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Review: White Denim taping of “Austin City Limits”

Peter Blackstock

Editor’s note: This article was originally published August 5, 2014

After a 40th season of tapings that so far have included two all-star marathon gatherings, a highly anticipated career-spanning set by Beck, the debut of Jeff Tweedy’s new band with his son on drums and a Nick Cave tour de force that Joe Gross called one of the show’s “best performances of all time,” it seemed inevitable for “Austin City Limits” to have an evening that was more, well, ordinary.

Austin band White Denim’s taping on Monday night at ACL Live had no special guests or historical significance or landmark aura about it. Still, it served an important purpose in carrying on ACL’s tradition of supporting local artists. The hometown boys clearly were psyched for the opportunity; at one point, leader James Petralli marveled, “I can’t believe I got to play ‘I Start to Run’ on television.”

Whether that song actually makes the 30-minute broadcast cut remains to be seen, given that much of White Denim’s hourlong set consisted of extended jams that seemed to meld several tunes together. Such a structure played into the band’s mercurial and exploratory aesthetic, but it will be a challenge for the ACL editing staff to decide what fits and what doesn’t, as two of those excursions went for 10 minutes or more.

On the other hand, the jam-heavy approach made this a fairly ideal show for ACL’s relatively recent addition of online livestreaming. Those tuning in to the show’s website Monday night could watch the taping as it unfolded, allowing the performance to have an immediate impact that reached beyond the full house of fans who filled ACL Live to the upper reaches of the venue’s third level.

Stay tuned for an announcement next week about the first few broadcasts of the “Austin City Limits” fall season. A two-hour 40th-anniversary primetime special will air Oct. 3, combining footage from all-star concerts shot in April in June. New weekly episodes will begin the following night.