January 2, 2014

Live Review: The Whigs, New Madrid, Velveteen Pink at Georgia Theatre



Photo Credit: Joshua Black Wilkins

The Whigs

If you’re tired of making New Year’s resolutions that you can’t keep, let me offer an alternative: How about you resolve to listen to more of the bands that rang in the New Year at the Georgia Theatre Tuesday night?

Shortly after 9 p.m., New Madrid took the stage to a sizable crowd. Having won Artist of the Year at the 2013 Flagpole Athens Music Awards and garnering a recent Pitchfork mention, the band is poised to become Athens' next big thing. The group is in awfully good hands under the guidance of David Barbe, so I eagerly await the rest of its forthcoming album, Sunswimmer (due in February via Normaltown Records).

New Madrid's set might’ve been short, but it stayed consistent. It’s hard to capture a crowd during such an early slot, but judging from my bird’s-eye-view on the balcony, the band’s washed-out songs had more than a few folks grooving. I’ll still maintain, though, that New Madrid is at its best when it fixates on rock tunes without so much reverb. Call me a phony for loving the latest single, “Manners,” but that stirring performance showed just how much potential these young dudes have.

Every time I see Velveteen Pink, I’m reminded that the band doesn’t even have a release available for me to jam out to at my convenience. Coincidentally, I sat next to VP’s Nick Robbins’ mother during the show, who informed me that the band’s first proper release is currently being mastered. It’s a New Year’s Eve miracle!

I’ve made this claim in casual conversation a few times, but I mean it: Velveteen Pink is the most underrated band in Athens. I know that’s just, like, my opinion, man. But I believe it. I’ve caught the group several times since moving to town and it always amazes me that it hasn’t completely boiled over. VP’s shred-funk is not only indicative of its talented musicians, but it’s also just a hell of a lot of fun to dance to. At its core, VP is a party band, and this time around, it included a set of background singers and a saxophone player—perfect additions to an already incredibly tight four-piece. 

Other than the Great Balloon Malfunction of 2014, The Whigs’ set went off without a hitch (the band even scheduled its set break so that they wouldn’t miss the countdown—thanks, guys!). The group ripped through a solid 45 minutes of old and new tunes before the ball dropped, returning to the stage to belt out a rousing cover of Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” giving the tune a garage-rock makeover that had the crowd going wild. The dudes also previewed a few new tunes from their forthcoming New West Records release. Although they were a bit more subdued, it was nice to hear some dynamism in the set.

Say what you will about The Whigs, but they play rock and roll music. It’s not overly complicated, but when Parker Gispert points his guitar neck to the audience, he and the crowd both know that he’s slaying it. There’s always a little Crazy Horse in Gispert’s sound, but it was especially apparent Tuesday night. The band’s tripped-out video art projections also underscored just how deep of a well it draws from in terms of aesthetic influence.

Quite a few of my friends refer to New Year’s Eve as Amateur Night, to signify the swarms of occasional-drinkers and partiers that take to the streets on the last night of the year. And while that certainly might have been the case Tuesday night, the bands on stage at the Theatre sure sounded like pros.