With their latest effort – Enjoy the Company – the Athens, Ga., trio might just have ascended that mountain.
A scorching hour-long set Saturday at the Austin City Limits music festival demonstrated that the Whigs’ new material is just as potent at their past hits. While the grungy undertones of mid-90s guitar groups still exist, one can hear the pop influences that keep their music current.
Appearing on stage around 2 p.m. in front of a giant banner depicting the band’s name in stars and stripes, frontman Parker Gispert tore into his guitar like a man possessed.
It didn’t hurt that he was backed by a more-than-capable rhythm section in bassist Timothy Deaux and relentless drummer Julian Doro.
For all of Gispert’s axe antics, Deaux and Doro deserved credit for providing a rumbling undercurrent that was just as funky as it called to mind Led Zepplin’s hammer of the gods.
An early highlight was Gispert trading his guitar for a keyboard during “Half the World Away.” The standout track from 2006’s Give ‘Em All A Big Fat Lip had a sing-song quality chorus that lulled the audience into a perfect segue for Mission’s bayou stomper, “Right Hand On My Heart.”
It was at this point that Gispert reached his frothing point, striking his guitar aggressively with each payoff note as he either kicked out his leg or went down to a knee on a power lunge.
Understanding that the Whigs had been known for their energetic live performances, the first half of Saturday’s show was definitely worthwhile.
But nobody could have expected what the trio had in mind for the rest of the afternoon.
Take “Waiting,” the lead single off Enjoy the Company.
Gispert got more and more aggressive with every wail on his guitar, throwing himself around the microwaved stage like a rag doll in dark jeans and a denim jacket.
The Whigs didn’t let off the gas for their finale, either.
With Enjoy’s lead track, “Staying Alive,” the Whigs brought out a horn section for a peppy infusion of brass before a noisy breakdown that recalled Sonic Youth at its fuzziest.
The Whigs left the ACL stage sweaty and sun-drenched, but that dedication was evident in the scores of fans who stayed until the bitter end.
Their last song features the refrain, “Staying alive for too long, wind me up, push me along.”
The Whigs are certainly pushing in the right direction.
Photos courtesy of Sandra Dahdah.