Bands passing through New Orleans are often put in a bind when it comes to reconciling their desire for acceptable ticket sales at a larger venue with the reality that, on any given night, this town has dozens of concerts to offer, the majority of which are of competing quality and for a substantially lower price. All too often, upon grasping this concept, nationally touring bands simply cut and run, passing over the state of Louisiana completely for more bankable markets in Houston and Dallas.
I don’t know what went on behind the scenes for the Whigs to cancel their scheduled performance at the House of Blues on Sunday, March 27; nevertheless, finding themselves with a few days to burn before their next show in Pensacola, the members of this Athens, GA band, in an admirably bold move, decided to neither cut nor run. Instead, they hooked up with greatest band in the universe Rotary Downs’ drummer Zack Smith to schedule an in-store appearance at Euclid Records on Sunday and a free concert the next day at the Allways Lounge, a venue that is generally not even open on Monday nights. For this, all parties involved deserve a great deal of respect.
Although Monday night’s show was last-minute, it didn’t feel thrown-together: in addition to being joined by their touring support, the phenomenal one-man country show known as Johnny Corndawg, the Whigs had help from local renegades Felix, a band whose inimitable sound can only be described as raucous, fully-devolved cowpunk. The band’s fearless live show, accented by drummer Big Toe’s thrash-influenced, unconventionally knick-knacked setup, keyboardist Fabrizio Felipe Furtado, III’s penchant for playing complex, walking bass lines on a Nord synthesizer, and singer/guitarist Blind Texas Marlin’s drunken master-esque stage demeanor, is something that every area resident must experience at least once, probably more.
After seeing the Whigs at Voodoo this past October, I was impressed by the mountainous a sound this power trio, led by the abrasively tall Parker Gispert, managed to broadcast from the large, awkwardly designed Sony.Make.Believe Stage. Nevertheless, I kept thinking that this wasn’t the type of live show I imagined when I first heard Mission Control several years earlier; more specifically, I felt that a band like The Whigs would be better served in a more intimate setting like Voodoo Fest’s Bingo Tent or simply a club.
Finally able to see the tremendous live show of the Whigs on the classy, lounge-like stage at Allways, I could immediately identify with the local Athens mega-fans seen at the backyard barbecue concert in the music video for “Right Hand on My Heart”. As I always suspected, this band’s charm – a persona that owes equal debts to Zeppelin, the Caldwell brothers, and Foo Fighters – lies in its ability to transform an intimate venue into a giant arena or a sprawling outdoor festival without losing the warm feeling you get from seeing a killer band in a relatively tiny space.