By Brent Hill
January 17, 2015
Over the course of thirteen years and five albums, The Whigs have tried to capture the urgency of rock and roll with one goal in mind: to set it free at their live shows. Because in urgency is truth. And truth is loud and jarring and unsettling. Therefore, the Athens trio says little and plays hard.
No time for introductions. No time for merch-hawking. No time for glad-to-be-heres. Barely enough time for lead singer and guitarist Parker Gispert’s straining, gritty riffs and spare, poetic lyrics to compete with Julian Dorio’s hypnotically frantic drumming and Timothy Deaux’s clamoring bass lines. A Whigs live show is a raw, pressing engagement. So don’t be late and don’t leave early.
The Whigs’ music is often referred to as garage rock, but in truth it transcends that label, leading the listener into murkier musical territory, especially in a live setting where songs like their latest single “Hit Me” off Modern Creation flirt with so many different genres, from the catchy, arena-ready hooks of today’s pop-punk to greasy slices of Black Sabbath era hard rock. Gispert uses his battered, duct-taped guitars to coax a legion of sounds out of the shadows of music past, often doing so from his knees or while kicking in the imaginary skulls of his own demons.
Meanwhile, drummer Julian Dorio is hosting his own ceremony of sorts. Drumsticks float between fingers with frightening speed. His eyes wide, staring across the abyss into an audience who is clearly mesmerized by the blur of skin and sticks. Few drummers today are able to match Dorio’s speed and precision. Each flick of the wrist and kick of the drum is an invitation for Gispert and Deaux to join him on the other side. Nowhere is this call to voyage more evident than on the song “Waiting” off Enjoy the Company– a sleazy rocker that rises and scrambles to an explosive finish.
Gispert spoke only once to the crowd at the Visulite on Thursday. Words are overrated, anyway. Ten songs into a sixteen-song career-spanning set, and immediately after their eight-minute survival ode “Staying Alive,” Gispert, bearded and behind sunglasses, reminded the crowd that the first time they played the Visulite was back in 2003 just a few days before they opened for Jessica Simpson and Maroon 5.
A lie? No, the truth (they were part of the Atlanta’s Star 94 Jingle Jam). Gispert said nothing else about it. Just stated a fact and launched into “Written Invitation” off their first album Give ’em All a Big Fat Lip– a song they probably played at the 2003 Jingle Jam– leaving the Visulite crowd, over a decade later, to imagine Jessica Simpson fans nervously fidgeting for their flip phones to find a ride home, unable to face the reality that The Whigs would eventually become one of the best live rock and roll bands in America. Now, that’s the truth… and it will set you free.
Listen to Modern Creation by The Whigs