After playing practically every venue in town from The Milestone to Verizon Athens' trio the Whigs made its Neighborhood Theatre debut Thursday.
I’d wanted to see opener Company of Thieves (we missed local opener gogoPilot unfortunately) since its first album was released (a new one, “Running from a Gamble,” is due May 17, check out the new single here). The band hails from Chicago, but there’s something a little exotic about its take on indie-rock. Its songs are accessible but there was something kind of off and arty about its first album that made it stand out. I was originally drawn in by female vocalist Genevieve Schatz (pictured) and she was at the center of Thursday’s set. I’ve always been a sucker for wacky dancers (as a kid I was fascinated by Natalie Merchant during 10,000 Maniacs’ first “Saturday Night Live” appearance for instance) and Schatz’s moves while not quite wacky were animated and cute reminding me more of Metric than Merchant. My husband compared her to Bjork and CSS’ Lovefoxxx (both who he absolutely adores) and when CoT ventured into a moody bluesy exercise toward the end of its set he said it brought to mind Big Brother & the Holding Company (my reference point was much more obscure so we’ll skip it).
We first saw the Whigs in December 2003. That first gig didn’t leave much of an impression, but over the years that band has evolved into one of the best straight up solid rock acts in the Southeast and maybe anywhere. Parker Gispert has grown into a great rock songwriter and frontman, hopping about on one foot (it was hard to get a picture of any band members because they were constantly in motion). Bassist Tim Deaux, who joined in 2008, plays parts that add color and depth. And drummer Julian Dorio is its secret weapon.
Thursday’s set list wasn’t my favorite, but it did begin with a fantastic opener - “Like a Vibration.” That’s not to say it was a bad show in the least. Most of my favorite Whigs’ songs are favorites because I heard them live first, so I expect some of Thursday’s choices to grow on me that same way. There were fewer tracks from its latest album “In the Dark,” instead a handful were culled from its 2005 debut. Those gave me a renewed appreciation for that record.