White Denim

Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Doors 7 | Show 8
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In his 1942 essay The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus wrote that “All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning. Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door.” 15 years later Richard Wayne Penniman wrote “Wop bop a loo bop a wop bam boom”, an undeniably powerful vocalization that on any given Wednesday in any given situation, civilized or otherwise, is still fully capable of setting somebody’s stuff aflame. Over ten years and seven long players into their career, White Denim are still in the relentless pursuit of a thread - in other words, a wick.

The Austin,Texas band have carefully and continuously studied the greatest records ever made, but they write songs just dumb enough to drink, dance, and fight to. Theirs is a music that aims for the whole body, while equally satisfying the mind. While it has morphed, expanded, and even burst apart, White Denim’s sincere and human drive and ability to spark true rock & roll exhilaration have been unerring constants of the band’s 10-year existence.

“White Denim are one of the best live bands you will ever see if you live to be a million. That’s not excitable hyperbole, merely a bald statement of undeniable fact...” — Time Out

“The last great rock & roll band!” — The Guardian

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Chris Forsyth

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Chris Forsyth is a lauded guitarist and bandleader whose widescreen art-rock, fusing taut compositions and mercurial improvisations, has earned him a reputation as one of the most distinctive and critically acclaimed guitarists working today.

In 2013, he assembled The Solar Motel Band, who quickly developed a reputation as an incredible live act, provoking comparisons to visionary artists such as Television, The Grateful Dead, Popol Vuh, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, and Richard Thompson.

Pitchfork called his music “a near-perfect balance between 70s rock tradition and present day experimentation,” NPR Music named Forsyth “one of rock’s most lyrical guitar improvisors,” and the New York Times calls him “a scrappy and mystical historian… His music humanizes the element of control in rock classicism (and) turns it into a woolly but disciplined ritual.”

After growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, Forsyth moved to Brooklyn in the mid-‘90s. His own music began to take form in the late ‘90’s - early ‘00’s improvised music scene centered around the club Tonic, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where he rubbed elbows with free improv titans like Derek Bailey (who booked his first solo gig at Tonic) and jammed with players like saxophonist Daniel Carter and guitarist Loren Connors. Crucially, it was also in this period that he studied music and guitar with Richard Lloyd of Television for 18 months.

In 2003 he co-founded the self-described gothic-junk-folk-expressionists Peeesseye, a freewheeling trio with multi-instrumentalist Jaime Fennelly (Mind Over Mirrors) and percussionist/vocalist Fritz Welch (Asparagus Piss Raindrop, etc). Upon the demise of Peeesseye, Forsyth relocated to Philadelphia in 2009, where he fell in with the circle around Jack Rose, and began focusing on solo guitar playing.

And this is the point when something important changed in Forsyth’s music. After over ten years of privately honing the lessons he’d learned from Richard Lloyd, Forsyth began deploying a noticeably more fluid, melodic style of electric guitar playing. While the experimental/psychedelic tendencies remained, a newfound classicism emerged, full of latent Richard Thompson leanings and Jerry Garcia wanderings. But at the heart of his playing is an elegant lyricism, a command of melody and flow, reflecting the lessons he’d learned one on one from Lloyd and from countless others via recordings and concerts (Catfish Collins, Neil Young, Sonic Youth, Garcia, Robert Quine, and Michael Karoli of Can spring to mind).

After a few solo LPs and a number of European and US solo tours, Forsyth was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts in 2011. He recorded the LP “Solar Motel” with an ad hoc band of long time collaborators in 2012 – his first album as a bandleader - and the Paradise of Bachelors label released the record in 2013. The response to “Solar Motel” on blogs like Aquarium Drunkard and magazines like Uncut was swift and rapturous. Aquarium Drunkard called it, “some kind of masterpiece, a four-part suite of ecstatic, spiritual psychedelia that splits the difference between unabashed classic rock thrills and a spikey avant-garde sense of adventure.” Gig offers began to come in and Forsyth, who had no steady band at the time, was compelled to put together an actual band to play the album. The resulting Solar Motel Band, anchored by his longtime collaborator Peter Kerlin on bass guitar, began touring and Forsyth began writing music with the band in mind.

A live album “Solar Live” followed on Record Store Day 2014, and Forsyth signed with No Quarter for “Intensity Ghost,” the first studio release credited to Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band, released in October 2014. The band toured, members came, members went - bassist Kerlin and studio keyboardist Shawn E Hansen being the lone constants – through the recording and touring of the sprawling 2016 double record “The Rarity of Experience” (No Quarter), which upped Forsyth’s critical acclaim yet further, with rave notices in The New York Times, Pitchfork, NPR Music, Rolling Stone, Relix, The Guardian, and more. Amid the instrumental sprawl, “The Rarity of Experience” also presents the first appearance of his vocals on two songs, including an incredible cover of Richard Thompson’s “The Calvary Cross.” Forsyth was now cranking out records that were perennials on year-end lists with regularity.

In 2017, Forsyth continued the evolution of The Solar Motel Band, downsizing the live version of the band to a trio (cutting the second guitar chair), and recorded “Dreaming In The Non-Dream” in late 2016 with his regular studio producer/engineer Jeff Zeigler, in the dawn of Trumpist America. A shorter, sharper shock than the expansive “The Rarity of Experience,” “Dreaming In the Non-Dream” highlights the economy and rhythmic drive of his playing and Lou Reed/Bob Dylan inspired phrasing of his singing across four songs ranging from two to sixteen minutes each.

Two tours of Europe and the United Kingdom followed the release of “Dreaming In The Non-Dream,” including a performance at Green Man in Wales in August 2017, as well as additional dates in the U.S. with Luna, The Dream Syndicate, Television, Lee Ranaldo, and Sunwatchers. A two-set show at Cafe Oto, London produced the digital-only live release “Rare Dreams: Solar Live 2.27.18” which included, in addition to extended intensity workouts on “The First Ten Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” and “Dreaming In the Non-Dream,” Forsyth’s take on the Neil Young’s autobiographical lament “Don’t Be Denied,” with personalized lyrics from Forsyth.

Work commenced on a new album in summer 2018 and continued through the autumn. No Quarter released the double record “All Time Present” credited solely to Chris Forsyth on April 12, 2019. Recorded with longtime producer/engineer Jeff Zeigler and various members of past Solar Motel Band lineups including bassist Peter Kerlin (Sunwatchers), drummer Ryan Jewell (Ryley Walker) and Kansas City-based keyboardist Shawn E. Hansen, “All Time Present” reveals that while his dazzling musicianship can always be taken for granted, it’s hardly the whole story. Though rock is its predominant melodic language, the music of All Time Present contains multitudes; as an arranger, Forsyth displays an almost monomaniacal dedication to rhythm and dynamics. Nowhere is this more evident than on the closer “Techno Top,” an extended jam that pushes the guitar into the background in favor of an irresistible kind of Germanic funk, or what Forsyth calls his “nihilistic disco accountant” mode. The palm-muted, staccato rhythm guitar imagines Young Marble Giants gone highlife; the propellant but elastic rhythm section allows the track just the right amount of room to breathe and gradually expand until, finally, Forsyth lets loose with a scene-stealing wah solo. A DFA or Superpitcher remix of this track would blow the fuck up.

All Time Present is the rare double album that goes by in a flash. Indeed, one of Forsyth’s greatest strengths as a composer and bandleader is his consistent ability to sustain interest even when at his most brazenly improvisational: he drifts, but never meanders. On All Time Present, Forsyth’s particular drift is like that of a proverbial wallflower with a sudden surge of unselfconscious courage: toward the dance floor.