Raleigh’s Lincoln Theater felt just a little like Manchester, Tennessee when the Bonnaroo 365 tour stopped there on the first day of November. It wasn’t because of heat or odors, but high-quality music. White Denim, who proved to be one of the real festival’s biggest hits this past summer, anchored the show along with fast-rising Chicago quartet Maps and Atlases and brand-new Brooklyn duo Tiny Victories. There was even a bit of between-set comedy courtesy of the intermittently funny Sasheer Zamata, adding yet another element of the festival’s experience.
Sounding at first listen like a cross between Ghostland Observatory and Interpol, Tiny Victories drew the crowd close to the stage with their bedroom indie dance pop. Utilizing a sparse drums-and-synth setup, the pair combined grand, danceable electronic creations with introspective lyrical sensibilities, striking a balance between shoegazing and showmanship. Engaging the audience throughout their brief set, the band even captured one of the more enthusiastic attendees’ voice, looping and manipulating his proclamation of "love you" in an acid-test style interaction. Songs like the handclap-laden "Get Lost" and "Mr. Bones" exploded with deep, layered rumbles and uptempo beats, pure bliss tempered by a barely perceptible sense of foreboding.
The gleefully eccentric, nearly indescribable music of Maps and Atlases has a profoundly rhythmic side, due in no small part to the mesmerizing drum work of Chris Hainey. In Raleigh, he turned vocalist and guitarist Dave Davison’s quizzical lyrics into fascinating indie-rock puzzles, while bassist Shiraz Dada and guitarist Erin Elders played the role of reason. As confusing as it is catchy, the band’s music is delightful to experience live due to their telepathic connection on stage and the astounding talents of each member. The upbeat polyrhythms and fancy finger-tapping of "Winter" and "Silver Self" showcased the group’s prowess as instrumentalists, while "Solid Ground" and "Living Decorations" featured the most hummable of Davison’s unmistakable vocals.
Impressive and memorable, Maps and Atlases have much in common with the night’s headliner, White Denim. Both bands have a considerable amount of buzz and rapidly growing, devoted fan bases. The impact of their majestic live shows has not been felt as widely, and only about 100 people witnessed this incredible double bill. Surely audiences won’t be absent much longer, though, because there certainly aren’t going to be many complaints from concertgoers about the way they’re playing. Or maybe those who experience the White Denim show are left at a total loss for words, so no “word of mouth” even exists.
White Denim’s Raleigh show was deserving of utter fanaticism, full of setlist trickery, nonstop jams, and daring genre-jumping. Featuring two guitarists with markedly different personalities and a rhythm section that let both express themselves, the band churned through their set with reckless dexterity. The song selection goes mostly unchanged, but the order of the songs and the manner in which the band launches fearlessly from one into the next provide plenty of uncertainty and anticipation. The caffeinated blues choogle of “Bess St” might meld with another burner, like the guaranteed crowd pleaser “Shake Shake Shake,” or take flight into the spiraling “Drug “. An hour can breeze by before you know it, and that’s what happened at the Lincoln. Noise-rock met head on with proggy twists and pummeling rhythms in “At The Farm,” “River to Consider” hinted at the true depth of the band’s ability by introducing a slight jamband flavor, and the wistful strains of “Street Joy” provided a needed break from the brain-scrambling maelstrom. By the time the show ended, well past midnight, the crowd appeared to be ready for a late night set. A bit of the Bonnaroo spirit was certainly in the air at this celebration of diverse music.