South by Southwest favorites White Denim helped draw a sizable crowd in support of Manchester Orchestra to the Regency Ballroom on the Friday before Halloween. The Austin, Texas locals did not, however, save for a few ripping solos and a lap around the stage that coincided with some lyrics about running (I think), perform memorably for the sparsely costumed audience.
White Denim played jammy, hip indie rock with, albeit, some interesting twists and breakdowns, and certainly with no lack of musicianship, but the set failed to deliver any standout moments. Instead, it seemed to fade into a background noise of other, similar bands with able musicians at the helm playing decent rock’n’roll to the Coachella generation.
Headliners Manchester Orchestra, on the other hand, delivered where White Denim almost, so close, really, but didn’t. Although named after a city half a world away, this quintet didn’t hide its Atlanta, roots, with booming Southern riffs made for long haired swaying.
Singer Andy Hull’s voice carried the night; his powerful and versatile vocal chords were the perfect accompaniment to songs that often hinged on a transition from Elliot Smith-like emotive indie rock to Weezer-esque arena worship. The crowd was rocking right along with the rest of the band, especially the keyboard player – what is it about keyboard players in rock bands that makes them feel like they have to overcompensate? There was plenty of singing along, dancing and no-joke raised lighters to top it all off.
These songs made up the bulk of the set and, while enjoyable, were relatively formulaic. The most interesting part of Manchester Orchestra’s set was not these anthems, but instead the several shorter songs interspersed throughout: a handful of minute or so long tunes reminiscent of Billy Bragg or early Against Me! that showcased Hull’s songwriting prowess. Sappy? Perhaps. Awesome? Indeed.