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Tune in: The Whigs Kick off North American Tour in NYC

The Whigs performing at Bowery Ballroom on March 31st.

By Matt Surrusco

If you didn’t catch them at Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday (March 31), you may have seen The Whigs as the musical guest on The Late Show with David Lettermen on CBS. The rock and roll trio from Athens, Georgia, made up of Parker Gispert (guitarist and lead vocals), Julian Dorio (drummer) and Timothy Deaux (bassist), began their North American tour with UK acts Band of Skulls and 22-20s in New York.

Recently, The Whigs toured in support of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and performed at Austin’s annual SXSW. Now they are co-headlining with hard rocking Band of Skulls, and 22-20s as the opening act. Promoting their third full-length album “In The Dark” (released March 16), The Whigs, following 2005’s “Give ‘Em All A Big Fat Lip” and 2008’s “Mission Control,” seem to be trying to hold onto the rawness of youth, while maturing into more dynamic songwriters and popular musicians.

From the new album, “Hundred/Million” was energetic, harmony-filled, and grounded on a catchy, fuzzed out bass riff. The title track “In The Dark” was performed dutifully to the recording, but isn’t my favorite song off the new album. The lyrics are too obvious and make the song sound more like pop music than it actually is. My favorite track from “In The Dark” is the edgy, authoritative “Kill Me Carolyne,” available for free download here.

The best songs of the night were “Right Hand On My Heart,” “Like a Vibration,” “Already Young” and “Technology,” all from their first two records. The twangy guitars and Gispert’s vocals create modern garage infused with country/blues/folk/punk done right. However, some of the latest songs do it more wrong than right.

The live show didn’t suffer much from The Whigs’ less than thrilling new tracks. Gispert took a running start almost every time he strummed his guitar, and hopped on one foot during most of the set, constantly moving from the microphone, to the drum set, to Deaux, only pausing during one song in order to play keyboard. “Want to play a game?” he asked fans during a song’s breakdown, having the audience mimic his grunts, groans, and other noises before returning to the chorus.

Former Whigs touring partners and fellow Southern boys, Kings of Leon have fairly recently become more popular and have moved away musically from the twangy/fuzzy/noisy Southern garage of their early albums (and moved closer to the arena sound of Lynyrd Skynyrd). Hopefully, The Whigs (for their sake and ours) will not fall victim to their label, growing fan base, and the number one destroyer of great bands – continuing to make music past their prime – as did the Kings of Leon. After getting my first live taste, I’d say The Whigs have a couple more solid albums in them yet.

At Bowery, while Band of Skulls may be the harder and heavier rock and roll outfit, The Whigs had the stateside advantage, plus the garage/punk/gritty pop sound New York rock and roll audiences love to hear.

If you missed The Whigs March 31 at Bowery and April 1 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, they’ll be back in New York on April 27 as the musical guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC.

Hear The Whigs for yourself here.

Also, hear Band of Skulls here. Listen to “I Know What I Am” for great back-and-forth vocals from guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson and “Death by Diamonds and Pearls” for superior rhythm capabilities by drummer Matthew Hayward.

Band of Skulls performing at Bowery Ballroom on March 31st.

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