcement. “TONIGHT WHITE DENIM ARE PLAYING AT THE WHEELBARROW!!! FREE ENTRY!!! GET DOWN EARLY!!! RT PLEASE.” Minutes later, the buzz was all over Twitter: this is going to be good.

All plans dropped, all work skived and all significant others dragged along, come 8pm The ‘Barrow is almost full. It’s a good hour and a half before even the support act comes on, but places are already being guarded at the front.

Finally, Amber States arrive to play a set of wonderfully catchy indie/folk songs with harmonies to rival the Mumfords. Son Of A Gun goes down particularly well with its rhythmic lyrics and prominent cello, which brings so much warmth into their tracks.

Their music may be slightly calmer than that of tonight’s headliner, but they perform with energy and passion. By the end of the set their charms have won the crowd over to such an extent that Amber States are taunted with chants of “One more song!” as they leave.

But it’s not long before White Denim sneak onstage to begin the impossible task of squeezing all of their effects pedals onto one tiny stage. It’s a set-up that cannot help but push expectations to the limit.

Much to the bemusement of the sound man, lead singer James Petralli starts talking about how the band might “Do something with the CCTV footage from this gig”. He was largely drowned out by the between-band music that was allowed to play on through most of his speech, but what was heard is an extra incentive to make this one count.

As the thrashing symbols and roaring guitars kick in, the band are immediately caught in a lightning storm of camera flashes.

By the time they’re shouting their way through a short and sharp version of Shake Shake Shake the audience are falling over the monitors as mosh pits ignite.

It sounds chaotic, but the complex rhythms and fiddly guitar lines that adorn tracks like Say What You Want are played with perfect timing, and a level of concentration that forces band members to adopt hilarious facial expressions.

Songs are fused to turn the show into a sort of screaming, shouting medley of noise, but the point of tonight is fun.

As James, guitarist Austin Jenkins and bassist Steve Terebecki catch the eyes of individual audience members their concentration faces melt into grins and laughter. James explains the outbursts of laughter onstage by announcing that the band have an inside joke going on about their lack of rehearsal. But any mistakes made are well-covered by the epic volume and rigorous passion of their performance.

It ends as it began, with James fiddling with his guitar pedals to make the weirdest sounds possible to top off the night.

As they leave at the end of an hour-long set, the broken glass and dripping-wet T-shirts say it all: tonight was nothing less than raucous.

By Sophie Armour

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