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Story and Photos by Matt SchwenkeWhile The Whigs' sophomore release Mission Control finds the Athens, Ga. based trio still rockin' with some brawny beats, their billing at the Rave Bar placed the band somewhat awkwardly between the heavy metal acts of the Hellyeah tour, which took over most of the venue that night and had crowds passing by on their way to multiple surrounding stages. And while some of the transient heavy metal fans appeared to have been turned off simply by the presence of a piano on stage, The Whigs' brand of pop, mixed into their overall rock sound, is definitely not the sparkly and jingly kind that is commonly associated with the genre, and ultimately, the band's rougher edges were abrasive enough to win over some of their newly-found audience.
With Mission Control being released less than a month prior, the performance was a surprisingly even mix of old and new material, at least partly due to the band selecting more of their heavier numbers to appeal to the crowd at large. The new "Right Hand On My Heart" was a splendid mix of pop hook and guitar thrash, with bassist Tim Deaux fueling a fiery low-end and adding well-placed backing vocals, as was "Already Young," in which drummer Julian Doro played with believable power. From the group's debut Give 'Em All A Big Fat Lip, the garage sounds of "Technology" added some of the most raw moments of the evening with Parker Gispert voice often breaking into scream. Representing the band's softer and arguably most creative side, "Nothing Is Easy" and "Violet Furs," both from the debut album, featured dramatic swings in intensity and an Americana strut, respectively. Further extending their creative ground, the title track from the new album lead the band into some of their most interesting sounds, bordering a Grateful Dead or Pink Floyd sort of psychedelia.
And though Rolling Stone's proclamation that The Whigs are "the best unsigned rock band in America" no longer applies after the group signed on to Dave Matthews' ATO Records, where they join fellow alt-rockers My Morning Jacket, the intensity and diversity of their live performance is reason enough to check these guys out.
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