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WHITE DENIM, BRAZOS

CLUB CONGRESS

Saturday, Jan. 16

A couple of masterly, cerebral Austin indie rock trios played to a decent-sized all-ages crowd at Club Congress Saturday night, and despite a lengthy soundcheck and getting cut off shamefully early, it was one hell of a show.

Brazos is a folksy, dream-rock combination of Coldplay and the Velvet Underground. Lead singer, guitar player and songwriter Martin Crane has a sanded-down version of Chris Martin's voice, richly melodic with a hint of yearning. When Crane wasn't oozing insightful lyrics, he filled the spaces in his songs with soothing "oooh"s and "yeah"s. His guitar dripped with bent, wailing notes. The trio sounded more like a five-piece, as the bass lines added as much to the rhythm as to the melody. Their latest release, Phosphorescent Blues, is a real testament to their songwriting capability. It's a huge bummer when a band this good opens an early show.

White Denim has a delectable identity crisis for which I hope it finds no cure. Its latest album, Fits, makes it official: The band is ungenre-able. It is a trio of progressive rockers with bits of garage, bluesy elements, power-pop and, well, this could go on for a while. Imagine Led Zeppelin, My Morning Jacket and MC5 jumping into a blender, and you have a glimpse into the complexity of White Denim's sound.

It opened with a jam that built up into a chaotic frenzy, followed by a 25-plus-minute medley, barely giving the audience a hint as to where one song ended and another began. Impossibly gifted guitar player and singer James Petralli was captivating with his frantic playing and wild vocal range, and I've seen few rhythm sections that impress me as much as bass player Steve Terebecki and drummer Josh Block. Despite wild time signature changes and some extended jams, none of it was alienating to the listener. It was a top-notch performance.

As an aside, I found it completely disgraceful that White Denim was forced to end its show by 10 p.m. The lights went on the second the last note was played, leaving the audience a little perplexed. I understand the venue doubles as a dance club on Saturday nights, but not giving a touring band a chance to thank its fans and say goodnight and soak it all in for 30 seconds was a pretty unforgivable offense.

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